Marianne Moore: Poetry

August 29, 2012

“Flints, Not Flowers” Meredith, Keats

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 8:18 pm

Meredith

Moore composed “Flints, Not Flowers” (see Schulman, pp. 49 and 403) before she left Carlisle in 1916. The manuscript makes clear with asterisks that the title comes from The Letters of George Meredith , New York: Scribner’s, 1912, Vol. 1, p 45 where Meredith writes to his friend Augustus Jessup: “[My poems] may not please you, but I think you will admit that they have a truth condensed in them. They are flints perhaps, and not flowers. Well, I think of publishing a volume of Poems in the beginning of ’62, and I will bring as many flowers to it as I can.”

Another pair of asterisks connects the lines

How far more cunningly than Keats has placed

His toy, that poor hack

Flung you up as he walked round

to another letter  on page 280 in the same volume to Admiral Frederick Maxse: “As for me, I fear I am again condemned to trot round my circle, like an old horse at a well, everlastingly pulling up the same buckets full of a similar fluid. I may be precipitated abroad by incapacity to continue writing; and once or twice the case has looked like it, though I have recovered in a middling fashion: but not to do the work I call good—rather the character of work one is glad to leave behind, however glad to have accomplished.” Here, Meredith bemoans the quality of his work and finds himself hesitant to publish a volume of poems, having had so little success thus far in his career.

While no mystery surrounds the sources of the Meredith quotations,  Keats’s “toy” remains problematic. There seems to be but one appearance of

Keats

the word “toy” in all of Keats:

XXXVII

“I thought you guess’d, foretold, or prophesied,

That’s Majesty was in a raving fit?”

“He dreams,” said Hum, “or I have ever lied,

That he is tearing you, sir, bit by bit.”

“He’s not asleep, and you have little wit,”

Replied the page: “that little buzzing noise,

Whate’er your palmistry may make of it,

Comes from a play-thing of the Emperor’s choice,

From a Man-Tiger-Organ, prettiest of his toys.”

 

This stanza from Keats’s unfinished (and unsuccessful) fantasy “The Cap and Bells” tempts a connection for any reader of Moore’s 1964 “Tippoo’s Tiger” about the same toy.

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