Marianne Moore: Poetry

May 29, 2015

“Baseball and Writing”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 1:31 pm
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When the New York Yankees played the Detroit Tigers in the race for the 1961 Pennant, Marianne Moore was watching on her television at 260 Cumberland Street, Brooklyn. During the first game of a twinight double header on September 15th, Mel Allen NYWTS.jpg

Mel Allen Calling a Game

she heard Mel Allen, the intrepid “voice of the Yankees,” shout, as he did at most games, “Going, going , , , gone!” when Bill Skowron cracked a three run homer in the seventh. “Thanks, Mel. / I think I helped a little bit.” Yogi Berra got his twentieth of the season in the fourth: “He put the wood to that one.” Elston Howard, made regular catcher that season, was batting .351 that evening, second in the league; he was in line for the “batting crown,” but deprived of it “by a technicality”—he needed 492 at bats for the season but had only 466 by the end of the winning game of the World Series. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were both aiming at homer records, denied that night, so Moore concentrates on their superior skills in right and center fields, “Mickey leaping like the devil”—Mel Allen’s words (Moore preferred “deer”), Maris stopping an almost homer as Mel Allen stopped before “. . . gone!”

Detroit’s Montejo (“My baby pitcher”) pitched only the eighth inning, allowing 2 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 1 strike-out; he just missed hitting Mickey Mantle (“’Grazed a Yankee!’”). That night was 25-year-old Montejo’s last game pitching for the Tigers and his last game playing in the majors. The Yank’s Whitey Ford pitched the entire game: “Ford just breezed along to his twenty-forth victory, going all the way. It marked his eleventh complete game of the season and his six strike-outs gave him a total of 192” (New York Times, September 16, 1961, p. 13).

Listen to Mel Allen call Roger Maris’s 59th home run, September 20, 1961

Yankee players that night:

Roland Sheldon: Pitcher

Tom Tresh: Shortstop

Ralph Houk : Manager

Johnny Sain: Relief Pitcher

Luis Arroyo: Pitcher

Hector Lopez: Left FIeld

Whitey Ford: Pitcher

Johnny Blanchard: Catcher

Elston Howard: Catcher

Bobby Richardson: Second Base

Tony Kubek: Shortstop

Clete Boyer: Third Base

Bill Skowron: First Base

Yogi Berra: Left Field

Mickey Mantle: Center Field

Roger Maris: Right Field


January 7, 2015

“Tom Fool,” “In Lieu of the Lyre,” and Endnote Economy

Lyrebird from Audebert and Vieillot’s Histoires Naturelles . . . des Oiseaux de Paradis, Paris, 1802. Moore used postcards of this image published by the Harvard College Library.

Moore’s notes provide many a ho-hum to the casual reader and often, but not always, source information for the diligent student. Moore began this practice early, as evidenced, for example, by the manuscript of the unpublished (until Schulman 2003) “Flints, Not Flowers.” Written between 1912 and 1916, the manuscript includes a note directing the reader to The Letters of George Meredith from which she quotes in the body of the poem. Magazines were not in the habit of including poets’ notes, were there any to consider

When she might have had a chance to append notes in Poems, 1921, Moore was not offered a choice because Bryher and H. D. produced the book without truly consulting the author. Her opportunity arose in 1924 with Observations, and as we can see from Robin Shulze’s Becoming Marianne Moore (2002), she went at it with a vengeance: 53 poems, 158 notes. The  poems are in largely chronological order as written, beginning about 1915, and the notes are at first intermittent, then one or two per poem, until about 1920 when they begin to abound, culminating in elaborate documentation for the long “Marriage” and “An Octopus.” For her next book, Selected Poems (1935) Moore adds eight new poems, “The Steeple-jack” and “The Hero” presented as parts of one poem, “Part of a Novel, Part of a Poem, Part of a Play.” All but the last-named double poem have notes.

This is not to say that the notes remained unchanged. For example, the notes to “An Octopus” diminished from 29 to 16 between Observations and Selected Poems through merger and omission. Just as she felt free to recast a poem from her syllabic rhyme to free verse (“A Grave”) or to drop lines (the fifteen-line catalog of flowers in “An Octopus), Moore also reworked her notes. What follows is a single but curious example.

Moore published “Tom Fool at Jamaica” in 1953 in The New Yorker without notes, as was the magazine’s custom. But when she included it in her Like a Bulwark in 1956, she appended extensive notes and a French poem to account for the horse’s having become “magnetized by feeling” in his effort to win a race: “Sentir avec ardeur,” by eighteenth century Mme de Boufflers. The poem came to her from Achilles Fang, a multi-lingual classical Chinese and comparative literature professor at Harvard and author of a dissertation on classical allusions in Pound’s Cantos.

To complicate the issue, Moore explained in her note that her quotation there from Fang’s work, in which she quoted his interest in “Sentir avec ardeur,” was derived from a note in Fang’s “Rhymeprose on Literature,” his scholarly translation in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies of Wen Fu by third century Chinese Lu Chi, in which he referred to Mme de Boufflers. Her quotation from his note reads: “I am at one with a contemporary of Rousseau’s: ‘Il faut dire en deux mots / Ce qu’on veut dire; . . .’ But I cannot claim ‘J’ai réussi,’ especially because I broke Mme de Boufflers’s injunction (‘Il faut éviter l’emploi / Du moi, du moi’).”  Among her papers is a copy of the poem, typed out by her, and noted as obtained from Achilles Fang. When it appears in three of her subsequent books, “Tom Fool” is always accompanied by this note and the full text of the French poem.

Moore published “In Lieu of the Lyre” in the Harvard Advocate in 1965 at the invitation of its editor, the nephew of a friend in New York. She used half her lines to thank Harvard’s Achilles Fang, Harry Levin, Kirkland House and Lowell House for literary help over the years. Then she appended precisely the same note about Fang and Mme de Boufflers; she continued this practice for the poem’s first book appearance, in Tell Me, Tell Me.

But when it came time to include both this poem and “Tom Fool” in Complete Poems in 1967, the note caused a problem, solved by using the full note for “Tom Fool” and a “see also” note for “In Lieu of the Lyre,” referring back to the “Tom Fool” note and text of the French poem. In the latter case, Moore names “Sentir avec ardeur” and its author but does not print its text.





September 27, 2014

“Bowls” and Precision

42893-004-02235AB5 (1)

The red lacquer throne from the court of the Chinese emperor Ch’ien-lung, who reigned from 1735 to 1796, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum



“. . . this survival of ancient punctilio

in the manner of Chinese lacquer carving,

layer after layer exposed by certainty of touch and unhurried incision

so that only so much color shall be revealed as is necessary to the picture,

I learn that we are precisionists. . . .”

“Bowls,” first published in Secession, No. 5 (July 1923), 12. This version is from Comlete Poems, p. 59.


“The throne here illustrated was made for the emperor Kien-Lung, in whose sixty-year reign Chinese art was at its height. It is one of the only two such thrones in existence, and probably is the largest single piece of eighteenth-century carved red lacquer in the world. . . . It is 4 ft. high and 4 ft. wide. The seat is still covered with the original pad of silk and gold brocade. It forms the pièce de résistance of a wonderful collection of old Chinese red lacquer . . . on view at the galleries of Messrs. Spink and Son, in King Street, St. James.”

From “An Emperor of China’s Throne: 18th-century Red Lacquer.” Illustrated London News [London, England] 8 July 1922: 59.


“Lacquer, as used in China and Japan,  is a purely vegetable substance, the product of a tree indigenous to China, the Rhus vernicifera. The sap is extracted from this tree . . . by means of incisions in the bark, purified by straining through a hempen cloth, and, in the form of a viscid, evenly flowing liquid, is then ready for the lacquerer’s use. On exposure t the air, it rapidly takes on an extreme hardness and is capable of receiving a brilliant, translucent polish which at its best, surpasses that of any other known substance with which it can be compared.  It can be coloured, without losing its quality, by the addition of the necessary substances; and, when once set, will resist both heat and moisture. Its chief enemy is light, which, if too strong, destroys its brilliancy and gives it a dried-up, faded appearance. The basis of carved, and indeed, of almost all Chinese and Japanese is wood, worked to extreme smoothness of surface, very carefully fitted, and the joints luted with lacquer composition, hardened and polished. . . . [The] next process was the over-laying of the wood with linen or hempen cloth, then the application of a coat of lacquer composition,  on which come various successive layers of true lacquer, forming the material at the disposal of the carver. To build up a thickness of lacquer sufficient for the work of the latter, a considerable number of these layers was necessary–not less than ten in any piece of importance, and probably many more in the examples described here. As each of these layers needed three or four weeks to harden, and then had to be polished before any addition could be made, it will be realized that the preliminary processes only–before the carver could get to work–involved a period of months or even years.

“. . . The fine red was obtained by grinding native cinnabar (chu sha) with raw lac . . . . The carver, working with sharp knives and gravers, then cut inwards from the surface, working with absolute precision [emphasis added], so as to expose precisely the layer of colour–and no more–that was needed for his design. It will at once be seen how necessary was the building up of the lacquer. Were it applied more hurriedly and without each layer being given time to dry and harden, the inside textures would be uneven and the perfection of workmanship seen in all the best examples could never have been reached.  , , , It is especially to the Emperor Ch’ien Lung [Kien Lung] (A.D. 1736-1796) that we owe the final perfection of technique. . . .

“With the exception of the seat and the inner portion of the base, the whole of the surface, back and front, is richly carved. The lacquer is mainly red, of an unusually fine quality, cut through into layers of light or dark olive green, brown and yellow.”

–Lieut. Colonel E. F. Strange, “Chinese Carved Red Lacquer.” Illustrated London News [London, England] 8 July 1922: 72-73.

The article further describes the carvings on the throne, from an elephant bearing jewels, five bats for the Five Blessings, a pair of fish, the Musical Stone, a frieze of dragons pursuing the Sacred Jewel, and, on the elephant-shaped legs, a Taoist symbol of the mountain in the Isles of the Blessed. Despite this description’s allusions to elephants and bats, favorites of Moore, it is likely the process of creating the piece and its demand for precision that appealed most to the poet.

April 30, 2014

Moore Conference 2015

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 6:51 pm

Photo 1920

21st-Century Moore
March 19-22, 2015
University of Houston
Call for Papers
In March 2015, the University of Houston
will host the first meeting in a decade to focus on the writings
of the major Modernist poet Marianne Moore.
Scholars, poets, and artists will convene to discuss, debate, and celebrate Moore’s work,
laying the groundwork for the future of Moore studies.
In light of the past decade’s work on Moore,
including variorum and facsimile editions of her early and middle-period work
and a ground-breaking new biography by Linda Leavell,
the conference will examine Moore’s place
in the twenty-first century’s understanding of Modernism.
Papers are invited on any aspect of Marianne Mooreʼs work,
including its role in the development and progress of Modernism,
or in the history of international and/or American poetry and poetics,
and along diverse lines of inquiry, such as textual scholarship, influence studies,
and cultural, eco-critical, age, queer and science studies.
The format will allow all attendees to hear all papers, for a fully engaged discussion.
The organizers invite interested parties to submit abstracts (no more than 250 words)
for scholarly and creative presentations.
Please send abstracts with brief resumé and MOORE ABSTRACT in the subject line
to by July 15th 2014.
Steering Committee:
Fiona Green, Elizabeth Gregory, Stacy Hubbard, Cristanne Miller, Heather White
Please forward this Call to others who might like to participate.

January 20, 2014

“The Buffalo” and an Ox

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 8:05 pm

no freakishly

Over-drove Ox drawn by

Rowlandson, but the Indian buffalo,


footed, standing in the mud-lake, with a

day’s work to do.”   

“The Buffalo,” Poetry, 45 (November 1934), 62-63, ll . 35-40.

In writing a poem about bovines, Moore compares the Indian buffalo, or water buffalo, to other members of the group, turning to painting, photographs, lithographs, and sculpture for her images. One comparison begins with the “Over-Drove Ox,” a satirical print by English artist Thomas Rowlandson (1757–1827). Moore had in hand a clipping from page 127 the New York Times for February 12, 1933, a review by Elizabeth Luther Cary of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that featured this Rowlandson work. In Cary’s words

Rowlandson supplies humor based upon human traits and independent of passing incident. As in the case of most good prints and numberless bad ones, you can read plenty of English history on his flowerlike pages of gaming tables,  horse races, health resorts and sailors; snug harbors, but it is the history of the people not of the political stage.

The print at the Metropolitan is the one called “The Over-Drove Ox” and shows one of these gentle animals running amuck in a crowded street, driving terror into the minds of all and various. In a wholly indescribably way Rowland manages to make us see the rampaging creature as just a downtrodden ox which, for one splendid. exasperated moment, fancies itself a raging, powerful bull, capable of turning all humanity into a mush of panic, and the fancy almost turns to truth, horses rear, dogs bark, the crowd goes down like ninepins, kicking and sprawling, clutching and howling. What a grand success!

Bold type here represents the sentence Moore circled.

Buffalo Rowlandson

Rowlandson’s “Over-Drove Ox”

The other half of the comparison arose from a clipping from the New York Times for April 24, 1927, page 103. Moore cut out the image and its caption: “Water Buffalo from Eastern Asia: A Group of Animals[.] Shot by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt on the William V. Kelly-Roosevelt Expedition. Now on Exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.” While it is not possible to reproduce the clipping from the Times, the photograph of the diorama from which it was made is present in the online collections of the Field Museum and is shown here:

Water Buffalo Diorama at the Field Museum

When she came upon this image, Moore wrote to her brother, Warner, that had she not seen it, she would have had to sacrifice her entire description of the water buffalo if she could not use “the word albino as a rhyme.” [TLS  23 April 1934, Rosenbach] Thus, the “Indian buffalo / albino- / footed.”

December 6, 2013

“In This Age of Hard Trying”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 7:06 pm
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“Really, it is not the

business of the gods to bake clay pots.”

“In This Age of Hard Trying, Nonchalance Is Good”

Chimaera  I (July 1916), 52, ll. 1-2.



Moore wrote to her brother, Warner, on July 22, 1915, that she was reading “four or five” novels by Turgenev that she had borrowed from a friend, Mary Bosler. She thought they were excellently constructed and “hummers.”  Then, in the journal into which she entered quotations that appealed to her, she copied a line from Fathers and Children: “Really, it is not the business of the gods to bake pots!”  This wording leads to the translation by Isabel F. Hapgood that appeared  on page 187 in several editions, 1903, 1911, 1915, all from Charles Scribner’s Sons.

The immediate context in the Turgenev work is a scene in which Bazarov, a young nihilist who believes his age group should renounce everything that smacks of Russian tradition, and Arkady, his more traditional fellow student, argue about the uninvited appearance of Sitnikoff. Sitnikoff has been praising George Sand as a champion of women’s rights, a position Bazaroff thinks hopelessly out of date.

“What the devil did that blockhead Sitnikoff come for?”

Bazaroff first moved in his bed and then emitted the following:—”Thou, brother, art still stupid, I perceive. Sitnikoffs are indispensable to us. I—mark this—I need such dolts. Really, it is not the business of the gods to bake pots! . .”

“Aha, ha! … .” thought Arkady to himself, and only then was the whole bottomless abyss of Bazaroff’s pride disclosed to him for an instant. “So thou and I are gods? that is—thou art a god, and am I the dolt, I wonder?”

“Yes,”—repeated Bazaroff grimly,—” thou art still stupid.”

While Moore begins her poem with Bazaroff’ line, it is likely that the quotation simply pointed her in a direction, possibly concerning the contemporary literary scene. Whoever is being addressed in the first two stanzas—perhaps a writer or writers—are found to be lacking in humility, missing the main chance to succeed.

The last two stanzas begin with another quotation:

“Taller by the length of

a conversation of five hundred years than all

the others,” there was one, whose tales

of what could never have been actual—

were better than the haggish, uncompanionable drawl

of certitude[.]

Here again Moore works with a quotation from an article, “Angels” in The New Statesman for June 26, 1915. After describing stories similar to what we would call urban myths, such as angels siding with the winning Boers, the writer says:

[Angels] are represented as beings of various sizes. According to a Jewish tradition, each angel is one-third of a world; but the angel Sandalfon is said to be taller than his fellows by the length of a journey of five hundred years.”

Moore interpolates “conversation” for “journey” in praise of the storyteller with highly effective “by-play” and his weapon, “self protectiveness.”

In this instance, it seems likely that the quotations were chosen for their wording and not necessarily for their context. A clue to this thought lies in Moore’s having put an end note in the Observations version to the first quotation: “Dostoievsky.” However, the two are paired in a way that balances the argument of the poem through contrast.

October 7, 2013

“Camellia Sabina” and the Spanish Fleece

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:59 pm

Does  yonder mouse with a grape in its hand

and its child in its mouth, not portray

the Spanish fleece suspended by the neck?”

“Camellia Sabina,” Active Anthology, 1933,  p 190. ll. 38-40

Golden Fleece Ornament

Golden Fleece Ornament

While Moore provides a note for the mouse with a grape, a reference to a photograph in The National Geographic,



,she offers no help for “Spanish fleece.”  Here she refers to the “toison d’or’” the symbol of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a Catholic knighthood founded in Burgundy in the 15th Century to uphold the Catholic religion in Europe. Over time, this Hapsburg order split between Spain and Austria giving rise to two sections. Sovereigns, dukes, and other nobility were the usual recipients but over time, the rule was relaxed and protestant Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was admitted in 1812 and Japan’s Emperor Hiro Hito in 1928.

The insignia was a golden fleece, indeed “suspended by the neck,” from a decoration that included the letter “B” for Burgundy.

Moore does not give an explicit clue as to how the “Spanish fleece” figures in the poem other than, perhaps, as it shares the same  position on its decoration as does the baby mouse in its mother’s mouth.  One might speculate about Wellington, an Anglo-Irish hero who might have joined Moore’s list of Irish heros. Comments welcome!

June 20, 2013

“Enough, 1969

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 6:53 pm

New Yorker for Enough 1969“Enough, 1969”

The New Yorker, 46 (January 17, 1970), p. 28.

This twelve-line poem appeared first in the magazine, next in the second edition of Complete Poems, 1981, p. 245. Moore sent the poem to the New Yorker probably in late 1968, to judge by letters she received from editor Howard Moss in early 1969. Moore titled the poem, in manuscript, “Enough, 1969.”

In his first letter, January 21, 1969, Moss reports that the magazine would take the poem and attends to some housekeeping duties, rewording line 9 for syntax, quotation marks around Jonson’s “Discoveries,” and the like. In his third letter, February 20, Moss says that fact checkers have found that Moore misquoted Jonson by omitting the word “and” in the last line. Moore agreed to it all.

But in his second letter, February 11, which accompanied a galley proof with more questions, Moss tells Moore that he doesn’t like the “1969” of the title because it suggests that the poem is suitable only to that calendar year (perhaps he knows that the poem will not see print until 1970) and that it more universal meaning than that implies. So, “1969” disappears.

What Moss did not see, and what Moore did not insist on, was that this “Enough” echoes another “Enough” with the subtitle “Jamestown, 1607-1957,” published in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1957. A meditation on the Jamestown settlement at the time of its 350th anniversary, what it shares with the later poem is the question of permanence, survival, the ship “Discovery” and Ben Jonson’s “Discoveries.”

When the poem was reprinted in Complete Poems 1981, the year “1969” was restored and the last line returned to Moore’s original wording.

April 15, 2013

Panshin’s Horse in “Reprobate Silver”

Like Panshin’s horse, not permitted to be willful,

Trembling incessantly and champing the bit–

It is worthy of examination.



“Reprobate Silver”

Written by September 24, 1915

First published in The Poems of Marianne Moore, ed. Grace Schulman, New York: Viking, 2003, p. 43, ll. 3-5.

These lines comprise one of a series of similes for the “Reprobate Silver” of the title. They are suggested by Ivan Turgenev’s novel  A House of Gentlefolk which tells the story of a young man betrayed by wife.

Ivan Turgenev

Ivan Turgenev

Away on a visit to his cousin, Marya, he reads in the press that his wife has died. Thinking himself free, he falls in love with Marya’s daughter, Liza, and they plan to marry. Panshin returns home after the visit and finds his wife alive and well. They do not divorce but live apart; Liza enters a convent.

Moore is clearly concentrating on the horse; perhaps the story is only incidental to the poem, or even merely occasional. Here is the context from a translation that Moore might have read:

Marya Dmitrievna went up to the window.

 How do you do, Woldemar! Ah, what a splendid horse! Where did you buy it ?’

‘ I bought it from the army contractor. . . . He made me pay for it too, the brigand!’

‘ What’s its name ?’

‘ Orlando. . . . But it’s a stupid name; I want to change it . . . Eh bien, eh bien, mon garcon. . . . What a restless beast it is!’

The horse snorted, stamped, pawed the ground, and shook the foam off the bit.

‘ Lenotchka, stroke him, don’t be afraid.’

The little girl stretched her hand out of the window, but Orlando suddenly reared and started. The rider with perfect self-possession gave it a cut with the whip across the neck, and keeping a tight grip with his legs forced it, in spite of its opposition, to stand still again at the window.

Prenez garde, prenez garde,’ Marya Dmitrievna kept repeating.

‘ Lenotchka, pat him,’ said the young man, ‘ I won’t let him be perverse.’

The little girl again stretched out her hand and timidly patted the quivering nostrils of the horse, who kept fidgeting and champing the bit.

‘ Bravo!’ cried Marya Dmitrievna,’ but now get off and come in to us.’

The rider adroitly turned his horse, gave him a touch of the spur, and galloping down the street soon reached the courtyard. A minute later he ran into the drawing-room by the door from the hall, flourishing his whip; at the same moment there appeared in the other doorway a tall, slender dark-haired girl of nineteen, Marya Dmitrievna’s eldest daughter, Lisa.

Ivan Turgenev, A House of Gentlefolk, tr. Constance Garnett, New York: Macmillan, 1906, pp. 13-15.

March 25, 2013

“Critics and Connoisseurs” and “Certin Ming Products”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:08 pm

There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious

Fastidiousness.  Certain Ming

Products, imperial floor coverings of coach

Wheel yellow . . . .

“Critics and Connoisseurs, ” Others 3:I (July 1916), ll. 1-4.

Critics Ming Dynasty carpet

Ming Dynasty Carpet

These opening lines concerning connoisseurs’ possessions that “are well enough in their way” set up Moore’s contrast with critics, portrayed as a self-defending swan and a frustrated ant. We may never know where Moore saw Ming rugs or yellow coach wheels but we can enjoy images that are probably similar to something she encountered.

Critics Yellow  Wheels

Coach with Yellow Wheels

December 17, 2012

“He Digesteth Harde Yron” and Ostrich Eggs

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:42 pm

“The egg piously shown
        as Leda’s very own
from which Castor and Pollux hatched,
was an ostrich-egg”

 “He Digesteth Harde Yron,” Partisan Review 8 (July-August 1941), 312, ll. 30-33.

“Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda [the wife of the king of Sparta] and the Swan, under which disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to an egg from which sprang the twins. Helen, so famous afterwards as the cause of the Trojan war, was their sister.”

Thomas Bullfinch. The Age of Fable or the Beauties of Mythology. Vol. I. New York: Review of Reviews Company, 1914, p. 158.

Moore kept a copy of The Open Court, “a monthly magazine devoted to the science of religion, the religion of science, and the extension of the religious parliament idea,” for May, 1926 (Vol. XL, No. 5). In it she read the article by Berthold Laufer on “Ostrich Egg-Shell Cups from Mesopotamia” that described the finds from a dig in Kish, Iran, sponsored by the Field Museum (Chicago) and Oxford University. The article pictured an egg-shell cup with the following description:

“The Field Museum’s by Text-Enhance” href=”″>loan objects include bead necklaces of semi-precious and common stones, shell, and glass, ceramic vessels, and an especially rare ostrich egg-shell cup (pictured here). All were excavated between 1923 and 1933 at the site of the ancient city of Kish in Iraq during joint archaeological expeditions by The Field Museum and Oxford University.”

he digesteth cup kish field museum

The egg-shell cup pictured in the magazine has not been placed in a formal holder but is set in a simple three-legged brace. It appears that the cup was later fitted out with decorative pedestal and lid, as shown in this image from the collection of the Field Museum where it is identified as the same object as the one on page 260 of The Open Court.

On page 267 of the same article, Moore has underlined a passage from the following paragraph, clearly the source of the poem’s title:

“The fondness for metals has obtained for the bird the name of the ‘iron-eating ostrich.’” In 1579 Lyly wrote in his Euphues that “the estrich digesteth harde yron to preserve his health.”

December 6, 2012

“Love in America?” An Outtake

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 7:50 pm

“Love in America?”



“It is at the inception of any great work of art: in

Aristotle’s  contemplation of the bust

of Socrates which is animated

by what seems a glow from nearby fire.”


Saturday Evening Post, December 31, 1966, p. 78.

These lines were included in a draft of “Love in America?” written at the request of editor Thomas Congdon who selected that theme (miLove in America Covernus the question mark) for the New Year’s Eve issue of The Saturday Evening Post in 1966.  On the manuscript, an editor circled “Socrates” and wrote in the margin “Not Homer? Or are we missing something?” Below the question Moore wrote: “Homer.” In the context of this version, “It” refers to “Love in America.” This page survives in her archive at the Rosenbach, and because it does, it clearly was not returned to the magazine. Moore rewrote the poem; the version that appeared in late 1966 is identical to that in Complete Poems.

Love in Amrerica Rembrandt

“Aristotle with a Bust of Homer,” Metropolitan Museum of Art

In rewriting, Moore dropped the first half of her poem, including the Rembrandt passage. Had she retained it, amending Socrates to Homer, she would have reminded readers of a recent New York and very American story: the purchase by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer” (1653) at Parke-Bernet Galleries for $2,300,000 on November 15, 1961. The Rembrandt lot had as underbidder the Cleveland Museum. The directors of both museums had long known the painting, having seen it  at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933 or at Knoedler’s Galleries in New York in 1941. Owned by Alfred W. Erickson and his wife, it was sold by the latter’s estate. The competition for the painting and the enormous price became newsworthy; the New York Times ran a story on November 16, the day after the auction,  announcing that the price was the highest ever paid for any picture at a private or public sale and that the bidding lasted four minutes. More than 20,000 people had visited Parke-Bernet to view the painting  while it was on display and 2,000 attended the sale, some through closed circuit television.  The paper followed this article with another on January 7, 1962: “The Rembrandt: Battle Strategy,” describing the process by which the Met agreed to bid on the painting, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin rushed into its January issue a lead article by curator Theodore Rousseau, touching on the painting’s use of light and its unusual qualities compared to the Met’s 31 other Rembrandts.

Moore certainly saw the cover of the Bulletin with its color illustration of the painting for she owned a copy. Not only was she likely to have seen news articles about the Rembrandt but the December 1, 1961 issue of The New Yorker lists two events for the week under “Museums and Libraries:” The Met’s “’The Stone Guest: Dialogues  between Persons and Statuary,” a showing of prints, drawings, and photographs on the colloquy between Aristotle and the bust of Homer and other encounters between people and sculpture” and, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “manuscripts, books, and other material by Marianne Moore in celebration of her seventy-fifth birthday.”

November 5, 2012

“The Labors of Hercules”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 5:04 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

“to prove to the high priests of caste

that snobbishness is a stupidity,

the best side out, of age-old toadyism—

kissing the feet of the man above,

kicking the face of the man below:”

The Dial 71 (December 1921) p. 168, ll. 18-22

Moore developed these lines after reading Thinking Black: 22 Years without a Break in the Long Grass of Central Africa by Daniel Crawford (London: Morgan and Scott, 1913, or perhaps an edition from the previous year). The quoted lines are in boldface type.

Now for the darkest despotism in all slavery; I mean, the ex-slave ruling the ex-lord with an iron rod. And all this according to that most ancient of sayings passed along in whispers from one bondsman to another: “If thou art an anvil, be patient, 0 slave my brother; but if thou art a hammer, strike hard!” One such exclave, called “The Python,” ultimately lorded it over our huge caravan, and instead of being abashed at his slave blood, he was precious proud of it: “0 white man, you are proud of your descent, but I am proud of my ascent, was his idea. Coleridge it was who wrote of ” the pride that apes humility,” and our friend ” The Python ” had it, for if not pride of race it was pride of place. But make it a rule never, oh! never to argue with such a fellow—if you fight with a sweep you cannot blacken him, but he may blacken you. Tantalising though he often was and worthy a well-merited wigging, there he stood, head and shoulders above them all, a go-ahead boss just “up from slavery.” He did not cringe to us, and did not mind running risks with his bread-and-butter. Wise, too, with a corrosive sort of wisdom, some things he said were a clever echo of Epictetus (and who by the by was he, if not a slave ?). Even Horace would pardon me for calling him eloquent. (Horace, too, who was he if not a slave’s son ?) Yet this man finally became as tame as a friendly mastiff, although all the time a snob to his fellows. And a slave snob, remember, is king of all the snobs; proves it, too, by kissing the feet of the man above him on the social ladder, while he kicks the other who is below him. Himself a slave by purchase and with a commercial instinct quite in accord with the best traditions of Bihe, he would sell his own father and mother for an old song. Q.E.D.: The Romans were right, “As many slaves, so many enemies “—bad slavery makes a bad slave. (p. 50)

Daniel Crawford about 1915

Daniel Crawford (1870-1926 )was a Scottish missionary to Zaire. Feeling called to Africa, in March 1889 Crawford set off as an independent missionary associated with the Plymouth Brethren of Scotland and England and spent the rest of his life in Katanga (modern Shaba, in southeast Zaire). After some months working with others, he struck out alone and settled among the Nyamwezi. With headquarters on Lake Mweru, he itinerated constantly, preaching and setting up local schools, aiming simply at literacy in the local language. Crawford’s spent two years  (1913-15) pleading the cause of African missions in Europe and the United States. He was a brilliant linguist and by 1926 had completed the translation of the whole Bible into Luba. This and other languages he learned by living as the sole European among Africans, thus learning to “think black,” an attitude that made him something of an exception among missionaries of that era.

–adapted from Andrew C. Ross, Dictionary of African Christian Biography, online

Moore and Pound, 1917

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Moore’s tribute to Ezra Pound, unpublished until 1979 when it appeared in The Marianne Moore Newsletter  (III, 2, pp. 5-8) now appears in the Schulman edition of The Poems of Marianne Moore, p. 79. Much of the poem, as documented in the MMN, drew on Moore’s reading of Blast at the Library of Congress in March, 1915. Here, with thanks to the Modernist Journals Project (Brown and the University of Tulsa), are the pages of Blast from which Moore made notes. They are pages 22, 23, 48, 49 and the front cover. Page 48 contains Pound’s “Epitaphs” including the one on Li Po to which she referred as “Poor Li Po” and 49 includes “Meditatio,” which she salutes as “Good Meditatio.” Click on the pages to enlarge them.

September 29, 2012

Guido Bruno

Note: Since this piece appeared on line, I received a note from Arnold I. Kisch, Guido Bruno’s nephew, who published the following book about his uncle:  The Romantic Ghost of Greenwich Village: Guido Bruno in His Garret. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1976.

The book is out of print but WorldCat lists it in 36 American research libraries and another 15 elsewhere.  Google Books reports the existence of the book but in a “no preview” format which means that there is no direct online access to it.

From his “Garret” at 58 Washington Square South, the colorful Villageois Guido Bruno published the periodicals Bruno’s Weekly, Bruno’s Bohemia, Bruno’s Monthly, Greenwich Village and a series of chapbooks, all sold for a few cents, from about 1913 to about 1917. Moore visited his studio on her fabled trip to New York in December, 1915 (see SL, pp. 111-112); she came away with Alfred Kreymborg’s Mushrooms, copies of the Weekly, and tickets to the Thimble Theater. Bruno included her short poems “Holes Bored in a Workbag by the Scissors” and “Apropos of Mice” in his Weekly in October, 1916. Moore might have found Bruno the self-promoter, courter of the intersection of free speech and indiscretion, less than likeable, but she could not have missed his impact on the Village and beyond. He had been, and in spirit continued to be, part of the place she moved to when she first had a choice in 1918: 14 St. Luke’s Place, Greenwich Village.

Bruno busied himself about the Village, holding art openings for Clara Tice and other in his garret, managing Charles Edison’s Thimble Theatre on Fifth Avenue, across from the Brevort Hotel, planning for publications rather than statues as monuments to American composers like Stephen Foster. His devotion to Djuna Barns led to his publishing her chapbook, The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings in 1915. Other chapbooks featured work by Kreymborg, Oscar Wilde, Sadakichi Hartmann, and Hubert Crackanthorpe.

Fire destroyed his garret in 1916, taking with it a 68-page manuscript by G. B. Shaw, but Bruno continued to ply his literary and “anarchist” interests, mounting Strindberg plays at the Thimble, raising funds of $25,000 to free Emma Goldman from prison, contributing to Pearson’s Magazine along with Floyd Dell and Upton Sinclair. Such was his fame that mention of him turns up in papers widespread as the Appleton (Wisconsin) Post Crescent, The San Antonio Light, and The Corning (N. Y.) Evening Leader in addition to many mentions in the New York papers. As Maurice Zolotof wrote in the New York Times in 1939, Bruno broke down the insularity of the Village and, through his publications, made its citizens self-conscious.

He also made them aware of him. Charles Sumner’s vice squad brought him up on charges for publishing Kreymborg’s Edna: A Girl of the Streets, meant as a commentary on the evils of prostitution. Frank Harris, editor of Pearson’s Magazine and himself notorious for sexual explicitness, testified that the book had not titillated him. Sumner confiscated 350 copies of the book and 150 advertising flyers, but did not have Bruno arrested. Bruno, however, claimed bankruptcy in 1917 when he sued Sumner for $100,000 damages.

By that time, America was at war in Europe and the Villiage that Bruno celebrated had begun to change. In 1919, he wrote a piece later published in his Adventures in American Bookshops (1922):

The fad of false Bohemia in Greenwich Village has passed. The purple and orange brand of tearooms and of so-called gift shops where art lovers and artistic people from the Bronx and Flatbush assembled, have gone out of existence. The designers and manufacturers of astounding atrocities who called themselves “modern artists” have disappeared. True there are a few short-haired women left, who parade the streets in their unusual clothes, but they, too, will soon move to other parts of the city with the return of the soldiers, and will reassume their real calling in life.

False Bohemia, indeed. The original Guido Bruno, Kurt Josef Kisch, was born in Mlada Boleslav, Bohemia, on October 15, 1884. His father, the distinguished Rabbi Alexander Kisch, served a congregation in that town from 1881-1886 before returning to Prague; a professor with a doctorate from the University of Breslau, Rabbi Kisch later taught such literary luminaries as Max Brod and Franz Werfel.

Young Kurt sailed for New York in 1906 aboard the Dalmatia. He arrived on December 20, a medical student bound for Chicago probably to study with his uncle, Dr. William Mislaf (or Mitzlaff), who was an ear and eye specialist on North Clark Street. He married Ragna Pauluda, recently of Norway, about 1909, and practiced medicine on Cass Street in Detroit, where he was named Curt Joseph Kirch by the 1910 census taker. Soon, this “Kirch” publishes a 21-page essay, “Der Holländisch-Deutsche zweig der Familie Washington und einige Washington-Dokuments” in the 1912 Jahrbuch Der Deutsche-amerikanischen Historischen Gesellschaft Von Illinois, (Vol. 12, Chicago, 1913). Largely a list of Washington family relatives with Dutch-German connections, the essay includes a letter from Martha Washington about a proposal for a Washington Monument. At about the same time, Curtis J. Kirch appears as editor of The Lantern: A Publication of Discarded Truth and Rejected Fiction. A Chicago product, it was edited with Milton Fuessle from January to July, 1913.

The migration from Kisch to Kirch to Guido Bruno was complete by the time the man reached Greenwich Village. His final name derived from the first names of his two brothers. Guido Kisch (1889-1985), was a professor of legal history at the University of Leipzig, Hebrew Union College in New York, and Basel University. Bruno Kisch (1890-1966) was a cardiologist who studied at the University of Cologne and worked at Yeshiva University in New York, studied the electron microscope at Yale, and retired to Bad Nauheim, Germany. Guido Bruno, however, never forgot his original name: his World War I draft registration card bears the following: Name—Guido Bruno; legal name—Josef Kurt Kisch, all in his own handwriting.

Post-Village, Bruno wrote for Pearson’s Magazine and continued to publish his own work, notably Adventures in American Bookshops, Antique Stores, and Auction Houses (Detroit: Douglas Bookshop, 1922). This work bears evidence of the experienced bookman; it describes antiquarian booksellers and their shops in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Boston with understanding. Back in his garret days, he demonstrated the heart of a bookman with an exhibition of European and American bookplates, supplemented by his talk on the romance of the bookplate. He owned the Union Square Bookshop at 30 E. 14th Street in New York in 1929 when he was underbidder to Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach’s $2,500 for Articles of Agreement: Made and Concluded . . . . Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1733.

Bruno gradually moved out of range of  the Village, first to Pelham Manor in Westchester County, then to Lower Merion, Pennsylvania where his adopted daughter, Eleanore, owned the American Autograph Shop in Marion Station. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1928 and registered for the World War II draft. The New York Times reported on January 27, 1943:

Bruno, Guido. Author, publisher, editor, journalist and historian [died s]uddenly, aged 58, at his daughter’s home in Merion, PA., leaving his widow, Ragna Bruno; daughter, Eleanore, and [her] son, Ragnar. Interment private.

August 29, 2012

“Flints, Not Flowers” Meredith, Keats

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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


the word “toy” in all of Keats:


“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.

August 6, 2012

“Like Bertram Dobell” and Thomas Traherne

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Traherne, 1906

Moore’s library contains two volumes of poems by Thomas Traherne. The first is Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne, . . . now first published from the original manuscripts, ed. by Bertram Dobell, with a memoir of the author … Second Edition, London, Pub. by the editor, 1906. The second, Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne (1636?-1674) now first printed from the author’s manuscript. Edited by Bertram Dobell. London. Published by the Editor, 77 Charing Cross Road, W.C., 1908, has the inscription: “Marianne Craig Moore March 13, 1909.”

In a short poem written by April, 1915, Moore saluted Traherne’s editor; “Like Bertram Dobell, you Achieve Distinction by Disclaiming It. [sic]” is the manuscript version of the title (See Schulman’s edition of Poems, p. 63, for the printed version). Dobell had the good fortune to come upon Traherne’s manuscripts, previously credited to Henry Vaughan, but unpublished. An antiquarian bookseller and scholar housed in London’s famous bookish street,  Dobell came to Moore’s notice when he published an article on “The Earliest Poems of Robert Browning” in The Cornhill Magazine for January, 1914 (Moore makes a note of this article in a small ring notebook containing alphabetical entries of writiers and writing). While we cannot be sure that she actually read this piece before she wrote the poem, we do know that she already owned Centuries of Meditations edited by Dobell.

What can we draw from this interwoven if unclear picture? The poem address a “you” who is like Dobell in his editor’s modesty and like the speaker

Dobell 1842-1914

in his “selfprotectiveness.”  The “you” suggests the modest Traherne who never published his poems (and probably not the Browning who suppressed the two poems Dobell rediscovered).  A further note: Moore’s poem  praises silence in support of “selfprotectiveness.” In a notebook maintained in the 1920s, she copied out from his Poetical Works the first 27 lines of Traherne’s “Silence,” beginning:

A QUIET silent person may possess

All that is great or high in Blessedness.
The inward work is the supreme for all
The other were occasioned by the fall.

It would be pleasing to think that when in London in 1911, Moore made her way to 77 Charing Cross Road and met the modest Dobell himself.  It would be interesting to know for certain whether Moore meant to honor Traherne as well as his editor.

June 2, 2012

“Then the Ermine” and Katherine Anne Porter

“Then the Ermine,” Poetry 81 (October 1952) 55-56.


On January 1, 1957, Katherine Anne Porter wrote to thank Moore for a copy of Like a Bulwark, her new book that contained “Then the Ermine,” a poem which Porter

G. P. Lynes, 1932

said gave her “a special kind of personal feeling.” (Isabel Bailey, ed. Letters of Katherine Anne Porter, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, p. 519)­ 

Porter  refers to the lines:

So let the palisandre settee express

Change, “ebony violet,”

Master Corbo in full dress.

Porter’s apartment held an antique settee, upholstered in purple velvet. After Moore paid Porter a visit, Porter wrote to her on 27 November 1951 (A.L.S., Moore papers, Rosenbach), recalling how Moore looked  seated on the settee: “on the heliotrope velvet, that palissandre will never look so well again . . . .” Porter’s papers at the University of Maryland contain a manuscript of the finished poem.

Porter lived in Paris for four years beginning in 1933. That year, Harrison of Paris published her French Song-Book, an elegant slim volume designed by Monroe Wheeler, one of her, and Moore’s, best friends. The Song-Book covered early French music and provided original French texts, Porter’s translations, and the songs’ notation.  Moore, who surely knew about the book, no doubt forged a connection between Porter’s French efforts and her own. Moore’s lines about the crow

Master Corbo in full dress

And shepherdess

at once—exhilarating hoarse crow note

and dignity with intimacy

refer to La Fontaine’s second fable in Book I, “The Fox and the Crow,” which Moore was, in 1951, in the process of translating. In brief, a crow held a piece of cheese that the fox wanted. “Ah, superb Sir Ebony, well met. / How black! who else boasts your metallic jet” the fox said, and praised the crow’s “warbling.” “All aglow, Master Crow tried to run a few scales. / Risking trills and intervals, / Dropping the prize as his huge beak sang false.” (Marianne Moore. The Fables of La Fontaine, Viking, 1952, pp 14-15.)

But “shepherdess?” It is tempting to associate Porter’s French song “Shepherdess, Be Kind,” a charming poem containing a reference to a bird.  But

Louis XV Bergère Chairs

the purple-black settee is upholstered in the color of the crow and made in the shape of une bergère, ordinarily a shepherdess, but in terms of furniture, a French armchair from the same period as the settee, late Eighteenth Century.

Porter’s settee now adorns the Katherine Anne Porter room at the University of Maryland.  If Moore is right to call it palissandre, it is made from a Madagascar wood by that name. At Maryland, it is called an “eighteenth-century Louis XV fruitwood sofa.” Sadly, its purple upholstery had to be replaced some years after this poem appeared, having been adversely affected by a cat.

Palissandre Settee

Palissandre Settee

April 27, 2012

“The Jerboa” and Dr. Ditmars

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 10:29 am

“[The jerboa] launching

As if on wings, from its match-thin hind legs”

“The Jerboa” Hound and Horn 7 (October-December 1932) 108-113, ll 117-118.

Moore offers a note to these lines, citing a highly respected source. Raymond L. Ditmars (1876-1942) served as curator of the New York Zoological Garden (The Bronx Zoo) for many years. Originally a herpetologist, he worked with mammals, insects, and other animals, building the zoo’s collection. His Animals I Have Known (available at describes various collecting trips, including one to Africa. There, he encountered the “Yellow Wind” outside Algiers, a violent sandstorm of the kind that jerboas routinely survive. [Amid tumultuous, blinding sand storms . . . ] it would seem as if all types of life would abandon such areas, but this is not the case. There are remarkable forms of adaptation. There are little rats called jerboas which run on long hind-legs as thin as a match. The forelimbs are mere tiny hands. They are fleet and coloured like the sand. They have a long balancing tail, with decorative pad of black and white fur at the tip. This tip is, in fact, more than decorative, as the pad is like a little snow-shoe to keep the end from sinking in the sand. The tail is carried in upward curve when the creatures run. When they stop it is rested on the ground so that the whole body is little tripod. The feet have furry pads to prevent their becoming imbedded in the soft sand. I kept one for several years, not giving it a drop of water. It fed on dry corn and loved stems of dry grass. The only moisture it had came from occasional bits of greens, of which it was not over fond.

–Raymond L. Ditmars. Strange Animals I Have Known. New York: Blue Ribbon Press, 1931, pp 274-75

April 25, 2012

Invitation to Friends of MM

Welcome to a blog on Moore’s poetry.  Please comment and join the conversation. –Pat Willis

A New Column

Moore Poet-Scholars

It has been a tradition at conferences on Marianne Moore to feature poets who acknowledge an affinity with her and her work. Jeredith Merrin is one of them who has just published a new book, Owling, winner of the Grayson Books Chapbook Award for 2016.  It is her fourth collection of poetry. I asked her to begin this series with some remarks about her work’s connection to Moore’s:

owling.Moore is inimitable.  But my new chapbook , OWLING, is indebted to Moore’s both outward- and inward-looking poetry

To write it, I took Moore-like notes on individual species of owls (19 different species); and in some lyrics I do use quotations.  Also, as Moore readers will note, I use syllabics when the occasion seems to call for them. I never knew where an individual species would take me (in subject matter or in form), so a pleasure of composing this little parliament of owls was that I was surprised each time—which I hope means that the reader will find these poems surprising.  They move from natural history to Marilyn Monroe, to Alzheimer’s, to The National Book Award, to Blue Whales, to. . . .

A poet-friend who e-mailed just today called my owl poems “capaciously swervy” (a phrase which might describe “Peter” or “An Octopus”)!

I thought OWLING might be of particular interest to those who are teaching Moore poems and to those who are interested in the study of Literature and Environment (I’m a member of ASLE).

Jeredith can be reached at and she is available for readings and classes. OWLING: There is an author page at


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