19+ Best Katherine Mansfield Poems

Kathleen Mansfield Murry was a prominent New Zealand modernist short story writer and poet who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield.

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Famous Katherine Mansfield Poems

Stars

Most merciful God
Look kindly upon
An impudent child
Who wants sitting on.
This evening late
I went to the door
And then to the gate
There were more stars–more
Than I could have expected,
Even I!
I was amazed,
Almighty, August!
I was utterly dazed,
Omnipotent! Just
In a word I was floored,
Good God of Hosts–Lord!
That at this time of day
They should still blaze away,
That thou hadst not rejected
Or at least circumspected
Their white silver beauty–
Was it spite? Was it duty?

Waves

I saw a tiny God
Sitting
Under a bright blue umbrella
That had white tassels
And forked ribs of gold.
Below him His little world
Lay open to the sun.
The shadow of His hat
Lay upon a city.
When he stretched forth His hand
A lake became a dark tremble.
When he kicked up His foot
It became night in the mountain passes.

But thou art small!
There are gods far greater than thou.
They rise and fall,
The tumbling gods of the sea.
Can thy heart heave such sighs,
Such hollow savage cries,
Such windy breath,
Such groaning death?
And can thy arm enfold
The old,
The cold,
The changeless dreadful places
Where the herds
Of horned sea-monsters
And the screaming birds
Gather together?
From those silent men
That lie in the pen
Of our pearly prisons,
Canst thou hunt thy prey?
Like us canst thou stay
Awaiting thine hour,
And then rise like a tower
And crash and shatter?

There are neither trees nor bushes
In my country,
Said the tiny God.
But there are streams
And waterfalls
And mountain-peaks
Covered with lovely weed.
There are little shores and safe harbours,
Caves for cool and plains for sun and wind.
Lovely is the sound of the rivers,
Lovely the flashing brightness
Of the lovely peaks.
I am content.

But Thy kingdom is small,
Said the God of the Sea.
Thy kingdom shall fall;
I shall not let thee be.
Thou art proud!
With a loud
Pealing of laughter,
He rose and covered
The tiny God’s land
With the tip of his hand,
With the curl of his fingers:
And after–

The tiny God
Began to cry

Sea

The Sea called–I lay on the rocks and said:
“I am come.”
She mocked and showed her teeth,
Stretching out her long green arms.
“Go away!” she thundered.
“Then tell me what I am to do,” I begged.
“If I leave you, you will not be silent,
But cry my name in the cities
And wistfully entreat me in the plains and forests;
All else I forsake to come to you–what must I do?”
“Never have I uttered your name,” snarled the Sea.
“There is no more of me in your body
Than the little salt tears you are frightened of shedding.
What can you know of my love on your brown rock
pillow….
Come closer.”

The Wounded Bird

In the wide bed
Under the freen embroidered quilt
With flowers and leaves always in soft motion
She is like a wounded bird resting on a pool.

The hunter threw his dart
And hit her breast,–
Hit her but did not kill.
“O my wings, lift me–lift me!
I am not dreadfully hurt!”
Down she dropped and was still.

Kind people come to the edge of the pool with baskets.
“Of course what the poor bird wants is plenty of food!”
Their bags and pockets are crammed almost to bursting
With dinner scrapings and scraps from the servants’
lunch.
Oh! how pleased they are to be really giving!
“In the past, you know you know, you were always so
fly-away.
So seldom came to the window-sill, so rarely
Shared the delicious crumbs thrown into the yard.
Here is a delicate fragment and her a tit-bit
As good as new. And here’s a morsel of relish
And cake and bread and bread and bread and bread.”

At night, in the wide bed
With the leaves and flowers
Gently weaving in the darkness,
She is like a wounded bird at rest on a pool.
Timidly, timidly she lifts her head from her wing.
In the sky there are two stars
Floating, shining…
O waters–do not cover me!
I would look long and long at those beautiful stars!
O my wings–lift me–lift me!
I am not so dreadfully hurt…

Spring Wind In London

I Blow across the stagnant world,
I blow across the sea,
For me, the sailor’s flag unfurled,
For me, the uprooted tree.
My challenge to the world is hurled;
The world must bow to me.

I drive the clouds across the sky,
I huddle them like sheep;
Merciless shepherd-dog am I
And shepherd-watch I keep.
If in the quiet vales they lie
I blow them up the steep.

Lo! In the tree-tops do I hide,
In every living thing;
On the moon’s yellow wings I glide,
On the wild rose I swing;
On the sea-horse’s back I ride,
And what then do I bring?

And when a little child is ill
I pause, and with my hand
I wave the window curtain’s frill
That he may understand
Outside the wind is blowing still;
…It is a pleasant land.

O stranger in a foreign place,
See what I bring to you.
This rain–is tears upon your face;
I tell you–tell you true
I came from that forgotten place
Where once the wattle grew,–

All the wild sweetness of the flower
Tangled against the wall.
It was that magic, silent hour….
The branches grew so tall
They twined themselves into a bower.
The sun shown… and the fall

Of yellow blossom on the grass!
You feel that golden rain?
Both of you could not hold, alas,
(both of you tried, in vain)
A memory, stranger. So I pass….
It will not come again

The Storm

I Ran to the forest for shelter,
Breathless, half sobbing;
I put my arms round a tree,
Pillowed my head against the rough bark.
“Protect me,” I said. “I am a lost child.”
But the tree showered silver drops on my face and hair.
A wind sprang up from the ends of the earth;
It lashed the forest together.
A huge green wave thundered and burst over my head.
I prayed, implored, “Please take care of me!”
But the wind pulled at my cloak and the rain beat upon
me.
Little rivers tore up the ground and swamped the bushes.
A frenzy possessed the earth: I felt that the earth was
drowning
In a bubbling cavern of space. I alone–
Smaller than the smallest fly–was alive and terrified.
Then for what reason I know not, I became trium-
phant
“Well, kill me!” I cried and ran out into the open.
But the storm ceased: the sun spread his wings
And floated serene in the silver pool of the sky.
I put my hands over my face: I was blushing.
And the trees swung together and delicately laughed.

The Candle

By my bed, on a little round table
The Grandmother placed a candle.
She gave me three kisses telling me they were three
dreams
And tucked me in just where I loved being tucked.
Then she went out of the room and the door was shut.
I lay still, waiting for my three dreams to talk;
But they were silent.
Suddenly I remember giving her three kisses back.
Perhaps, by mistake, I had given my three little
dreams
I sat up in bed.
The room grew big, oh, bigger far than a church.
The wardrobe, quite by itself, as big as a house.
And the jug on the washstand smiled at me:
It was not a friendly smile.
I looked at the basket-chair where my clothes lay
folded:
The chair gave a creak as though it were listening
for something.
Perhaps it was coming alive and going to dress in
my clothes.
But the awful thing was the window:
I could not think what was outside.
No tree to be seen, I was sure,
No nice little plant or friendly pebbly path.
Why did she pull the blind down every night?
It was better to know.
I crunched my teeth and crept out of bed,
I peeped through a slit of the blind.
There was nothing at all to be seen.
But hundreds of friendly candles all over the sky
In remembrance of frightened children.
I went back to bed…
The three dreams started singing a little song.

Song Of Karen, The Dancing Child

(O little white feet of mine)
Out in the storm and the rain you fly;
(Red, red shoes the colour of wine)
Can the children hear my cry?

(O little white feet of mine)
Never a child in the whole great town;
(Red, red shoes the colour of wine)
Lights out and the blinds pulled down.

(O little white feet of mine)
Never a light on a window pane,
(Red, red shoes the colour of wine)
And the wild wet cry of the rain.

(O little white feet of mine)
Shall I never again be still?
(Red, red shoes the colour of wine)
And away over valley and hill.

(O little white feet of mine)
Children, children, open the door!
(Red, red shoes the colour of wine)
And the wind shrieks Nevermore.

The Awakening River

The gulls are mad-in-love with the river,
And the river unveils her face and smiles.
In her sleep-brooding eyes they mirror their shining wings.
She lies on silver pillows: the sun leans over her.
He warms and warms her, he kisses and kisses her.
There are sparks in her hair and she stirs in laughter.
Be careful, my beautiful waking one! You will catch
on fire.
Wheeling and flying with the foam of the sea on their
breasts,
The ineffable mists of the sea clinging to their wild wings,
Crying the rapture of the boundless ocean,
The gulls are mad-in-love with the river.
Wake! we are the dream thoughts flying form your heart.
Wake! we are the songs of desire flowing from your
bosom.
O, I think the sun will lend her his great wings
And the river will fly to the sea with the mad-in-
love birds.

The Town Between The Hills

The further the little girl leaped and ran,
The further she longed to be;
The white, white fields of jonquil flowers
Danced up as high as her knee
And flashed and sparkled before her eyes
Until she could hardly see.
So into the wood went she.

It was quiet in the wood,
It was solemn and grave;
A sound like a wave
Sighed in the tree-tops
And then sighed no more.
But she was brave,
And the sky showed through
A bird’s-egg blue,
And she saw
A tiny path that was running away
Over the hills to–who can say?
She ran, too.
But then the path broke,
Then the path ended
And wouldn’t be mended.

A little old man
Sat on the edge,
Hugging the hedge.
He had a fire
And two eggs in a pan
And a paper poke
Of pepper and salt;
So she came to a halt
To watch and admire:
Cunning and nimble was he!
“May I help, if I can, little old man?”
“Bravo!” he said,
“You may dine with me.
I’ve two old eggs
From two white hens
and a loaf from a kind ladie:
Some fresh nutmegs,
Some cutlet ends
In pink and white paper frills:
And–I’ve–got
A little hot-pot
From the town between the hills.”

He nodded his head
And made her a sign
To sit under the spray
Of a trailing vine.

But when the little girl joined her hands
And said the grace she had learned to say,
The little old man gave two dreadful squeals
And she just saw the flash of his smoking heels
As he tumbled, tumbled,
With his two old eggs
From two white hens,
His loaf from a kind ladie,
The fresh nutmegs,
The cutlet-ends
In the pink and white paper frills.
And away rumbled
The little hot-pot,
So much too hot,
From the ton between the hills.

The Opal Dream Cave

In an opal dream cave I found a fairy:
Her wings were frailer than flower petals,
Frailer far than snowflakes.
She was not frightened, but poised on my finger,
Then delicately walked into my hand.
I shut the two palms of my hands together
And held her prisoner.
I carried her out of the opal cave,
Then opened my hands.
First she became thistledown,
Then a mote in a sunbeam,
Then–nothing at all.
Empty now is my opal dream cave.

Night-Scented Stock

White, white in the milky night
The moon danced over a tree.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely to swim in the lake!”
Someone whispered to me.

“Oh, do-do-do!” cooed someone else,
And clasped her hands to her chin.
“I should so love to see the white bodies–
All the white bodies jump in!”

The big dark house hid secretly
Behind the magnolia and the spreading pear-tree;
But there was a sound of music–music rippled and ran
Like a lady laughing behind her fan,
Laughing and mocking and running away…
“Come into the garden–it’s as light as day!”

“I can’t dance to that Hungarian stuff,
The rhythm in it is not passionate enough,”
Said somebody. “I absolutely refuse….”
But he took off his socks and his shoes
And round he spun. “It’s like Hungarian fruit dishes
Hard and bright–a mechanical blue!”
His white feet flicked in the grass like fishes…
Someone cried: “I want to dance, too!”

But one with a queer Russian ballet head
Curled up on a blue wooden bench instead.
And another, shadowy–shadowy and tall–
Walked in the shadow of the dark house wall,
Someone beside her. It shone in the gloom,
His round grey hat, like a wet mushroom.

“Don’t you think perhaps…” piped someone’s flute.
“How sweet the flowers smell!” I heard the other say.
Somebody picked a wet, wet pink,
Smelled it and threw it away.
“Is the moon a virgin or is she a harlot?”
Asked somebody. Nobody would tell.
The faces and the hands moved in a pattern
As the music rose and fell,
In a dancing, mysterious, moon-bright pattern
Like flowers nodding under the sea…

The music stopped and there was nothing left of them
But the moon dancing over the tree.

Villa Pauline

But, ah! before he came
You were only a name:
Four little rooms and a cupboard
Without a bone,
And I was alone!
Now with your windows wide
Everything from outside
Of sun and flower and loveliness
Comes in to hide,
To play, to laugh on the stairs,
To catch unawares
Our childish happiness,
And to glide
Through the four little rooms on tip-toe
With lifted finger,
Pretending we shall not know When the shutters are shut
That they still linger
Long, long after.
Lying close in the dark
He says to me: “Hark,
Isn’t that laughter?”

The Gulf

A Gulf of silence separates us from each other.
I stand at one side of the gulf, you at the other.
I cannot see you or hear you, yet know that you are there.
Often I call you by your childish name
And pretend that the echo to my crying is your voice.
How can we bridge the gulf? Never by speech or touch.
Once I thought we might fill it quite up with tears.
Now I want to shatter it with our laughter.

The Arabian Shawl 

“It is cold outside, you will need a coat–
What! this old Arabian shawl!
Bind it about your head and throat,
These steps… it is dark… my hand… you
might fall.”

What has happened? What strange, sweet charm
Lingers about the Arabian shawl…
Do not tremble so! There can be no harm
In just remembering–that is all.

“I love you so–I will be your wife,”
Here, in the dark of the Terrace wall,
Say it again. Let that other life
Fold us like the Arabian shawl.

“Do you remember?”… “I quite forget,
Some childish foolishness, that is all,
To-night is the first time we have met…
Let me take off my Arabian shawl!”

Sea Song

I will think no more of the sea! Of the big green waves And the hollowed
shore, Of the brown rock caves No more, no more Of the swell and the weed
And the bubbling foam. Memory dwells in my far away home, She has nothing
to do with me. She is old and bent With a pack On her back. Her tears all
spent, Her voice, just a crack. With an old thorn stick She hobbles along,
And a crazy song Now slow, now quick, Wheeks in her throat. And every day
While there’s light on the shore She searches for something; Her withered
claw Tumbles the seaweed; She pokes in each shell Groping and mumbling
Until the night Deepens and darkens, And covers her quite, And bids her be
silent, And bids her be still. The ghostly feet Of the whispery waves
Tiptoe beside her. They follow, follow To the rocky caves In the white
beach hollow… She hugs her hands, She sobs, she shrills, And the echoes
shriek In the rocky hills. She moans: “It is lost! Let it be! Let it be! I
am old. I’m too cold. I am frightened… the sea Is too loud… it is lost,
It is gone…” Memory Wails in my far away home. 1913

The Sea-Child

Into the world you sent her, mother,
Fashioned her body of coral and foam,
Combed a wave in her hair’s warm smother,
And drove her away from home

In the dark of the night she crept to the town
And under a doorway she laid her down,
The little blue child in the foam-fringed gown.

And never a sister and never a brother
To hear her call, to answer her cry.
Her face shone out from her hair’s warm smother
Like a moonkin up in the sky.

She sold her corals; she sold her foam;
Her rainbow heart like a singing shell
Broke in her body: she crept back home.

Peace, go back to the world, my daughter,
Daughter, go back to the darkling land;
There is nothing here but sad sea water,
And a handful of sifting sand.

The Quarrel

Our quarrel seemed a giant thing,
It made the room feel mean and small,
The books, the lamp, the furniture,
The very pictures on the wall–

Crowded upon us as we sat
Pale and terrified, face to face.
“Why do you stay?” she said, “my room
Can never be your resting place.”

“Katinka, ere we part for life,
I pray you walk once more with me.”
So down the dark, familiar road
We paced together, silently.

The sky–it seemed on fire with stars!
I said:–“Katinka dear, look up!”
Like thirsty children, both of us
Drank from the giant loving cup.

“Who were those dolls?” Katinka said
“What were their stupid, vague alarms?”
And suddenly we turned and laughed
And rushed into each other’s arms.

Sanary

Her little hot room looked over the bay
Through a stiff palisade of glinting palms,
And there she would lie in the heat of the day,
Her dark head resting upon her arms,
So quiet, so still, she did not seem
To think, to feel, or even to dream.

The shimmering, blinding web of sea
Hung from the sky, and the spider sun
With busy frightening cruelty
Crawled over the sky and spun and spun.
She could see it still when she shut her eyes,
And the little boats caught in the web like flies.

Down below at this idle hour
Nobody walked in the dust street;
A scent of a dying mimosa flower
Lay on the air, but sweet–too sweet.

The Meeting

We started speaking,
Looked at each other, then turned away.
The tears kept rising to my eyes.
But I could not weep.
I wanted to take your hand
But my hand trembled.
You kept counting the days
Before we should meet again.
But both of us felt in our hearts
That we parted for ever and ever.
The ticking of the little clock filled the quiet room.
‘Listen,’ I said. ‘It is so loud,
Like a horse galloping on a lonely road,
As loud as a horse galloping past in the night.’
You shut me up in your arms.

But the sound of the clock stifled our hearts’ beating.
You said, ‘I cannot go: all that is living of me
Is here for ever and ever.’
Then you went.
The world changed. The sound of the clock grew fainter,
Dwindled away, became a minute thing.
I whispered in the darkness. ‘If it stops, I shall die.’

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