16+ Best Marianne Moore Poems You Need to Read

Marianne Craig Moore was an American modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor. Her poetry is noted for formal innovation, precise diction, irony.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of awesome Lucille Clifton poems, most known poems from Lewis Carroll, and best known Wilfred Owen poems.

Famous Marianne Moore Poems

Poetry

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

Marriage

This institution,
perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one’s mind
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises
of one’s intention
to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve
think of it by this time,
this firegilt steel
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows —
“of circular traditions and impostures,
committing many spoils,”
requiring all one’s criminal ingenuity
to avoid!
Psychology which explains everything
explains nothing
and we are still in doubt.
Eve: beautiful woman —
I have seen her
when she was so handsome
she gave me a start,
able to write simultaneously
in three languages —
English, German and French
and talk in the meantime;
equally positive in demanding a commotion
and in stipulating quiet:
“I should like to be alone;”
to which the visitor replies,
“I should like to be alone;
why not be alone together?”
Below the incandescent stars
below the incandescent fruit,
the strange experience of beauty;
its existence is too much;
it tears one to pieces
and each fresh wave of consciousness
is poison.
“See her, see her in this common world,”
the central flaw
in that first crystal-fine experiment,
this amalgamation which can never be more
than an interesting possibility,
describing it
as “that strange paradise
unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings,
the choicest piece of my life:
the heart rising
in its estate of peace
as a boat rises
with the rising of the water;”
constrained in speaking of the serpent —
that shed snakeskin in the history of politeness
not to be returned to again —
that invaluable accident
exonerating Adam.
And he has beauty also;
it’s distressing — the O thou
to whom, from whom,
without whom nothing — Adam;
“something feline,
something colubrine” — how true!
a crouching mythological monster
in that Persian miniature of emerald mines,
raw silk — ivory white, snow white,
oyster white and six others —
that paddock full of leopards and giraffes —
long lemonyellow bodies
sown with trapezoids of blue.
Alive with words,
vibrating like a cymbal
touched before it has been struck,
he has prophesied correctly —
the industrious waterfall,
“the speedy stream
which violently bears all before it,
at one time silent as the air
and now as powerful as the wind.”
“Treading chasms
on the uncertain footing of a spear,”
forgetting that there is in woman
a quality of mind
which is an instinctive manifestation
is unsafe,
he goes on speaking
in a formal, customary strain
of “past states,” the present state,
seals, promises,
the evil one suffered,
the good one enjoys,
hell, heaven,
everything convenient
to promote one’s joy.”
There is in him a state of mind
by force of which,
perceiving what it was not
intended that he should,
“he experiences a solemn joy
in seeing that he has become an idol.”
Plagued by the nightingale
in the new leaves,
with its silence —
not its silence but its silences,
he says of it:
“It clothes me with a shirt of fire.”
“He dares not clap his hands
to make it go on
lest it should fly off;
if he does nothing, it will sleep;
if he cries out, it will not understand.”
Unnerved by the nightingale
and dazzled by the apple,
impelled by “the illusion of a fire
effectual to extinguish fire,”
compared with which
the shining of the earth
is but deformity — a fire
“as high as deep as bright as broad
as long as life itself,”
he stumbles over marriage,
“a very trivial object indeed”
to have destroyed the attitude
in which he stood —
the ease of the philosopher
unfathered by a woman.
Unhelpful Hymen!
“a kind of overgrown cupid”
reduced to insignificance
by the mechanical advertising
parading as involuntary comment,
by that experiment of Adam’s
with ways out but no way in —
the ritual of marriage,
augmenting all its lavishness;
its fiddle-head ferns,
lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries,
its hippopotamus —
nose and mouth combined
in one magnificent hopper,
“the crested screamer —
that huge bird almost a lizard,”
its snake and the potent apple.
He tells us
that “for love
that will gaze an eagle blind,
that is like a Hercules
climbing the trees
in the garden of the Hesperides,
from forty-five to seventy
is the best age,”
commending it
as a fine art, as an experiment,
a duty or as merely recreation.
One must not call him ruffian
nor friction a calamity —
the fight to be affectionate:
“no truth can be fully known
until it has been tried
by the tooth of disputation.”
The blue panther with black eyes,
the basalt panther with blue eyes,
entirely graceful —
one must give them the path —
the black obsidian Diana
who “darkeneth her countenance
as a bear doth,
causing her husband to sigh,”
the spiked hand
that has an affection for one
and proves it to the bone,
impatient to assure you
that impatience is the mark of independence
not of bondage.
“Married people often look that way” —
“seldom and cold, up and down,
mixed and malarial
with a good day and bad.”
“When do we feed?”
We occidentals are so unemotional,
we quarrel as we feed;
one’s self is quite lost,
the irony preserved
in “the Ahasuerus tête à tête banquet”
with its “good monster, lead the way,”
with little laughter
and munificence of humor
in that quixotic atmosphere of frankness
in which “Four o’clock does not exist
but at five o’clock
the ladies in their imperious humility
are ready to receive you”;
in which experience attests
that men have power
and sometimes one is made to feel it.
He says, “what monarch would not blush
to have a wife
with hair like a shaving-brush?
The fact of woman

is not the sound of the flute but every poison.'” She says, “Men are monopolistsof stars, garters, buttons
and other shining baubles’ —
unfit to be the guardians
of another person’s happiness.”
He says, “These mummies
must be handled carefully —
that severe object

the crumbs from a lion’s meal, a couple of shins and the bit of an ear’; turn to the letter M and you will find thata wife is a coffin,’with the pleasing geometry
stipulating space and not people,
refusing to be buried
and uniquely disappointing,
revengefully wrought in the attitude
of an adoring child
to a distinguished parent.”
She says, “This butterfly,
this waterfly, this nomad
that has `proposed
to settle on my hand for life.’ —
What can one do with it?
There must have been more time
in Shakespeare’s day
to sit and watch a play.
You know so many artists are fools.”
He says, “You know so many fools
who are not artists.”
The fact forgot
that “some have merely rights
while some have obligations,”
he loves himself so much,
he can permit himself
no rival in that love.
She loves herself so much,
she cannot see herself enough —
a statuette of ivory on ivory,
the logical last touch
to an expansive splendor
earned as wages for work done:
one is not rich but poor
when one can always seem so right.
What can one do for them —
these savages
condemned to disaffect
all those who are not visionaries
alert to undertake the silly task
of making people noble?
This model of petrine fidelity
who “leaves her peaceful husband
only because she has seen enough of him” —
that orator reminding you,
“I am yours to command.”
“Everything to do with love is mystery;
it is more than a day’s work
to investigate this science.”
One sees that it is rare —
that striking grasp of opposites
opposed each to the other, not to unity,
which in cycloid inclusiveness
has dwarfed the demonstration
of Columbus with the egg —
a triumph of simplicity —
that charitive Euroclydon
of frightening disinterestedness
which the world hates,
admitting:

“I am such a cow,
if I had a sorrow,
I should feel it a long time;
I am not one of those
who have a great sorrow
in the morning
and a great joy at noon;”
which says: “I have encountered it
among those unpretentious
protegés of wisdom,
where seeming to parade
as the debater and the Roman,
the statesmanship
of an archaic Daniel Webster
persists to their simplicity of temper
as the essence of the matter:

`Liberty and union
now and forever;’

the book on the writing-table;
the hand in the breast-pocket.”

Rosemary

Beauty and Beauty’s son and rosemary –
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly –
born of the sea supposedly,
at Christmas each, in company,
braids a garland of festivity.
Not always rosemary –

since the flight to Egypt, blooming indifferently.
With lancelike leaf, green but silver underneath,
its flowers – white originally –
turned blue. The herb of memory,
imitating the blue robe of Mary,
is not too legendary

to flower both as symbol and as pungency.
Springing from stones beside the sea,
the height of Christ when he was thirty-three,
it feeds on dew and to the bee
“hath a dumb language”; is in reality
a kind of Christmas tree.

Nevertheless

you’ve seen a strawberry
that’s had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds. What better food

than apple seeds – the fruit
within the fruit – locked in
like counter-curved twin

hazelnuts? Frost that kills
the little rubber-plant –
leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can’t

harm the roots; they still grow
in frozen ground. Once where
there was a prickley-pear –

leaf clinging to a barbed wire,
a root shot down to grow
in earth two feet below;

as carrots from mandrakes
or a ram’s-horn root some-
times. Victory won’t come

to me unless I go
to it; a grape tendril
ties a knot in knots till

knotted thirty times – so
the bound twig that’s under-
gone and over-gone, can’t stir.

The weak overcomes its
menace, the strong over-
comes itself. What is there

like fortitude! What sap
went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!

A Grave

Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as
you have to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey-
foot at the top,
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of
the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look —
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer
investigate them
for their bones have not lasted:
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are
desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away — the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were
no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx — beautiful
under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the
seaweed;
the birds swim throught the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls
as heretofore —
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion
beneath them;
and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of
bell-buoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which
dropped things are bound to sink —
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor
consciousness.

He Made This Screen

not of silver nor of coral,
but of weatherbeaten laurel.

Here, he introduced a sea
uniform like tapestry;

here, a fig-tree; there, a face;
there, a dragon circling space —

designating here, a bower;
there, a pointed passion-flower.

The Pangolin

Another armored animal–scale
lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
tail row! This near artichoke with head and legs and
grit-equipped gizzard,
the night miniature artist engineer is,
yes, Leonardo da Vinci’s replica–
impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
Armor seems extra. But for him,
the closing ear-ridge–
or bare ear licking even this small
eminence and similarly safe
contracting nose and eye apertures
impenetrably closable, are not;–a true ant-eater,
not cockroach-eater, who endures
exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,
returning before sunrise; stepping in the moonlight,
on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside
edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the
claws
for digging. Serpentined about
the tree, he draws
away from danger unpugnaciously,
with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping
the fragile grace of the Thomas-
of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron
vine, or
rolls himself into a ball that has
power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat
head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in feet.
Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest
of rocks closed with earth from inside, which he can
thus darken.
Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast
each with a splendor
which man in all his vileness cannot
set aside; each with an excellence!
“Fearful yet to be feared,” the armored
ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but
engulfs what he can, the flattered sword-
edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg-and
body-plates
quivering violently when it retaliates
and swarms on him. Compact like the furled fringed frill
on the hat-brim of Gargallo’s hollow iron head of a
matador, he will drop and will
then walk away
unhurt, although if unintruded on,
he cautiously works down the tree, helped
by his tail. The giant-pangolin-
tail, graceful tool, as prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like
an elephant’s trunk with special skin,
is not lost on this ant-and stone-swallowing uninjurable
artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable
whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done
so. Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between
dusk and day they have the not unchain-like machine-like
form and frictionless creep of a thing
made graceful by adversities, con-
versities. To explain grace requires
a curious hand. If that which is at all were not forever,
why would those who graced the spires
with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious
low stone seats–a monk and monk and monk–between the
thus
ingenious roof-supports, have slaved to confuse
grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a
debt,
the cure for sins, a graceful use
of what are yet
approved stone mullions branching out across
the perpendiculars? A sailboat
was the first machine. Pangolins, made
for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,
with certain postures of a man. Beneath sun and moon,
man slaving
to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth
having,
needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;
a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
like the ant; spidering a length
of web from bluffs
above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
like to pangolin; capsizing in
disheartenment. Bedizened or stark
naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
master to this world, griffons a dark
“Like does not like like that is obnoxious”; and writes error
with four
r’s. Among animals, one has a sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years. Uningnorant,
modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
he has everlasting vigor,
power to grow,
though there are few creatures who can make one
breathe faster and make one erecter.
Not afraid of anything is he,
and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle
at every step. Consistent with the
formula–warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few
hairs–that
is a mammal; there he sits in his own habitat,
serge-clad, strong-shod. The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work
partly done,
says to the alternating blaze,
“Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.”

To A Steam Roller

The illustration
is nothing to you without the application.
You lack half wit. You crush all the particles down
into close conformity, and then walk back and forth on them.

Sparkling chips of rock
are crushed down to the level of the parent block.
Were not ‘impersonal judment in aesthetic
matters, a metaphysical impossibility,’ you

might fairly achieve
it. As for butterflies, I can hardly conceive
of one’s attending upon you, but to question
the congruence of the complement is vain, if it exists.

The Past Is The Present

If external action is effete
and rhyme is outmoded,
I shall revert to you,
Habakkuk, as when in a Bible class
the teacher was speaking of unrhymed verse.
He said – and I think I repeat his exact words –
“Hebrew poetry is prose
with a sort of heightened consciousness.” Ecstasy affords
the occasion and expediency determines the form.

Peter

Strong and slippery, built for the midnight grass-party confronted by four cats,
he sleeps his time away — the detached first claw on his foreleg which corresponds
to the thumb, retracted to its tip; the small tuft of fronds
or katydid legs above each eye, still numbering the units in each group;
the shadbones regularly set about his mouth, to droop or rise

in unison like the porcupine’s quills — motionless. He lets himself be flat­
tened out by gravity, as it were a piece of seaweed tamed and weakened by
exposure to the sun; compelled when extended, to lie
stationary. Sleep is the result of his delusion that one must do as
well as one can for oneself; sleep — epitome of what is to

him as to the average person, the end of life. Demonstrate on him how
the lady caught the dangerous southern snake, placing a forked stick on either
side of its innocuous neck; one need not try to stir
him up; his prune shaped head and alligator eyes are not a party to the
joke. Lifted and handled, he may be dangled like an eel or set

up on the forearm like a mouse; his eyes bisected by pupils of a pin’s
width, are flickeringly exhibited, then covered up. May be? I should say,
might have been; when he has been got the better of in a
dream — as in a fight with nature or with cats — we all know it. Profound sleep is
not with him, a fixed illusion. Springing about with froglike ac­

curacy, emitting jerky cries when taken in the hand, he is himself
again; to sit caged by the rungs of a domestic chair would be unprofit­
able — human. What is the good of hypocrisy? It
is permissible to choose one’s employment, to abandon the wire nail, the
roly-poly, when it shows signs of being no longer a pleas­

ure, to score the adjacent magazine with a double line of strokes. He can
talk, but insolently says nothing. What of it? When one is frank, one’s very
presence is a compliment. It is clear that he can see
the virtue of naturalness, that he is one of those who do not regard
the published fact as a surrender. As for the disposition

invariably to affront, an animal with claws wants to have to use
them; that eel-like extension of trunk into tail is not an accident. To
leap, to lengthen out, divide the air — to purloin, to pursue.
to tell the hen: fly over the fence, go in the wrong way — in your perturba­
tion — this is life; to do less would be nothing but dishonesty.

Spenser’s Ireland

has not altered; –
a place as kind as it is green,
the greenest place I’ve never seen.
Every name is a tune.
Denunciations do not affect
the culprit; nor blows, but it
is torture to him to not be spoken to.
They’re natural,-
the coat, like Venus’
mantle lined with stars,
buttoned close at the neck,-the sleeves new from disuse.

If in Ireland
they play the harp backward at need,
and gather at midday the seed
of the fern, eluding
their ‘giants all covered with iron,’ might
there be fern seed for unlearn-
ing obduracy and for reinstating
the enchantment?
Hindered characters
seldom have mothers
in Irish stories, but they all have grandmothers.

It was Irish;
a match not a marriage was made
when my great great grandmother’d said
with native genius for
disunion, ‘Although your suitor be
perfection, one objection
is enough; he is not
Irish.’ Outwitting
the fairies, befriending the furies,
whoever again
and again says, ‘I’ll never give in,’ never sees

that you’re not free
until you’ve been made captive by
supreme belief,- credulity
you say? When large dainty
fingers tremblingly divide the wings
of the fly for mid-July
with a needle and wrap it with peacock-tail,
or tie wool and
buzzard’s wing, their pride,
like the enchanter’s
is in care, not madness. Concurring hands divide

flax for damask
that when bleached by Irish weather
has the silvered chamois-leather
water-tightness of a
skin. Twisted torcs and gold new-moon-shaped
lunulae aren’t jewelry
like the purple-coral fuchsia-tree’s. Eire-
the guillemot
so neat and the hen
of the heath and the
linnet spinet-sweet-bespeak relentlessness? Then

they are to me
like enchanted Earl Gerald who
changed himself into a stag, to
a great green-eyed cat of
the mountain. Discommodity makes
them invisible; they’ve dis-
appeared. The Irish say your trouble is their
trouble and your
joy their joy? I wish
I could believe it;
I am troubled, I’m dissatisfied, I’m Irish.

The Fish

wade
through black jade
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
an
injured fan.
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
sun,
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices–
in and out, illuminating
the
turquoise sea
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron through the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
pink
rice-grains, ink-
bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
All
external
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice–
all the physical features of
ac-
cident–lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
dead.
Repeated
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.

His Shield

The pin-swin or spine-swine
(the edgehog miscalled hedgehog) with all his edges out,
echidna and echinoderm in distressed-
pin-cushion thorn-fur coats, the spiny pig or porcupine,
the rhino with horned snout–
everything is battle-dressed.

Pig-fur won’t do, I’ll wrap
myself in salamander-skin like Presbyter John.
A lizard in the midst of flames, a firebrand
that is life, asbestos-eyed asbestos-eared, with tattooed nap
and permanent pig on
the instep; he can withstand

fire and won’t drown. In his
unconquerable country of unpompous gusto,
gold was so common none considered it; greed
and flattery were unknown. Though rubies large as tennis-
balls conjoined in streams so
that the mountain seemed to bleed,

the inextinguishable
salamander styled himself but presbyter. His shield
was his humility. In Carpasian
linen coat, flanked by his household lion-cubs and sable
retinue, he revealed
a formula safer than

an armorer’s: the power of relinquishing
what one would keep; that is freedom. Become dinosaur-
skulled, quilled or salamander-wooled, more ironshod
and javelin-dressed than a hedgehog battalion of steel, but be
dull. Don’t be envied or
armed with a measuring rod.

Nine Nectarines And Other Porcelain

Arranged by two’s as peaches are,
at intervals that all may live—
eight and a single one, on twigs that
grew the year before—they look like
a derivative;
although not uncommonly
the opposite is seen—
nine peaches on a nectarine.
Fuzzless through slender crescent leaves
of green or blue or
both, in the Chinese style, the four

pairs’ half-moon leaf-mosaic turns
out to the sun the sprinkled blush
of puce-American-Beauty pink
applied to bees-wax gray by the
uninquiring brush
of mercantile bookbinding.
Like the peach Yu , the red-
cheeked peach which cannot aid the dead,
but eaten in time prevents death,
‘the Italian
peach-nut, Persian plum, Ispahan

secluded wall-grown nectarine,
as wild spontaneous fruit was
found in China first. But was it wild?
Prudent de Candolle would not say.
One perceives no flaws
in this emblematic group
of nine, with leaf window
unquilted by curculio
which someone once depicted on
this much-mended plate
or in the also accurate

unantlered moose or Iceland horse
or ass asleep against the old
thick, low-leaning nectarine that is the
color of the shrub-tree’s brownish
flower.


A Chinese “understands
the spirit of the wilderness”
and the nectarine-loving kylin
of pony appearance—the long-
tailed or the tailless
small cinnamon-brown, common
camel-haired unicorn
with antelope feet and no horn,
here enameled on porcelain.
It was a Chinese
Who imagined this masterpiece.

The Mind is a wonderful Thing

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Giesking playing Scarltti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly equivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes – if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Fragments of sin are a part of me.
New brooms shall sweep clean the heart of me.
Shall they? Shall they?

When this light life shall have passed away,
God shall redeem me, a castaway.
Shall He? Shall He?

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