Note: I chose this because I was able to find some of the poet’s thoughts on it in a letter she wrote to one of the professors at Howard, Alain Locke, called by some the Father of the New Negro Renaissance. I’ll include the text of the note at the end and we can discuss.
Lines to a Nasturtium – Anne Spencer
A lover muses
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
Into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter
As the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
Looked into your startled depths and fled…
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
Than human eyes as mine can see,
Set the stricken air waves drumming
In his flight.
Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty
Voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
Born in vain;
Hair like the setting sun,
Her eyes a rising star,
Motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
All your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
Cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet…
Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating,
As once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies
Here is the note (transcribed): (from the papers of Alain Locke, Box 164-86, Folder 39. Howard University Moorland Spingarn Research Center)
Jones Memorial Library
No, My dear, I do not feel that ‘air” and “shepherdess” are responsible for throwing the mind away from the central theme – “idealization of the commonplace.” I used “air” to indicate bearing, spiritual bearing: the ‘shepherdess,’ Sir, hails not from Montana Expanses, but from all-souls Arcady. Alas, never to’ve see black women with this inside (underlined) air!
I read your letter slowly, so’s my joy in it might be lengthened.
(On the back, a postscript, sort of)
Do not bother to return “Nasturtium.” I have a copy. In that poem a burnt and disappointed lover soliliquises. Thanks.