Friday, May 7, 2010

Poetry Friday: In Praise of Lilacs

The lilacs are in full bloom, two weeks earlier than usual. I am accosted by their scent when I head out the front door to fetch the morning paper or put a letter in the mailbox. I confess: at this time of the year, sometimes I go in an out my front door several times a day, just to experience that airborne perfume.

In New England, we have always used the lilac as a garden gauge, too. When the lilac’s bloom it’s safe to plant your tomatoes.

So, in honor of these perfect flowers, I’m sharing Amy Lowell’s Lilacs. The poem is long so I’ll post just the beginning and end here. You can read the poem in it’s entirety at:

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by Amy Lowell

False blue,
Color of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere. ..

False blue,
Color of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilac in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.

Amy Lowell, “Lilacs” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © renewed 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts, and G. D'Andelot, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.Source: Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)

This week's Poetry Friday host is our own Diane at Random Noodling:


Janet said...

Beautiful poem!

Lilacs make me think of my grandmother (whose name, coincidentally, was also Muriel!). Her house was bordered by lilacs on one side, and she would open ALL those windows when they were in bloom. It was wonderful.

It's been way warmer than usual here, and our lilacs are early. The color and fragrance do my heart good!

Andrea Murphy said...

Lilacs are the main course at this feast we call "spring." I loved Amy's take on these beauties. Thanks, Mur!

all things poetry said...

What a gorgeous poem! The smell of lilacs is very relaxing.

Laura Evans

Carl Rollyson said...

Lowell's lilacs poem was inspired, in part, by Whitman ("When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed"). I'm always happy to see Lowell quoted. I'm writing a biography of her funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the publisher Ivan R. Dee. I've also just published a collection of essays, "Amy Lowell Among Her Contemporaries," available from,, and

Mary Lee said...

Nothing's better than to bury my face in a bush full of lilacs!