Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1920
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. (1878–1962).  Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1920.  1920.
 
The Islands
 
Hilda Doolittle (1886–1961)
 
 
I

WHAT are the Islands to me,
what is Greece,
what is Rhodes, Samos, Chios,
what is Paros facing west,
what is Crete?        5
 
What is Samothrace,
rising like a ship,
what is Imbros redning the storm-waves
with its breast?
 
What is Naxos, Paros, Milos,        10
what the circle about Lycia,
what, the Cyclades’
white necklace?
 
What is Greece—
Sparta, rising like a rock,        15
Thebes, Athens,
what is Corinth?
 
What is Euboia
with its island violets,
what is Euboia, spread with grass,        20
set with swift shoals,
what is Crete?
 
What are the islands to me,
what is Greece?
 
II

What can love of land give to me
        25
that you have not—
what do the tall Spartans know,
and gentler Attic folk?
 
What has Sparta and her women
more than this?        30
 
What are the islands to me
if you are lost—
 
What is Naxos, Tinos, Andros,
and Delos, the clasp
of the white necklace?        35
 
III

What can love of land give to me
that you have not,
what can love of strife break in me
that you have not?
Though Sparta enter Athens,        40
salt, rising to wreak terror
Thebes wrack Sparta,
each changes as water,
and fall back.
 
IV

“What has love of land given to you
        45
that I have not?”
 
I have questioned Tyrians
where they sat
on the black ships,
weighted with rich stuffs,        50
I have asked the Greeks
from the white ships,
and Greeks from ships whose hulks
lay on the wet sand, scarlet
with great beaks.        55
 
I have asked bright Tyrians
and tall Greeks—
“what has love of land given you?”
 
And they answered—“peace.”
 
V

But beauty is set apart,
        60
beauty is cast by the sea,
a barren rock,
beauty is set about
with wrecks of ships,
upon our coasts, death keeps        65
the shallows—death waits
clutching toward us
from the deeps.
 
Beauty is set apart;
the winds that slash its beach,        70
swirl the coarse sand
upward toward the rocks.
 
Beauty is set apart
from the islands
and from Greece.        75
 
VI

In my garden,
the winds have beaten
the ripe lilies;
in my garden, the salt
has wilted the first flakes        80
of young narcissus,
and the lesser hyacinth
and the salt has crept
under the leaves of the white hyacinth.
 
In my garden        85
even the wind-flowers lie fiat,
broken by the wind at last.
 
VII

What are the islands to me
if you are lost,
what is Paros to me        90
if your eyes draw back,
what is Milos
if you take fright of beauty,
terrible, torturous, isolated,
a barren rack?        95
 
What is Rhodes, Crete,
what is Paros facing west,
what, white Imbros?
 
What are the islands to me
if you hesitate,        100
what is Greece if you draw back
from the terror
and cold splendor of song
and its bleak sacrifice?

  The North American Review
 

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