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The Steeple-Jack Analysis

Author: poem of Marianne Moore Type: poem Views: 9

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Dürer would have seen a reason for living

  in a town like this, with eight stranded whales

to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house

on a fine day, from water etched

  with waves as formal as the scales

on a fish.

One by one in two's and three's, the seagulls keep

  flying back and forth over the town clock,

or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings --

rising steadily with a slight

  quiver of the body -- or flock

mewing where

a sea the purple of the peacock's neck is

  paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed

the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea

gray. You can see a twenty-five-

  pound lobster; and fish nets arranged

to dry. The

whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt

  marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the

star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so

much confusion. Disguised by what

  might seem the opposite, the sea-

side flowers and

trees are favored by the fog so that you have

  the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,

fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has

spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,

  or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine

at the back door;

cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,

  striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies --

yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts -- toad-plant,

petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue

  ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.

The climate

is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or

  jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent

life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;

but here they've cats, not cobras, to

  keep down the rats. The diffident

little newt

with white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-

  out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that

ambition can buy or take away. The college student

named Ambrose sits on the hillside

  with his not-native books and hat

and sees boats

at sea progress white and rigid as if in

  a groove. Liking an elegance of which

the sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique

sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of

  interlacing slats, and the pitch

of the church

spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets

  down a rope as a spider spins a thread;

he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a

sign says C. J. Poole, Steeple Jack,

  in black and white; and one in red

and white says

Danger. The church portico has four fluted

  columns, each a single piece of stone, made

modester by white-wash. Theis would be a fit haven for

waifs, children, animals, prisoners,

  and presidents who have repaid


senators by not thinking about them. The

  place has a school-house, a post-office in a

store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on

the stocks. The hero, the student,

  the steeple-jack, each in his way,

is at home.

It could not be dangerous to be living

  in a town like this, of simple people,

who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church

while he is gilding the solid-

  pointed star, which on a steeple

stands for hope.


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