Deeply Morbid

By Stevie Smith 1902–1971 Stevie Smith
Deeply morbid deeply morbid was the girl who typed the letters
Always out of office hours running with her social betters   
But when daylight and the darkness of the office closed about her
Not for this ah not for this her office colleagues came to doubt her
It was that look within her eye
Why did it always seem to say goodbye?

Joan her name was and at lunchtime   
Solitary solitary
She would go and watch the pictures   
In the National Gallery
All alone all alone
This time with no friend beside her   
She would go and watch the pictures   
All alone.

Will she leave her office colleagues
Will she leave her evening pleasures
Toil within a friendly bureau
Running later in her leisure?
All alone all alone
Before the pictures she seems turned to stone.

Close upon the Turner pictures   
Closer than a thought may go   
Hangs her eye and all the colours   
Leap into a special glow
All for her, all alone
All for her, all for Joan.

First the canvas where the ocean   
Like a mighty animal
With a really wicked motion   
Leaps for sailors’ funeral

Holds her panting. Oh the creature   
Oh the wicked virile thing
With its skin of fleck and shadow   
Stretching tightening over him.
Wild yet captured wild yet captured   
By the painter, Joan is quite enraptured.

Now she edges from the canvas   
To another loved more dearly   
Where the awful light of purest   
Sunshine falls across the spray,   
There the burning coasts of fancy   
Open to her pleasure lay.
All alone, all alone
Come away, come away
All alone.

Lady Mary, Lady Kitty
The Honourable Featherstonehaugh   
Polly Tommy from the office
Which of these shall hold her now?   
Come away, come away
All alone.

The spray reached out and sucked her in   
It was a hardly noticed thing   
That Joan was there and is not now
(Oh go and tell young Featherstonehaugh)   
Gone away, gone away   
All alone.

She stood up straight
The sun fell down
There was no more of London Town   
She went upon the painted shore   
And there she walks for ever more   
Happy quite
Beaming bright
In a happy happy light
All alone.

They say she was a morbid girl, no doubt of it   
And what befell her clearly grew out of it   
But I say she’s a lucky one
To walk for ever in that sun
And as I bless sweet Turner’s name
I wish that I could do the same.

Stevie Smith, “Deeply Morbid” from New Selected Poems. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1988)

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Poet Stevie Smith 1902–1971


Subjects Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Ekphrasis

 Stevie  Smith


Calling Stevie Smith's Not Waving but Drowning "the best collection of new poems to appear in 1957," Poetry contributor David Wright observed that "as one of the most original women poets now writing [Stevie Smith] seems to have missed most of the public accolades bestowed by critics and anthologists. One reason may be that not only does she belong to no 'school'—whether real or invented as they usually are—but her work is so . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire


Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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