By Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

A Personage is seen   
Leaning upon a cushion   
Printed with cornflowers.

A Child appears   
Holding up a pencil.

“This is a picture
(Says the Child to the Personage)   
Of the vortex.”

“Draw it your own way,”
Says the Personage.

(Music is heard
Pure in the island windows,
Sea-music on the Child’s
Interminable shore, his coral home.)

Behind a blue mountain   
Covered with chickenfoot trees,
The molten sun appears,   
A heavy, painted flower.

A Personage is seen
Leaning upon the mountain   
With the sun in one hand   
And a pencil in the other.

“This is a picture
(Says the Personage to the Child)   
Of the beginning of the world.”

“Or of its end!” cries the Child   
Hiding himself in the cushions.


A Woman appears
Leaning upon the Child’s shoulder.   
He looks up again.

“This is my Mother
(Says the Child to the Personage)   
Older than the moon.”

(Grecian horses are heard   
Returning from the foam
Of the pure island’s windows,   
And the Child’s horizons.)

“My Mother is a world
(Says the Child to the Personage)   
Printed with gillyflowers.”

“Paint her your own way”
(Says the Personage to the Child).   
And, lifting up his pencil,
He crosses out the sun.

Thomas Merton, “Landscape” from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Copyright © 1957 by The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977)

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Poet Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

Subjects Living, Youth

Poetic Terms Free Verse


A monk who lived in isolation for several years, and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist whose diversity of work has rendered a precise definition of his life and an estimation of the significance of his career difficult. Merton was a Trappist, a member of a Roman Catholic brotherhood known for its austere lifestyle and vow of . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Youth

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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