Song for the Last Act

By Louise Bogan 1897–1970 Louise Bogan
Now that I have your face by heart, I look   
Less at its features than its darkening frame   
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,   
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd’s crook.   
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show   
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read   
In the black chords upon a dulling page   
Music that is not meant for music’s cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.   
The staves are shuttled over with a stark   
Unprinted silence. In a double dream   
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.   
The beat’s too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;   
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps   
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.

Louise Bogan, “Song for the Last Act” from The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968. Copyright © 1968 by Louise Bogan. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1968)

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Poet Louise Bogan 1897–1970

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Relationships, Growing Old, Living, Love, Classic Love, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Louise  Bogan

Biography

Louise Bogan has been called by some critics the most accomplished woman poet of the twentieth century. Her subtle, restrained style was partially influenced by writers such as Rilke and Henry James, and partially by the English metaphysical poets such as George HerbertJohn Donne, and Henry Vaughan, though she distanced herself from her intellectually rigorous, metaphysical contemporaries. Some critics have placed her in a . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Growing Old, Living, Love, Classic Love, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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