BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK
by: Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
- HE shuttlecock
- In a parabola of whiteness,
- And sinks to a perfect arc.
- Plat! the battledore strikes it,
- And it rises again,
- Without haste,
- Winged and curving,
- Tracing its white flight
- Against the clipped hemlock trees.
- Up again,
- Orange and sparkling with sun,
- Rounding under the blue sky,
- Fading to grey-green
- In the shadow of the coned hemlocks.
- "Ninety-one." "Ninety-two." "Ninety-three."
- The arms of the little girls
- Come up -- and up --
- Like mechanical toys.
- The battledores beat at nothing,
- And toss the dazzle of snow
- Off their parchment drums.
- Ninety-four. Plat!
- Ninety-five. Plat!
- Back and forth
- Goes the shuttlecock,
- Leaping at the sharp-edged clouds,
- And down,
- Tinctured with pink
- From the upthrusting shine
- Of Oriental poppies.
- The little girls sway to the counting rhythm:
- Left foot,
- Right foot.
- Plat! Plat!
- Yellow heat twines round the handles of the battledores,
- The parchment cracks with dryness;
- But the shuttlecock
- Swings slowly into the ice-blue sky,
- Heaving up on the warm air
- Like a foam bubble on a wave,
- With feathers slanted and sustaining.
- Until the earth turns beneath it;
- Poised and swinging,
- With all the garden flowing beneath it,
- Scarlet, and blue, and purple, and white--
- Blurred color reflections in rippled water--
- For the moment that Stella takes to lift her arm.
- Then the shuttlecock relinquishes,
- And the sharp blue spears of the air
- Thrust it to earth.
- Again it mounts,
- Stepping up on the rising scents of flowers,
- Buoyed up and under by the shining heat.
- Above the foxgloves,
- Above the guelder-roses,
- Above the greenhouse glitter,
- Till the shafts of cooler air
- Meet it,
- Deflect it,
- Reject it,
- Then down,
- Past the greenhouse,
- Past the guelder-rose bush,
- Past the foxgloves.
- "Ninety-nine," Stella's battledore springs to the
- Plat! Like the snap of a taut string.
- "Oh! Minna!"
- The shuttlecock drops zigzaggedly,
- Out of orbit,
- Hits the path,
- And rolls over quite still.
- Dead white feathers,
- With a weight at the end.
POEMS BY AMY LOWELL
"Battledore and Shuttlecock"
is reprinted from Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916.
Ed. William Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Laurence J. Gomme,