Death is the mother of beauty*

A poem written by my 17-year-old daughter, Florence, about her relationship with her sister.


“Death is the mother of beauty” *


‘It’s just a phase of every life’,

The adults like to say.

When offspring of a common pair

Begin to disobey.


They’ll row, they’ll feud, they’ll interfere,

By Cain and Abel’s lead.

For children – much less those of kin –

Are hardly all agreed.


Yet as the farmers grow to men

And shepherdesses age,

Their shared blood boilings turn to cold

And quarrels are upstaged.


For all begin to realize

Their own misguided ways:

Their twin or kin the enemy,

Instead of numbered days.


And though our mothers cannot make

The youthful battles cease,

The disciplines of beauty’s mother

Cause the sweet release.


*Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”, 1915


2 thoughts on “Death is the mother of beauty*

  1. Jeep

    this is a terrific poem, very moving. Hope you don’t think i’m being condescending, but since your Mum posted it and i’m here, thought i’d let you know.

  2. Brian Barder

    This is really beautiful — subtle, moving, elegant and mature. It’s also very accomplished technically, suggesting that Florence writes a lot of poetry. It’s metrically perfect (the problem of the extra unstressed syllable at the end of the penultimate line is brilliantly solved in the last line, in a way that actually accentuates the impact) and apart from the one forgiveable false rhyme, the rhymes are otherwise all spot on too, so there are no no distractions from the sense and message. And that great bonus internal rhyme is wonderful. None of the rhymes is strained, either.

    It’s so refreshing to read a poem by a young person who has grasped that the disciplines of metre and rhyme actually add hugely to its impact and that rambling thoughts in ‘free verse’, which all too often is not much different from prose chopped up arbitrarily into lines of different lengths, is essentially a lazy, low-impact way to express deep feelings and ideas.

    I don’t think Florence is saying that the only thing that resolves conflict or friction between siblings, and between offspring and parents, is a death in the family, but the proposition that it’s one of the things that sometimes achieves that is extremely thought-provoking and very fine and observant.

    If Flo produces a lot of poetry of this calibre, I just hope that more of it will see the light of day.

    (Full disclosure: I am Florence’s grandfather. But that hasn’t influenced my enthusiasm for her poem in the least!)



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