116 Total Quotes

Elizabeth Bishop Quotes Page 2

Elizabeth Bishop
From narrow provinces of fish and bread and tea, home of the long tides where the bay leaves the sea twice a day and takes the herrings long rides, where if the river enters or retreats in a wall of brown foam depends on if it meets the bay coming in, the bay not at home; where, silted red, sometimes the sun sets facing a red sea, and others, veins the flats' lavender, rich mud in burning rivulets; on red, gravelly roads, down rows of sugar maples, past clapboard farmhouses and neat, clapboard churches, bleached, ridged as clamshells, past twin silver birches, through late afternoon a bus journeys west, the windshield flashing pink, pink glancing off of metal, brushing the dented flank of blue, beat-up enamel; down hollows, up rises, and waits, patient, while a lone traveller gives kisses and embraces to seven relatives and a collie supervises. Goodbye to the elms, to the farm, to the dog. The bus starts. The light grows richer; the fog, shifting, salty, thin, comes closing in. Its cold, round crystals form and slide and settle in the white hens' feathers, in gray glazed cabbages, on the cabbage roses and lupins like apostles; the sweet peas cling to their wet white string on the whitewashed fences; bumblebees creep inside the foxgloves, and evening commences. One stop at Bass River. Then the Economies Lower, Middle, Upper; Five Islands, Five Houses, where a woman shakes a tablecloth out after supper. A pale flickering. Gone. The Tantramar marshes and the smell of salt hay. An iron bridge trembles and a loose plank rattles but doesn't give way. On the left, a red light swims through the dark: a ship's port lantern. Two rubber boots show, illuminated, solemn. A dog gives one bark. A woman climbs in with two market bags, brisk, freckled, elderly. "A grand night. Yes, sir, all the way to Boston." She regards us amicably. Moonlight as we enter the New Brunswick woods, hairy, scratchy, splintery; moonlight and mist caught in them like lamb's wool on bushes in a pasture. The passengers lie back. Snores. Some long sighs. A dreamy divagation begins in the night, a gentle, auditory, slow hallucination. . . . In the creakings and noises, an old conversation --not concerning us, but recognizable, somewhere, back in the bus: Grandparents' voices uninterruptedly talking, in Eternity: names being mentioned, things cleared up finally; what he said, what she said, who got pensioned; deaths, deaths and sicknesses; the year he remarried; the year (something) happened. She died in childbirth. That was the son lost when the schooner foundered. He took to drink. Yes. She went to the bad. When Amos began to pray even in the store and finally the family had to put him away. "Yes . . ." that peculiar affirmative. "Yes . . ." A sharp, indrawn breath, half groan, half acceptance, that means "Life's like that. We know it (also death)." Talking the way they talked in the old featherbed, peacefully, on and on, dim lamplight in the hall, down in the kitchen, the dog tucked in her shawl. Now, it's all right now even to fall asleep just as on all those nights. --Suddenly the bus driver stops with a jolt, turns off his lights. A moose has come out of the impenetrable wood and stands there, looms, rather, in the middle of the road. It approaches; it sniffs at the bus's hot hood. Towering, antlerless, high as a church, homely as a house (or, safe as houses). A man's voice assures us "Perfectly harmless. . . ." Some of the passengers exclaim in whispers, childishly, softly, "Sure are big creatures." "It's awful plain." "Look! It's a she!" Taking her time, she looks the bus over, grand, otherworldly. Why, why do we feel (we all feel) this sweet sensation of joy? "Curious creatures," says our quiet driver, rolling his r's. "Look at that, would you." Then he shifts gears. For a moment longer, by craning backward, the moose can be seen on the moonlit macadam; then there's a dim smell of moose, an acrid smell of gasoline.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Animals #Death #Joy #Sorrow

Elizabeth Bishop
I dreamed that dead, and meditating, I lay upon a grave, or bed, (at least, some cold and close-built bower). In the cold heart, its final thought stood frozen, drawn immense and clear, stiff and idle as I was there; and we remained unchanged together for a year, a minute, an hour. Suddenly there was a motion, as startling, there, to every sense as an explosion. Then it dropped to insistent, cautious creeping in the region of the heart, prodding me from desperate sleep. I raised my head. A slight young weed had pushed up through the heart and its green head was nodding on the breast. (All this was in the dark.) It grew an inch like a blade of grass; next, one leaf shot out of its side a twisting, waving flag, and then two leaves moved like a semaphore. The stem grew thick. The nervous roots reached to each side; the graceful head changed its position mysteriously, since there was neither sun nor moon to catch its young attention. The rooted heart began to change (not beat) and then it split apart and from it broke a flood of water. Two rivers glanced off from the sides, one to the right, one to the left, two rushing, half-clear streams, (the ribs made of them two cascades) which assuredly, smooth as glass, went off through the fine black grains of earth. The weed was almost swept away; it struggled with its leaves, lifting them fringed with heavy drops. A few drops fell upon my face and in my eyes, so I could see (or, in that black place, thought I saw) that each drop contained a light, a small, illuminated scene; the weed-deflected stream was made itself of racing images. (As if a river should carry all the scenes that it had once reflected shut in its waters, and not floating on momentary surfaces.) The weed stood in the severed heart. "What are you doing there?" I asked. It lifted its head all dripping wet (with my own thoughts?) and answered then: "I grow," it said, "but to divide your heart again."
Elizabeth Bishop
#Life And Death

Elizabeth Bishop
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams hurry too rapidly down to the sea, and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion, turning to waterfalls under our very eyes. --For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains, aren't waterfalls yet, in a quick age or so, as ages go here, they probably will be. But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling, the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships, slime-hung and barnacled. Think of the long trip home. Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres? What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life in our bodies, we are determined to rush to see the sun the other way around? The tiniest green hummingbird in the world? To stare at some inexplicable old stonework, inexplicable and impenetrable, at any view, instantly seen and always, always delightful? Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too? And have we room for one more folded sunset, still quite warm? But surely it would have been a pity not to have seen the trees along this road, really exaggerated in their beauty, not to have seen them gesturing like noble pantomimists, robed in pink. --Not to have had to stop for gas and heard the sad, two-noted, wooden tune of disparate wooden clogs carelessly clacking over a grease-stained filling-station floor. (In another country the clogs would all be tested. Each pair there would have identical pitch.) --A pity not to have heard the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird who sings above the broken gasoline pump in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque: three towers, five silver crosses. --Yes, a pity not to have pondered, blurr'dly and inconclusively, on what connection can exist for centuries between the crudest wooden footwear and, careful and finicky, the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear and, careful and finicky, the whittled fantasies of wooden cages. --Never to have studied history in the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages. --And never to have had to listen to rain so much like politicians' speeches: two hours of unrelenting oratory and then a sudden golden silence in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes: "Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places, not just stay at home? Or could Pascal have been not entirely right about just sitting quietly in one's room? Continent, city, country, society: the choice is never wide and never free. And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be?"
Elizabeth Bishop
#Society #Travel #Questions #Travel And Tourism

Elizabeth Bishop
At four o'clock in the gun-metal blue dark we hear the first crow of the first cock just below the gun-metal blue window and immediately there is an echo off in the distance, then one from the backyard fence, then one, with horrible insistence, grates like a wet match from the broccoli patch, flares,and all over town begins to catch. Cries galore come from the water-closet door, from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor, where in the blue blur their rusting wives admire, the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare with stupid eyes while from their beaks there rise the uncontrolled, traditional cries. Deep from protruding chests in green-gold medals dressed, planned to command and terrorize the rest, the many wives who lead hens' lives of being courted and despised; deep from raw throats a senseless order floats all over town. A rooster gloats over our beds from rusty irons sheds and fences made from old bedsteads, over our churches where the tin rooster perches, over our little wooden northern houses, making sallies from all the muddy alleys, marking out maps like Rand McNally's: glass-headed pins, oil-golds and copper greens, anthracite blues, alizarins, each one an active displacement in perspective; each screaming, "This is where I live!" Each screaming "Get up! Stop dreaming!" Roosters, what are you projecting? You, whom the Greeks elected to shoot at on a post, who struggled when sacrificed, you whom they labeled "Very combative..." what right have you to give commands and tell us how to live, cry "Here!" and "Here!" and wake us here where are unwanted love, conceit and war? The crown of red set on your little head is charged with all your fighting blood Yes, that excrescence makes a most virile presence, plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence Now in mid-air by two they fight each other. Down comes a first flame-feather, and one is flying, with raging heroism defying even the sensation of dying. And one has fallen but still above the town his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down; and what he sung no matter. He is flung on the gray ash-heap, lies in dung with his dead wives with open, bloody eyes, while those metallic feathers oxidize. St. Peter's sin was worse than that of Magdalen whose sin was of the flesh alone; of spirit, Peter's, falling, beneath the flares, among the "servants and officers." Old holy sculpture could set it all together in one small scene, past and future: Christ stands amazed, Peter, two fingers raised to surprised lips, both as if dazed. But in between a little cock is seen carved on a dim column in the travertine, explained by gallus canit; flet Petrus underneath it, There is inescapable hope, the pivot; yes, and there Peter's tears run down our chanticleer's sides and gem his spurs. Tear-encrusted thick as a medieval relic he waits. Poor Peter, heart-sick, still cannot guess those cock-a-doodles yet might bless, his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness, a new weathervane on basilica and barn, and that outside the Lateran there would always be a bronze cock on a porphyry pillar so the people and the Pope might see that event the Prince of the Apostles long since had been forgiven, and to convince all the assembly that "Deny deny deny" is not all the roosters cry. In the morning a low light is floating in the backyard, and gilding from underneath the broccoli, leaf by leaf; how could the night have come to grief? gilding the tiny floating swallow's belly and lines of pink cloud in the sky, the day's preamble like wandering lines in marble, The cocks are now almost inaudible. The sun climbs in, following "to see the end," faithful as enemy, or friend.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Animals #Life And Death

Elizabeth Bishop
In the cold, cold parlor my mother laid out Arthur beneath the chromographs: Edward, Prince of Wales, with Princess Alexandra, and King George with Queen Mary. Below them on the table stood a stuffed loon shot and stuffed by Uncle Arthur, Arthur's father. Since Uncle Arthur fired a bullet into him, he hadn't said a word. He kept his own counsel on his white, frozen lake, the marble-topped table. His breast was deep and white, cold and caressable; his eyes were red glass, much to be desired. "Come," said my mother, "Come and say good-bye to your little cousin Arthur." I was lifted up and given one lily of the valley to put in Arthur's hand. Arthur's coffin was a little frosted cake, and the red-eyed loon eyed it from his white, frozen lake. Arthur was very small. He was all white, like a doll that hadn't been painted yet. Jack Frost had started to paint him the way he always painted the Maple Leaf (Forever). He had just begun on his hair, a few red strokes, and then Jack Frost had dropped the brush and left him white, forever. The gracious royal couples were warm in red and ermine; their feet were well wrapped up in the ladies' ermine trains. They invited Arthur to be the smallest page at court. But how could Arthur go, clutching his tiny lily, with his eyes shut up so tight and the roads deep in snow?
Elizabeth Bishop
#Death

Elizabeth Bishop
Land lies in water; it is shadowed green. Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges where weeds hang to the simple blue from green. Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under, drawing it unperturbed around itself? Along the fine tan sandy shelf is the land tugging at the sea from under? The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still. Labrador's yellow, where the moony Eskimo has oiled it. We can stroke these lovely bays, under a glass as if they were expected to blossom, or as if to provide a clean cage for invisible fish. The names of seashore towns run out to sea, the names of cities cross the neighboring mountains --the printer here experiencing the same excitement as when emotion too far exceeds its cause. These peninsulas take the water between thumb and finger like women feeling for the smoothness of yard-goods. Mapped waters are more quiet than the land is, lending the land their waves' own conformation: and Norway's hare runs south in agitation, profiles investigate the sea, where land is. Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colors? --What suits the character or the native waters best. Topography displays no favorites; North's as near as West. More delicate than the historians' are the map-makers' colors.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Map #Nature

Elizabeth Bishop
The still explosions on the rocks, the lichens, grow by spreading, gray, concentric shocks. They have arranged to meet the rings around the moon, although within our memories they have not changed. And since the heavens will attend as long on us, you've been, dear friend, precipitate and pragmatical; and look what happens. For Time is nothing if not amenable. The shooting stars in your black hair in bright formation are flocking where, so straight, so soon? --Come, let me wash it in this big tin basin, battered and shiny like the moon.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Friends Or Friendship #Hair #Moon

Elizabeth Bishop
Caught -- the bubble in the spirit level, a creature divided; and the compass needle wobbling and wavering, undecided. Freed -- the broken thermometer's mercury running away; and the rainbow-bird from the narrow bevel of the empty mirror, flying wherever it feels like, gay!
Elizabeth Bishop
#Freedom

Elizabeth Bishop
Days that cannot bring you near or will not, Distance trying to appear something more obstinate, argue argue argue with me endlessly neither proving you less wanted nor less dear. Distance: Remember all that land beneath the plane; that coastline of dim beaches deep in sand stretching indistinguishably all the way, all the way to where my reasons end? Days: And think of all those cluttered instruments, one to a fact, canceling each other's experience; how they were like some hideous calendar "Compliments of Never & Forever, Inc." The intimidating sound of these voices we must separately find can and shall be vanquished: Days and Distance disarrayed again and gone both for good and from the gentle battleground.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Argument

Elizabeth Bishop
For Louise Crane In your next letter I wish you'd say where you are going and what you are doing; how are the plays and after the plays what other pleasures you're pursuing: taking cabs in the middle of the night, driving as if to save your soul where the road gose round and round the park and the meter glares like a moral owl, and the trees look so queer and green standing alone in big black caves and suddenly you're in a different place where everything seems to happen in waves, and most of the jokes you just can't catch, like dirty words rubbed off a slate, and the songs are loud but somehow dim and it gets so teribly late, and coming out of the brownstone house to the gray sidewalk, the watered street, one side of the buildings rises with the sun like a glistening field of wheat. --Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid if it's wheat it's none of your sowing, nevertheless I'd like to know what you are doing and where you are going.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Letters

Elizabeth Bishop
He sleeps on the top of a mast. - Bunyan He sleeps on the top of a mast with his eyes fast closed. The sails fall away below him like the sheets of his bed, leaving out in the air of the night the sleeper's head. Asleep he was transported there, asleep he curled in a gilded ball on the mast's top, or climbed inside a gilded bird, or blindly seated himself astride. "I am founded on marble pillars," said a cloud. "I never move. See the pillars there in the sea?" Secure in introspection he peers at the watery pillars of his reflection. A gull had wings under his and remarked that the air was "like marble." He said: "Up here I tower through the sky for the marble wings on my tower-top fly." But he sleeps on the top of his mast with his eyes closed tight. The gull inquired into his dream, which was, "I must not fall. The spangled sea below wants me to fall. It is hard as diamonds; it wants to destroy us all."
Elizabeth Bishop
#Dreams #Sleep

Elizabeth Bishop
[On my birthday] At low tide like this how sheer the water is. White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare and the boats are dry, the pilings dry as matches. Absorbing, rather than being absorbed, the water in the bight doesn't wet anything, the color of the gas flame turned as low as possible. One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire one could probably hear it turning to marimba music. The little ocher dredge at work off the end of the dock already plays the dry perfectly off-beat claves. The birds are outsize. Pelicans crash into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard, it seems to me, like pickaxes, rarely coming up with anything to show for it, and going off with humorous elbowings. Black-and-white man-of-war birds soar on impalpable drafts and open their tails like scissors on the curves or tense them like wishbones, till they tremble. The frowsy sponge boats keep coming in with the obliging air of retrievers, bristling with jackstraw gaffs and hooks and decorated with bobbles of sponges. There is a fence of chicken wire along the dock where, glinting like little plowshares, the blue-gray shark tails are hung up to dry for the Chinese-restaurant trade. Some of the little white boats are still piled up against each other, or lie on their sides, stove in, and not yet salvaged, if they ever will be, from the last bad storm, like torn-open, unanswered letters. The bight is littered with old correspondences. Click. Click. Goes the dredge, and brings up a dripping jawful of marl. All the untidy activity continues, awful but cheerful.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Birthday #Humorous

Elizabeth Bishop
For Robert Lowell This is the time of year when almost every night the frail, illegal fire balloons appear. Climbing the mountain height, rising toward a saint still honored in these parts, the paper chambers flush and fill with light that comes and goes, like hearts. Once up against the sky it's hard to tell them from the stars-- planets, that is--the tinted ones: Venus going down, or Mars, or the pale green one. With a wind, they flare and falter, wobble and toss; but if it's still they steer between the kite sticks of the Southern Cross, receding, dwindling, solemnly and steadily forsaking us, or, in the downdraft from a peak, suddenly turning dangerous. Last night another big one fell. It splattered like an egg of fire against the cliff behind the house. The flame ran down. We saw the pair of owls who nest there flying up and up, their whirling black-and-white stained bright pink underneath, until they shrieked up out of sight. The ancient owls' nest must have burned. Hastily, all alone, a glistening armadillo left the scene, rose-flecked, head down, tail down, and then a baby rabbit jumped out, short-eared, to our surprise. So soft!--a handful of intangible ash with fixed, ignited eyes. Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry! O falling fire and piercing cry and panic, and a weak mailed fist clenched ignorant against the sky!
Elizabeth Bishop
#Animals

Elizabeth Bishop
Love's the boy stood on the burning deck trying to recite "The boy stood on the burning deck." Love's the son stood stammering elocution while the poor ship in flames went down. Love's the obstinate boy, the ship, even the swimming sailors, who would like a schoolroom platform, too, or an excuse to stay on deck. And love's the burning boy.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Love

Elizabeth Bishop
Although it is a cold evening, down by one of the fishhouses an old man sits netting, his net, in the gloaming almost invisible, a dark purple-brown, and his shuttle worn and polished. The air smells so strong of codfish it makes one's nose run and one's eyes water. The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up to storerooms in the gables for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on. All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea, swelling slowly as if considering spilling over, is opaque, but the silver of the benches, the lobster pots, and masts, scattered among the wild jagged rocks, is of an apparent translucence like the small old buildings with an emerald moss growing on their shoreward walls. The big fish tubs are completely lined with layers of beautiful herring scales and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered with creamy iridescent coats of mail, with small iridescent flies crawling on them. Up on the little slope behind the houses, set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass, is an ancient wooden capstan, cracked, with two long bleached handles and some melancholy stains, like dried blood, where the ironwork has rusted. The old man accepts a Lucky Strike. He was a friend of my grandfather. We talk of the decline in the population and of codfish and herring while he waits for a herring boat to come in. There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb. He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty, from unnumbered fish with that black old knife, the blade of which is almost worn away. Down at the water's edge, at the place where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp descending into the water, thin silver tree trunks are laid horizontally across the gray stones, down and down at intervals of four or five feet. Cold dark deep and absolutely clear, element bearable to no mortal, to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly I have seen here evening after evening. He was curious about me. He was interested in music; like me a believer in total immersion, so I used to sing him Baptist hymns. I also sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." He stood up in the water and regarded me steadily, moving his head a little. Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug as if it were against his better judgment. Cold dark deep and absolutely clear, the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us, the dignified tall firs begin. Bluish, associating with their shadows, a million Christmas trees stand waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones. I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same, slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones, icily free above the stones, above the stones and then the world. If you should dip your hand in, your wrist would ache immediately, your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn as if the water were a transmutation of fire that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame. If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter, then briny, then surely burn your tongue. It is like what we imagine knowledge to be: dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free, drawn from the cold hard mouth of the world, derived from the rocky breasts forever, flowing and drawn, and since our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Fishing

Elizabeth Bishop
Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for "mammoth." Here, above, cracks in the buldings are filled with battered moonlight. The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat. It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on, and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon. He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties, feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold, of a temperature impossible to records in thermometers. But when the Man-Moth pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface, the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings. He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky, proving the sky quite useless for protection. He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb. Up the fa├žades, his shadow dragging like a photographer's cloth behind him he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage to push his small head through that round clean opening and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light. (Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.) But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt. Then he returns to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits, he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly. The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed, without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort. He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards. Each night he must be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams. Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window, for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison, runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers. If you catch him, hold up a flashlight to his eye. It's all dark pupil, an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids one tear, his only possession, like the bee's sting, slips. Slyly he palms it, and if you're not paying attention he'll swallow it. However, if you watch, he'll hand it over, cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Moon

Elizabeth Bishop
In memory of Marjorie Carr Stevens Each day with so much ceremony begins, with birds, with bells, with whistles from a factory; such white-gold skies our eyes first open on, such brilliant walls that for a moment we wonder "Where is the music coming from, the energy? The day was meant for what ineffable creature we must have missed?" Oh promptly he appears and takes his earthly nature instantly, instantly falls victim of long intrigue, assuming memory and mortal mortal fatigue. More slowly falling into sight and showering into stippled faces, darkening, condensing all his light; in spite of all the dreaming squandered upon him with that look, suffers our uses and abuses, sinks through the drift of bodies, sinks through the drift of vlasses to evening to the beggar in the park who, weary, without lamp or book prepares stupendous studies: the fiery event of every day in endless endless assent.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Dreams #Life And Death