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Short poem

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

Voices of the Air

              1But then there comes that moment rare
              2When, for no cause that I can find,
              3The little voices of the air
              4Sound above all the sea and wind.

              5The sea and wind do then obey
              6And sighing, sighing double notes
              7Of double basses, content to play
              8A droning chord for the little throats --

              9The little throats that sing and rise
            10Up into the light with lovely ease
            11And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
            12To hear and know themselves for these --

            13For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
            14The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
            15The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
            16The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.


1] "Katherine Mansfield's practice was suddenly to spend several days in writing poetry, and then to abandon poetry wholly for months and years together. `Poems at the Villa Pauline' ... were written in curious circumstances. Villa Pauline was a four-roomed cottage on the shore of the Mediterranean where we lived in 1916. For the whole of one week we made a practice of sitting together after supper at a very small table in the kitchen and writing verses on a single theme which we had chosen. It seems to me now almost miraculous that so exquisite a poem as, for instance, 'Voices of the Air,' should have been thus composed" (p. xii; presumably by Middleton Murry).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Katherine Mansfield, Poems (London: Constable, 1923): 45. 11647.e.58 British Library
First publication date: 1923
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/4

Composition date: 1916
Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Katherine Mansfield