Sonnet to Beauty – Lola Ridge – Analysis

Sonnet to beauty

Show me thy way. Though I have held thy name,
that tremulously now my lips let fall,
as word too dear for traffic of the tongue,
yet I have loved thee, Beauty, beyond all.
Be with me in this hour: dread shapes of thee
apparelled in the lustre not their own –
as buzzard, gracened by the wizardry
of light, looks all but lovely as the swan,
shall not appal. In thy high company –
whereof all things are free and each wild theme
weaves in a relentless rise and fall
to resolution. I shall brokenly –
hear through the fury, through the windless dream,
heart of the terror, chiming at thy call.

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)

Published posthumously.

This poem is all about appreciating beauty when, for whatever reason, it is hard to find beauty in what is happening in life. But LR wants ‘Beauty’ to show her the way and talking about beauty is nonsense – ‘too dear for traffic of the tongue’. She has known beauty through her life.

But she pleads for ‘Beauty’ to be with her in this hour – an hour of need due to sickness or impending death perhaps. She sees some shapes of ‘Beauty’ and likens this to light falling on a buzzard giving ‘Beauty’ to this bird so that it becomes swan like. Swans are beautiful and grace filled images. And high company links to the bird reference in the wild freedom of flight.

The last six lines recognise the power of ‘Beauty’ in everything – it resolves all in a relentless rise and fall. And LR states that she will brokenly hear ‘Beauty’ as she goes through the current terror afflicting her. She will eventually hear ‘Beauty’ answering the call of ‘Beauty’.

This was one of the last poems that she wrote. May beauty astound her to eternity.

Lola Ridge on Wikipedia
and an interesting podcast on Lola Ridge (including commentary by biographer Terese Svoboda)

Only Two Lips – A Spring Poem

Floriade is the name of the  spring flower festival in Canberra in the Commonwealth Gardens near the centre of the city. Mainly a showing of bulbs including of course tulips. It is quite a tourist attraction and many come to Canberra to see the displays.


The U3A ‘Arts’ Exhibition had a theme of tulips, poppies and spring. I wrote the following poem for the opening day (see the previous post) …

Tulips in a vase, focus on flower in foreground

Only Two Lips

who do you think you are
standing so pert and penal
asserting yourself in rich colour
arrogant, obvious
demanding my attention

well I’m not falling for it!
such a brazen showing
with your closed-mouth talk
I will give you what you deserve –
lip service, and just you wait

your day will come
believe me, you will bend
becoming quite dishevelled
falling to kiss the ground
in total disarray

Richard Scutter  2 August 2014

It is always very interesting when you read a poem in public because you never quite know what reception will follow. The audience was mainly  women and  in the older bracket, so that was appropriate. A few realized that I was not actually talking about tulips so much and there were a couple of wry smiles – which was encouraging!

There were a few hangups on the word ‘penal’. Well penal = punishing – and from a male perspective the beautiful can be quite punishing in many ways especially when young, ‘manipulative’ and of a demanding nature.