Context: Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was one of the early Modernists in American poetry. At school she was remembered as outspoken by her classmates. Growing up in the early 1900s she never went to college because her parents didn’t want her to do so (education was no use to a woman). She came from a well to do middle class family as started to collect books and educate herself on various topics. She was also allowed to travel and at age 28 she went to see a performance in Europe by Eleonora Duse. After this experience she started to write poetry. She helped introduce imagism1 in American Literature and begun to publish her works in the 1910s. She also wrote some works on Literary Criticism and commented on several French poets and John Keats.
Lowell received the Pulitzer Price for Poetry posthumously, 1926.
Theme: “The Starling” is an introspective poem as the narrator explains her inner feelings. She’s a bit moody and feeling blue. Reading how she describes herself one gets hint she’s feeling trapped and holds herself back. The poem ends with the lines: “I weary for desires never guessed, For alien passions, strange imaginings, To be some other person for a day.” It’s sad to notice she feels she wish to become another person to fulfill her passions.
Forever the impenetrable wall
Of self confines my poor rebellious soul,
I never see the towering white clouds roll
Before a sturdy wind, save through the small
Barred window of my jail. I live a thrall
With all my outer life a clipped, square hole,
Rectangular; a fraction of a scroll
Unwound and winding like a worsted ball.
My thoughts are grown uneager and depressed
Through being always mine, my fancy’s wings
Are moulted and the feathers blown away.
I weary for desires never guessed,
For alien passions, strange imaginings,
To be some other person for a day.
- Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. ↩