“Satisfaction is a lowly thing, how pure a thing is joy.” — Marianne Moore

marianne-mooreNeed a lift or some inspiration to escape the gloom of winter and the doldrums of the winter heart?

Here’s a short, beautiful poem that might impart the courage and resolve to get through the season (and life!) by the incomparable Marianne Moore.


What is our innocence,

what is our guilt?  All are

naked, none is safe.  And whence

is courage: the unanswered question,

the resolute doubt,–

dumbly calling, deafly listening–that

in misfortune, even death,

     encourages others

     and in its defeat, stirs

the soul to be strong?  He

sees deep and is glad, who

accedes to mortality

and in his imprisonment rises

upon himself as the sea in a chasm, struggling to be

free and unable to be,

in its surrendering

finds its continuing.

So he who strongly feels,

behaves. The very bird,

grown taller as he sings, steels

his form straight up.  Though he is captive,

his mighty singing

says, satisfaction is a lowly

thing, how pure a thing is joy.

This is mortality,

this is eternity.

[Apologies, but WordPress formatting butchers stanza breaks and the poet’s own formatting, a real fault and limitation in reproducing poetry accurately on this site. But the words are there and the line breaks are accurate.  Check out the original in The Complete Poems by Marianne Moore (a Penguin Classic).]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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