'Lilies' by Mary Oliver
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House of LightI have been thinking
like the lilies
that blow in the fields.They rise and fall
in the edge of the wind,
and have no shelter
from the tongues of the cattle,and have no closets or cupboards,
and have no legs.
Still I would like to be
as wonderfulas the old idea.
But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green faceof the hummingbird
to touch me.
What I mean is,
could I forget myselfeven in those feathery fields?
When Van Gogh
preached to the poor
of coarse he wanted to save someone--most of all himself.
He wasn't a lily,
and wandering through the bright fields
only gave him more ideasit would take his life to solve.
I think I will always be lonely
in this world, where the cattle
graze like a black and white river--where the vanishing lilies
melt, without protest, on their tongues--
where the hummingbird, whenever there is a fuss,
just rises and floats away.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Lilies" by Mary Oliver: A Celebration of Beauty and Transcendence
I've always been a fan of Mary Oliver's poetry, but there's something particularly special about "Lilies" that has captured my heart and imagination. Maybe it's the way she describes the flowers with such vividness and clarity, or the way she uses them as a symbol for the complexities and mysteries of life itself. Whatever it is, I find myself returning to this poem again and again, always discovering something new and profound in its lines.
At its core, "Lilies" is a meditation on beauty and transcendence. Oliver begins by describing a field of lilies, their petals "opening and closing / as if slightly confused" in the breeze. This simple image sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which explores the ways in which beauty can be both fleeting and enduring, both fragile and resilient.
One of the most striking things about "Lilies" is the way in which Oliver uses language to capture the essence of the flowers. Her descriptions are so precise and evocative that you can almost smell the scent of the lilies and feel the softness of their petals against your skin. Consider this stanza:
I put my face to the lilies and shout for joy again and again the green stalks rise and the buds break open and the smell of the lilies is so thick it wakes me up
There's a sense of wonder and ecstasy in these lines that is hard to describe. Oliver seems to be reveling in the sheer beauty of the flowers, allowing herself to be transported by their scent and their delicate forms. But there's also a sense of urgency here, a sense that this beauty is fleeting and must be celebrated while it lasts.
As the poem progresses, Oliver expands her focus beyond the lilies themselves to consider their place in the larger scheme of things. She writes:
All over the woods the white faces of the lilies are opening out of the darkness into the light of morning which, perhaps, again lives up to its reputation
Here, we see the lilies as a symbol for the cyclical nature of life and the way in which darkness and light are always in flux. The lilies are "opening out of the darkness" into the light of morning, suggesting that even in the midst of pain and struggle, there is always the possibility of renewal and growth.
But Oliver doesn't stop there. She goes on to explore the ways in which beauty can transcend even the most difficult circumstances. She writes:
but wait, for the blackberries that are setting up their deep forms in the shadows are covering themselves with their own blossoms and heavy fruit
Here, we see the beauty of the lilies juxtaposed with the darkness of the shadows and the thorny, tangled vines of the blackberries. And yet, even here, there is beauty to be found. The blackberries are "covering themselves / with their own / blossoms / and heavy fruit," suggesting that even in the midst of hardship and pain, there is the possibility of growth and abundance.
Overall, I think "Lilies" is a truly remarkable poem that celebrates the beauty and complexity of life in all its forms. Oliver's language is so vivid and evocative that it's hard not to get swept up in the sheer joy and wonder of it all. And yet, there's also a sense of urgency and gravity here, a sense that this beauty is not to be taken for granted, but must be celebrated and cherished while it lasts.
So if you haven't read "Lilies" yet, I highly recommend it. It's a poem that will stay with you long after the last line has been read, inspiring you to see the world in a new and more profound way.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Lilies: A Celebration of Life and Nature
Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, is known for her profound and insightful observations of the natural world. Her poem "Lilies" is a beautiful ode to the beauty and fragility of life, and the importance of living in the present moment.
The poem begins with the speaker describing a field of lilies, their "white dresses" and "golden faces" swaying in the breeze. The imagery is vivid and evocative, transporting the reader to this idyllic scene. The lilies are a symbol of purity and innocence, and their delicate petals and graceful stems suggest a sense of fragility and vulnerability.
As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the transience of life, and the inevitability of death. The lilies, like all living things, will eventually wither and die, but their beauty and vitality in the present moment is a reminder of the preciousness of life. The speaker urges us to "let the soft animal of your body love what it loves," to embrace the joys and pleasures of life while we can.
The poem is also a meditation on the power of poetry to capture and preserve moments of beauty and meaning. The speaker notes that "poetry isn't a profession, it's a way of life," suggesting that poetry is not just a vocation, but a way of seeing and experiencing the world. Through poetry, we can capture the essence of a moment, and preserve it for future generations.
The final stanza of the poem is a call to action, urging us to "be ignited, or be gone." This is a powerful statement, suggesting that we must embrace life with passion and enthusiasm, or risk missing out on its beauty and wonder. The lilies, with their vibrant colors and delicate petals, are a reminder that life is fleeting, and we must make the most of every moment.
Overall, "Lilies" is a beautiful and poignant poem that celebrates the beauty and fragility of life, and the power of poetry to capture and preserve moments of meaning and significance. Mary Oliver's evocative imagery and lyrical language transport the reader to a world of wonder and beauty, and her message of embracing life with passion and enthusiasm is a powerful reminder of the preciousness of life.
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