Natalie Clifford Barney

Four Poems by Natalie Clifford Barney

More Night!

Moon-love, star-love, the love of silver water,
The weeping face of love touched in the dark,
And murdered joy, lost souls of joy that caught her
A glow-worm’s warmth and spark.

Birds of prey, invisible, now hover
About her midnights hammocked in unrest—
A moving shadow, faithless as a lover,
Is ail her arms have pressed—

Too luminous the dreaming of the sleeper
Whose tears are prophecies and second-sight.
Has death no under-sea, no darkness deeper,
In which to satiate our need of night?

 

A Sonnet to My Lady with the Jaundice

Was not Titania golden? See these flowers
Are they for being yellowish less fair?
Apollo and the Godesses all share
In this most glorious hue. The jealous bowers
Of Kings are coloured thus, their reed of powers,
Their rings, their chains, the crowns that they must wear
Golden their mistress and their minion’s hair
Golden the bannered sun above their towers!
Reflecting butter-cups amuses Puck
But flower-rubbed eye-lids, and complexions mend
So fear not broken crystals long ill-luck
But look in this new mirror, lovely friend.
Both gods and fairies wait on lovers’ wills.
That jaundices be changed to daffodils!

 

The Phantom Guest

We lay in shade diaphanous
And spoke the light that burns in us

As in the glooming’s net I caught her,
She shimmered like reflected water!

Romantic and emphatic moods
Are not for her whom life eludes…

Its vulgar tinsel round her fold?
She’d rather shudder with the cold,

Attend just this elusive hour,
A show in a shadow bower,

A moving imagery so fine,
It must have been her soul near mine

And do we blended and possessed
Each in each the phantom guest,

Inseparate, we scarcely met;
Yet other love-nights we forget!

 

How Write the Beat of Love

How write the beat of love, the very throb,
The rhythm of our veins’ deep eloquence?
How fix that darkness-rending final sob,
That perfect swoon of each united sense.

The full-sailed rising of your body’s sweep
—Adrift and safe on joy’s last tidal wave—
Will toss you on the silver sands of sleep,
Forgetful of the ecstacy you gave.

Your breath ebbs restful as the falling tide:
A sea becalmed!… Lay me in valleyed part
Of breasts whose undulating crests subside—
Ah how they marked the high beats of your heart!

 

Natalie Clifford Barney October 31, 1876 – February 2, 1972), an American expatriate feminist and lesbian poet whose Paris salons were famous for drawing modernist artists (which she hosted for over 60 years), spent early years, beginning at age 10, in a house at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW on Sheridan Circle with her mother, the painter Alice Pike Barney. That house still stands; it is now the Embassy of Latvia. In 1900, Barney published Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes (Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women), becoming the first women poet to write openly about lesbian love since Sappho. Over the course of her life, she wrote seven books of poems and plays (in English and French), as well as a novel, two memoirs, and two books of epigrams. Barney wrote, "If I had one ambition it was to make my life itself into a poem."