The poem Clown’s houses, written by Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE, is a typical example of poetry that is inspired by French surrealism. This poem was first published in 1918.
About Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE
Edith Louisa Sitwell was born on September 7 1887 in Scarborough (North Yorkshire, UK). She was a poet and critic and was one of the three writers in the Sitwell family. She would grow out to become a well known poetess, who was inspired by the time she lived in. But, this was also the person, who performed in Façade (1923), various abstract poems inspired by rhythm. It was a performance to shock people, but it lead to a lot of criticism. Many people didn’t understand what she was doing.
Still, she was one of the leading figures as it comes to the promotion of new trends in English poetry, until the day she died (December 9, 1964).
BENEATH the flat and paper sky
The sun, a demon’s eye,
Glowed through the air, that mask of glass;
All wand’ring sounds that pass
Seemed out of tune, as if the light
Were fiddle-strings pulled tight.
The market-square with spire and bell
Clanged out the hour in Hell;
The busy chatter of the heat
Shrilled like a parakeet;
And shuddering at the noonday light
The dust lay dead and white
As powder on a mummy’s face,
Or fawned with simian grace
Round booths with many a hard bright toy
And wooden brittle joy:
The cap and bells of Time the Clown
That, jangling, whistled down
Young cherubs hidden in the guise
Of every bird that flies;
And star-bright masks for youth to wear,
Lest any dream that fare
–Bright pilgrim–past our ken, should see
Hints of Reality.
Upon the sharp-set grass, shrill-green,
Tall trees like rattles lean,
And jangle sharp and dissily;
But when night falls they sign
Till Pierrot moon steals slyly in,
His face more white than sin,
Black-masked, and with cool touch lays bare
Each cherry, plum, and pear.
Then underneath the veiled eyes
Of houses, darkness lies–
Tall houses; like a hopeless prayer
They cleave the sly dumb air.
Blind are those houses, paper-thin
Old shadows hid therein,
With sly and crazy movements creep
Like marionettes, and weep.
Tall windows show Infinity;
And, hard reality,
The candles weep and pry and dance
Like lives mocked at by Chance.
The rooms are vast as Sleep within;
When once I ventured in,
Chill Silence, like a surging sea,
Slowly enveloped me.
— Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE