The poor old cannon

The poor old cannon

The poor old cannon, written by the talented poetess Elinor Wylie is one of the many poems she wrote in her own typical style.

Elinor Wylie
Elinor Wylie.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

About Elinor Wylie

Elinor Morton Wylie (born: Elinor Morton Hoyt) was born on September 7 1885 in Sommerville, New Jersey (US). She would grow out to be a loved poetess and novelist during the Interwar Period (between ending of the First World War and the outbreak of the Second World War).

Her grandfather was Henry M. Hoyt, the governor of Pennsylvania. Her aunt was Helen Hoyt, a poetess. The Hoyt family was quite famous, since her father – Henry Martyn Hoyt jr. – was the US Solicitor General (1903-1909). One of her sisters was Nancy McMichael Hoyt, writer of Elinor Wylie: the portrait of an unknown woman in 1935.

Elinor received her education at Miss Baldwin’s School, Mrs. Flint’s School and the Holton-Arms School. She showed an interest in the literairy world. She loved reading books and began to write herself. This lead to the publication of her first collection of poetry in 1921, entitled Nets to catch the wind. It wasn’t the book, that got the most attention. Her love life overshadowed her literairy work.

In het love life, Elinor wasn’t quite happy. She married three times, the last time to William Rose Benét.


During her life, she published a series of poetry and several novels.


  • Jennifer Lorn: A Sedate Extravaganza. New York: Doran, 1923. London: Richards, 1924.
  • The Venetian Glass Nephew. New York: Doran, 1925. Chicago: Academy, 1984.
  • The Orphan Angel. New York: Knopf, 1926. Also published as Mortal Image. London: Heinemann, 1927.
  • Mr. Hodge & Mr. Hazard. New York. Knopf, 1928. London: Heinemann, 1928. Chicago: Academy, 1984.
  • Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie. New York: Knopf, 1933.


  • [Anonymous], Incidental Numbers. London: private, 1912.
  • Nets to Catch the Wind. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921.
  • Black Armour. New York: Doran, 1923.
  • Trivial Breath. New York, London: Knopf, 1928.
  • Angels and Earthly Creatures: A Sequence of Sonnets Henley on Thames, UK: Borough Press, 1928. (also known as One Person).
  • Angels and Earthly Creatures. New York, London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929. (includes Angels and Earthly Creatures: A Sequence of Sonnets).
  • Birthday Sonnet. New York: Random House, 1929.
  • Collected Poems of Elinor Wylie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932.
  • Last Poems of Elinor Wylie, transcribed by Jane D. Wise, foreword by William Rose Benet, tribute by Edith Olivier. New York: Knopf, 1943. Chicago: Academy, 1982.
  • Selected Works of Elinor Wylie. Evelyn Helmick Hively ed. Kent State U Press, 2005.

Source: Wikipedia

A short, flamboyant life

Elinor lead a short, flamboyant life. She married several times and had many affairs during her marriages. The last marriage with William Rose Benét was falling apart, when she was writing the poetry book Trivial breath. This would be the last book she wrote, because she died of a stroke on December 16 1928. At that time, she was in Benét’s New York appartment.

About The poor old cannon

As this poetess grew up in a post-war world, she was able to combine a poem about a gear of war: a cannon. The cannon could also be a metaphor, for someone she knew. Someone that was in the winter of his life, such as the cannon is.

The poem is written from the perspective from something that isn’t living; a cannon. The cannon tells us the story. The story about the soldier’s home.

The poor old cannon

The poor old cannon

Upbroke the sun
In red-gold foam;
Thus spoke the gun
At the Soldier’s Home:”Whenever I hear
Blue thunder speak
My voice sounds clear
But little and weak.”And when the proud
Young cockerels crow
My voice sounds loud,
But gentle and low.”When the mocking-bird
Prolongs his note
I cannot be heard
Though I split my throat.”

— Elinor Wylie

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