Week 89: In Bertram’s Garden, by Donald Justice

This sharp yet tender study of seduction by the American poet Donald Justice (1925-2004) seems to me a beautiful poem, though the consolation it offers Jane for her loss of innocence is anything but consoling. There are literary echoes to be appreciated here, notably of Ben Jonson, but it is the movement of the lines, especially in the last stanza, that I find so masterly and so haunting.

In Bertram’s Garden

Jane looks down at her organdy skirt
As if it somehow were the thing disgraced,
For being there, on the floor, in the dirt,
And she catches it up about her waist,
Smooths it out along one hip,
And pulls it over the crumpled slip.

On the porch, green-shuttered, cool,
Asleep is Bertram, that bronze boy,
Who, having wound her around a spool,
Sends her spinning like a toy
Out to the garden, all alone,
To sit and weep on a bench of stone.

Soon the purple dark must bruise
Lily and bleeding-heart and rose,
And the little Cupid lose
Eyes and ears and chin and nose,
And Jane lie down with others soon,
Naked to the naked moon.

Donald Justice

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