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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A CITY SUNSET, by T.E. Hulme


Alluring, Earth seducing, with high conceits
is the sunset that reigns
at the end of westward streets....
A sudden flaring sky
troubling strangely the passer by
with visions, alien to long streets, of Cytherea
or the smooth flesh of Lady Castlemaine....
A frolic of crimson
is the spreading glory of the sky,
heaven's jocund maid
flaunting a trailed red robe
along the fretted city roofs
about the time of homeward going crowds
--a vain maid, lingering, loth to go....


This poem, together with "Autumn," is considered the birth of Imagism.  It was published in 1909 with "Autumn" by The Poet's Club in London as part of a distributed Christmas booklet.  By some sources, it was put alongside "Autumn" in later editions of Pound's Ripostes.


  1. Interesting. I think I'm more used to shorter imagist poems, but maybe I just haven't read a wide enough selection.

  2. Some of the imagist works are as long or even a little longer than this, but most of it remains on the short side. Hulme, I think, just did it better than anyone else. This one, to me, seems less efficient than his others. But take a look: if you were to delete 7 lines, it much more closely resembles his others. So why did he opt to keep the first half? Does it add so much? Or is this an example--as it is one of his first--of an immaturity?

  3. I think you're right actually. The first 7 lines may not be useLESS, but I'm not sure they're all that useFUL.

  4. Based on other poems, he doesn't exactly do stanzas. The closest he gets is in The Embankment with his subtitle, and then--if it's intended to refer only to the poem immediately under it, though I'm not sure that's the case--Mana Aboda has an introductory sentence. But this poem seems to have two stanzas, just not divided. There is the first 7, which are a pretty concrete image--different from anything else he's done--and there's the metaphor, which essentially repeats the first 7. It seems to be a two-part demonstration of the concept he discusses after The Red Dancer.

  5. Interesting contrast between Cytherea and Lady Castlemain: Cytheria is another name for either Aphrodite or Mother Earth; Lady Castlemain was one of King Charles's II mistresses, labeled "curse of the nation," by one, and noted for promiscuity and grouchiness.

  6. As I'm yet learning more about Hulme, it turns out he's been pigeon-holed. He has some poems that are imagistic (though I believe they all hold imagistic qualities), but they branch and reach into other areas. The man was Renaissance to be sure.

  7. By TE HULME

    * "A melancholy spirit, the mind like the great desert lifeless, and the sound of march music in the street, passes like a wave over the desert, unifies it, but then goes."

    * "With a courtly bow the bent tree sighed,
    May I present you to my friend the sun."


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