2 pp. 4to. Fine Item #304937
With note before the poem begins . This is a variant from the published version: Poem begins:
Out of an empty sky the dust of Hours
A Word was spoken, and a folk obeyed
An island uttered incandescent Towers
As frozen simultaneous hymns to Trade
There in their solitude of Powers,
Thrones,virtues, Archangelic Cavalcade
"In March 1926 Cowley analyzed his predicament in a lengthy letter to Allen Tate, who was then undergoing a similar tension between his rural tastes and his professional literary ambitions. The year before, Cowley had written “Those of Lucifer,” a poem dedicated to Tate, which conveyed both the beauty and the lyric agony of Manhattan life:
Out of an empty sky the dust of hours;
A word was spoken and a folk obeyed;
an island uttered incandescent towers
like frozen simultaneous hymns to Trade.
Here, in a lonely multitude of powers,
thrones, dominations—celestial cavalcade—
page 585 they rise
—proclaiming, sea and sky are ours,
and yours, O man, the shadow of our shade.
Or did a poet crazed with dignity
rear them upon an island to prolong
his furious contempt for sky and sea?
To what emaciated hands belong
these index fingers of infinity?
O towers of intolerable song!
Cowley had grown alienated from the city for reasons more complex than personal tastes alone. True, the crowds and the noise irritated him, but New York had come to symbolize something more malevolent—the corruption of culture. He told Tate that the great weakness of New York literary life was that it “had no moral value.” To survive as a young writer in the city required the betrayal of one’s artistic principles. Cowley confessed that he, too, had succumbed to its degrading influence: "
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