LYRIC.CO Denise Levertov “The Love of Morning”

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves / back to the love of morning / after we’ve lain in the dark crying out / O God, save us from the horror // God has saved the world one more day / even with its leaden burden of human evil; / we wake to birdsong./ And if sunlight’s gossamer lifts in its net / the weight of all that is solid / our hearts, too, are lifted, / swung like laughing infants; // but on gray mornings, / all incident—our own hunger,/ the dear tasks of continuance,/ the footsteps before us in the earth’s/ beloved dust, leading the way— all,/ is hard to love again / for we resent a summons / that disregards our sloth, and this / calls us, calls us.

from SELECTED POEMS (New Directions, 2002)

FRAME OF REFERENCE We are as nothing, and this double ness is significant: as being we are as nothing, but being as nothing opens a world within that can come to itself in mindfulness, and opens us to a world without, to which we can come in mindfulness of what is different. WILLIAM DESMOND The Intimate Universal, 212.

We stare at the abyss we call America. Proceeding this week in the confirmation of the next addition to the Supreme Court, a sense of repetition wells up like nausea. The Puritans are in the saddle. Chaos comes again.

Returning to a lyric like Levertov’s “The Love of Morning” is reflexive. We are looking for a connection to a good outside ourselves. We reread the poem, this time noticing, beyond the unpalatable orthodoxies, those old canonical words, the ebb and flow of perception.

Levertov is very good at this sort of thing, which is why her yellowing page blushes.

I am hooked, my eyelids unstuck. The dialectics of the middle of the poem — “and if“ — gently flows on and out of the deep foundations of the poem. And if…

Making that transition requires that we be fully awake. What is now engaged is our most fundamental energy of consciousness, our acceptance of the human gesture of analogy. It builds on the first order of”is”: it IS sometimes hard…. we can’t deny that reasonableness.

The “as” of analogy builds on the given “is.” The image of the “is it” a spider’s gossamer web beaded with dewy flashes of early morning sun: the poem asks us silently “if” we accept the analogy with our human heart-self. And suddenly we are moving toward and across the abyss the analogy bridges for us, a gift of analogy. Desmond the Irish philosopher calls that tidal movement the “porosity.” It is a name for the happening of the lyric within the form of the lyric.

Now I am awake. The final lines show me why. I can use an old name— this poem is full of old names— I can say “sloth” and know what it means to me now. That finite other that is our very self and may resent the offer of awareness of its limits in light of its possibility to override its own darkness— that! Own THAT! Move on!

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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