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Atavism by Elinor Wylie | Poets.org

July 28, 2013 · 11:58 AM

by Elinor Wylie

I always was afraid of Somes's Pond:

Not the little pond, by which the willow stands,

Where laughing boys catch alewives in their hands

In brown, bright shallows; but the one beyond.

There, when the frost makes all the birches burn

Yellow as cow-lilies, and the pale sky shines

Like a polished shell between black spruce and pines,

Some strange thing tracks us, turning where we turn.


You'll say I dream it, being the true daughter

Of those who in old times endured this dread.

Look! Where the lily-stems are showing red

A silent paddle moves below the water,

A sliding shape has stirred them like a breath;

Tall plumes surmount a painted mask of death.


About This Poem

Somes's Pond is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where a young Elinor Wylie would summer with her family.
Elinor Hoyt was born in Somerville, New Jersey, on September 7, 1885. Though also notorious for her numerous romances, including with eventual husband Horace Wylie, she was primarily renowned among her contemporaries for the quality of her poetry and fiction. Wylie died in 1928.

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