Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"
Introduction and Text of Poem, "Fireworks"
Amy Lowell's "Fireworks" consists of eleven rimed couplets arranged in seven stanzas of 2, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 2 lines, offering a neat symmetry. The subject of hate is, therefore, presented as an ultra-controlled emotion. The fireworks display consists of many shapes and colors, but they are set in an atmosphere of control.
(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")
You hate me and I hate you,
And we are so polite, we two!
But whenever I see you, I burst apart
And scatter the sky with my blazing heart.
In spits and sparkles in stars and balls,
Buds into roses— and flares, and falls.
Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.
I shine in the window and light up the trees,
And all because I hate you, if you please.
And when you meet me, you rend asunder
And go up in a flaming wonder
Of saffron cubes, and crimson moons,
And wheels all amaranths and maroons.
Golden lozenges and spades,
Arrows of malachites and jades,
Patens of copper, azure sheaves.
As you mount, you flash in the glossy leaves.
Such fireworks as we make, we two!
Because you hate me and I hate you.
Reading of "Fireworks"
First Stanza Couplet: "You hate me and I hate you"
The speaker opens by addressing the person she hates. Although she speaks very politely, she is claiming that the addressee and she hate each other.
Second Stanza: "But whenever I see you, I burst apart"
The expected behavior of two people who hate each other rests on an entirely different planet from the one this speaker inhabits. One would look for heated argument, catty accusations, and even physical violence between two haters. But this speaker employs the metaphoric images of colorful fireworks to dramatize the hatred that exists between these two people.
A dictionary definition of the term "fireworks" even offers evidence of violence: "display of violent temper or fierce activity." But this speaker is having none of that simplistic definition. Instead, she melds the colorful and the violent into a whole new display of emotion and colorful lights. She seems to seek to raise the emotion of hate to a new level of human feeling.
Thus, upon encountering that hated person, the speaker bursts into her rage that resembles the fireworks displays celebrating the country's birth on the Fourth of July in the United States. She is prompted metaphorically, to "burst apart," and "scatter the sky with . . . blazing heart."
Heart, of course, equals emotion. And when her heart/emotion is so roused, "It spits and sparkles in the stars and balls, / Buds into roses — and flares, and falls."
Third Stanza: "Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks"
The speaker describes her feelings, claiming that they shoot out from her into, "Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks, / Silver spirals and asterisks." The colorful, varied shapes form themselves into button-like images as they spiral and give an asterisk appearance. The contrasting colors of red, green, and silver appear to rival mauve and amethyst.
Fourth Stanza Couplet: "I shine in the windows and light up the trees"
The speaker's hatred is so strong that it "lights up the trees," and it "shines in windows." She continues to emphasize the brightness and the fury of her hatred. She also continues to assume that the person she hates returns that hatred.
Such fury would seem to light up every inch of space around which the two are occupying. Her creativity for expressing hatred seems to light her brain with every nuance that can bring forth light, color, and movement.
Fifth and Sixth Stanzas: "And when you meet me, you rend asunder"
In the fifth and sixth stanzas, the speaker describes the "fireworks" display of the addressee when the two meet: " . . . you rend asunder / And go up in a flaming wonder / Of saffron cubes, and crimson moons."
Again, the display features colorful shapes, which one might actually view at a celebratory light show: "Golden lozenges and spades / Arrows of malachites and jades." And as the speaker lit up windows and trees, the addressee "flash[es] in the glossy leaves."
Seventh Stanza Couplet: Such fireworks as we make, we two!"
Ending with a couplet which emphasizes the couple of haters, the speaker just offers a reiteration of that fact the two hate each other so much that their hate results in the creation of a fireworks display.
Even though the speaker seems to have enjoyed the fireworks, it must remain undetermined how much the person she hates has felt such enjoyment. Readers will remain skeptical even as they squirm and twitch at the contrasting bluffs of images.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes