Amy Lowell's "Fireworks" - Owlcation - Education
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Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Amy Lowell

Introduction and Text of "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 spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Fireworks

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"

Commentary

This masterpiece of irony creates a drama featuring the rage of hatred. This rage is displayed in images that resemble a fireworks display on the Fourth of July in the United States.

First Stanza Couplet: Addressing a Hated Person

You hate me and I hate you,
And we are so polite, we two!

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: Defying the Expected

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.

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: Seeing Stars

Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.

The speaker describes her feelings, claiming that they shoot out from her into forms and shapes that often result from a fireworks display. 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: The Light of Hatred

I shine in the window and light up the trees,
And all because I hate you, if you please.

The speaker's hatred is so strong that it can flash through the window appear to brighten the trees outside. 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: Celebration of Hatred

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.

In the fifth and sixth stanzas, the speaker describes the "fireworks" display of the addressee when the two meet. She claims that the addressee lights up in ways that match or even rival her own bursting into stars.

Again, the display features colorful shapes, which one might actually view at a celebratory light show. She has observed that those similar shapes and colors that match her own also are so strong that they sail though the window lighting up the same trees' "glossy leaves."

Seventh Stanza Couplet: Contrasting Bluffs

Such fireworks as we make, we two!
Because you hate me and I hate you.

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.

Hate as an Ironic Trope

The speaker makes it clear that she enjoys her little bouts of heated "fireworks." Even though she claims they are prompted by mutual hatred between the two people involved, her enjoyment and overheated rhetoric point to what most people consider to be the opposite emotion of hatred.

Thus, the readers may come away from the poem with the strong impression that they have been bamboozled, that the speaker is not describing "hate" at all but instead she is describing a passionate sexual attraction that the speaker and her partner share.

By labeling that attraction and subsequent activity "hatred," she can call forth somewhat more violent images than if she had labeled it "love." Sexual attraction plus love produce the gentle sharing of coupling, while sexual attraction heralded by hate may involve the blast of "fireworks" that the speaker has described with such relish.

Questions & Answers

Question: What poetic terms are in Lowell's "Fireworks"?

Answer: "Fireworks" serves as a metaphor, and the poem employs irony.

Question: What is the theme of Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"?

Answer: The theme of Amy Lowell's "Fireworks" is love.

Question: What type of poem is Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"?

Answer: It’s a lyric poem.

Question: What do fireworks represent in the poem, "Fireworks"?

Answer: “Fireworks” serves metaphorically as a passionate relationship in Lowell’s poem.

Question: What is the deeper meaning in Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"?

Answer: The "deeper meaning" of the poem lies in the use of irony. The speaker makes it clear that she enjoys her little bouts of heated "fireworks." Even though she claims they are prompted by mutual hatred between the two people involved, her enjoyment and overheated rhetoric point to what most people consider to be the opposite emotion of hatred.


Thus, the readers may come away from the poem with the strong impression that they have been bamboozled, that the speaker is not describing "hate" at all but instead she is describing a passionate sexual attraction that the speaker and her partner share.


By labeling that attraction and subsequent activity "hatred," she can call forth somewhat more violent images than if she had labeled it "love." Sexual attraction plus love produce the gentle sharing of coupling, while sexual attraction heralded by hate may involve the blast of "fireworks" that the speaker has described with such relish.

Question: Who is the speaker of the poem, "Fireworks"?

Answer: The speaker is one half of a couple: she is addressing the other half of the pair, claiming that they "hate" each other.

Question: What has happened to cause the speaker’s “blazing heart” in the poem "Fireworks"?

Answer: The speaker is in love in Lowell’s “Fireworks.”

Question: When was the poem made?

Answer: Amy Lowell's poem, "Fireworks," was firsts published in April 1915 in the Atlantic Monthly.

Question: How are colors described in Amy Lowell's "Fireworks"?

Answer: In Amy Lowell's "Fireworks," colors, along with various shapes, are part of the fireworks display.

Question: What is the tone of Amy Lowell's "Fireworks," and what lines support this?

Answer: The tone of Lowell's "Fireworks" is controlled passion. All of the lines offer evidence of that passion.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes