“Sociability of the Subconscious,” from The Pursuit of Happiness by Benjamin R. C. Low

readinginwindow

Sociability of the Subconscious

Thought gives it rarely. It must happen so.
The perfect hour blooms up unheralded.
Perpend. “Let’s take our books with us, and go
Out to the cabin for a quiet read !” she said.
In lazy mood
I took my tome and followed after.
(The back way for adventure.) Soon
Across the warm, gold afternoon,
She led me, with light feet and laughter,
Into a wood.
A sabbath journey only, through the pines.
One cleft of sunlight caught it; good bark brown,
With easy roof and unassuming lines;
Door open; a play cabin. We sat down.

There was, I think, some virtue in the clothes we wore:
She, a stout skirt and simple sailor blouse,
No hat, and sneakers; I,
Old flannels, outlawed many years before,
A tennis shirt and shoes. (Comfort allows
The mood care’s quirks deny.)
We squandered little time on speech:
Each took a corner of the window; guided
Plump pillows to best use, and then subsided
Into a swoon of silence, each.

Books held the foreground. Books were of that hour
Pre-eminent, we thought.
(In winter’s footprints April hides her flower.)
We read; while fortune wrought,
Not romance, but a rarer thing, diviner.
I read John Milton; she, an Olive Schreiner.
Books held the foreground. Half-sensed, all the while,
Were soft intrusions, seas,
Far-heard when winds touch trees;
Sweet, distant laughter dwindled to a smile;
The Peter Piper of a motor-boat,
Throbbing beneath bright voices, then
A pool of silence, stirred a
By seagulls in falsetto, a harsh note.
But mostly — peace. One almost felt the sun
A-westering, while one small bee
Droned all the world indulgence, in his run
Round one small room: so still were we.
And all the while, I was aware of her;
Reading anew
L’ Allegro, Penseroso, Lycidas,
The Cyriack, and the Blindness
. Ghostlier
As, eyes drawn down, I watched the old friends pass,
That still room grew.

I was aware of her in a new way.
Milton absorbed me. I remember well
The joy of winging that proud upper air,
And, once, how scrannel keyed the seagulls. (They
Still own it.) Whence it came I cannot tell,
But we waked, somehow, and–I was aware.

An inroad ended it:
A megaphone
Called: “We are starting!” Books closed, out we ran,
The world of common-sense resumed. No plan.
Neither intended it.
The hour unknown.
But something wrought with us. I was aware. . . .
We waked in some eternity, it seems,
Brains are but barriers of, with their poor dreams.
Who runs may read; only–such hours are rare.


from The Pursuit of Happiness, and Other Poems, New York: John Lane Co., 1919

This is a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

From The Biographical Dictionary Of Contemporary Poets. The Who’s Who Of American Poets (1938), we learn that Benjamin Low was born in Massachussetts, earned his bachelor’s at Yale and a law degree from Harvard and practiced insurance law in New York City.

One wonders if he ever compared poetical notes with Wallace Stevens–though Low was no match the Hartford’s man. Of another of Low’s books of poetry, Saturday Review wrote, “there is ever and again the glitter of the true precious metal in this thin vein of ore.” This lovely vignette of an hour captured alone/together reading is certainly one.

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