“Scented Leaves from a Chinese Jar” by Allen Upward

Scented Leaves from a Chinese Jar


The Bitter Purple Willows

     Meditating on the glory of illustrious lineage I lifted
up my eyes and beheld the bitter purple willows growing
round the tombs of the exalted Mings.


The Gold Fish

Like a breath from hoarded musk,
Like the golden fins that move
Where the tank's green shadows part—
Living flames out of the dusk—
Are the lightning throbs of love
In the passionate lover's heart.


The Intoxicated Poet

     A poet, having taken the bridle off his tongue, spoke
thus: "More fragrant than the heliotrope, which
blooms all the year round, better than vermilion letters
on tablets of sendal, are thy kisses, thou shy one!"


The Jonquils

      I have heard that a certain princess, when she found
that she had been married by a demon, wove a wreath
of jonquils and sent it to the lover of former days.


The Mermaid

     The sailor boy who leant over the side of the Junk
of Many Pearls, and combed the green tresses of the
sea with his ivory fingers, believing that he had heard
the voice of a mermaid, cast his body down between
the waves.


The Middle Kingdom

     The emperors of fourteen dynasties, clad in robes of
yellow silk embroidered with the Dragon, wearing gold
diadems set with pearls and rubies, and seated on
thrones of incomparable ivory, have ruled over the
Middle Kingdom for four thousand years.


The Milky Way

     My mother taught me that every night a procession
of junks carrying lanterns moves silently across the
sky, and the water sprinkled from their paddles falls
to the earth in the form of dew. I no longer believe
that the stars are junks carrying lanterns, no longer
that the dew is shaken from their oars.


The Sea-Shell

      To the passionate lover, whose sighs come back to
him on every breeze, all the world is like a murmuring


The Swallow Tower

      Amid a landscape flickering with poplars, and netted
by a silver stream, the Swallow Tower stands in the
haunts of the sun. The winds out of the four quarters
of heaven come to sigh around it, the clouds forsake
the zenith to bathe it with continuous kisses. Against
its sun-worn walls a sea of orchards breaks in white
foam; and from the battlements the birds that flit
below are seen like fishes in a green moat. The windows
of the Tower stand open day and night; the
winged Guests come when they please, and hold communication
with the unknown Keeper of the Tower.

Published in The Glebe (vol. 1, no. 5) in February 1914, special Des Imagistes number (and in subsequent editions of Des Imagistes).

To see Allen Upward's sequence "Scented Leaves from a Chinese Jar" in digitized versions of these publications you can visit the following links:

Archive.org (Des Imagistes, published by Albert and Charles Boni, New York, 1914) 

Blue Mountain Project (The Glebe)

Modernist Journals Project (The Glebe)

Modernist Journals Project (Des Imagistes, published by Albert and Charles Boni, New York, 1914)

Modernist Journals Project (Des Imagistes, published by The Poetry Bookshop, London, 1914)