University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

Page View

Meyer, Ernest L. (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVII, Number 1 (October 1917)

Knowlton, Helen
Liberation,   pp. 3-6

Kinnan, Marjorie
When the muse knocks,   p. 6

Page 6

gentlemen friends?" Mr. Marsh had the cards in his
hands and he was determined to use them.
Jessica flushed indignantly, but she could think of
no salutary explanation. Prof Haegel came to her res-
cue, "Jessica had nothing to say in the matter, Mr.
Marsh. It was I, naturally, who took the initiative. I
have asked her to marry me." Jessica was grateful for
her lover's championing of her. She felt something
akin to hatred for her father-he had trapped her so
unjustly. And partly to defeat him in his plan to hu-
miliate her, partly because the situation forced her, she
"I am going to marry Prof Haegel, father." Her
voice became hard, "You will have to find another
housekeeper." And then she turned to her betrothed
and spoke with no show of emotion, "I am very tired
-so I will leave you to talk with father." Jessica
passed her accepted lover without looking at him, for
fear that she might meet those eyes. She closed the
door steadily behind her, and as she went to her room
she crowded down a rising sob.
When the Muse Knocks
M      Y MUSE has no sense of the fitness of things.
She knocks at the door, boisterously, regard-
less of whether I am ready to receive her, or am in my
kimono and curl-papers-intellectually speaking. She
is like relatives; she knows neither when to come nor
when to go; a nuisance all around. On the whole, I
prefer poison ivy to the literary itch; the results of
scratching are more gratifying; and once one has had
it, one avoids it ever after. But the Muse returns anon
and anon, like the meat bill.
She called on me the other night in a harsh mood.
She inflicted me with a yearning to write a poem about
digitalis. It was a passionate yearning. Digitalis is a
purplish-blue flower, arranged at irregular intervals
(like rain) along a slender stalk. It is a quaint, ro-
mantic-looking herb, connotative of old-fashioned gar-
dens and soft young things in lavender cretonne. Just
the sort of subject that arouses my sentimental spin-
ster nature; and look at the name!  Digitalis!  It
sounds like a Kentuckian asking, "Did you tell us?"
I have thought that perhaps my Muse, contrary to
the custom of muses, was on the side of law and order,
and was punishing me for a legal offense which I have
hidden from the legals. For the digitalis which stands
stiffly before me as I write, was pilfered from a "No
Trespassing" garden. Agnes led me into it. Agnes
is young and beautiful. And when I said to her,
"Agnes, this is stealing, and we could be prosecuted,"
she only laughed and answered "They'd let us off,
we're so attractive."  I resented that "we". It was
editorial in that it was cutting. And I plucked a great
armful of digitalis by the roots, and vowed viciously,
then and there, that I would write a very modern poem
about the blue spikes, to show Agnes that there is
something in the world besides beauty. At that time
I was ignorant of the name of my poetical subject; and
when I sneaked home without being caught, arranged
my plunder in wobbly art-craft baskets, and got out
my floral dictionary, I saw that the Muse had distinctly
"wished something off on me." Digitalis! I set wom-
anfully to work. There were rhymes enough. Ye
Gods! there were rhymes! The ballad must be sweet
and sentimental. So far, so good. I glued my eyes
on the indifferent posies before me, and crashed down
on the typewriter keys as if I had studied music
"O digitalis,            Though mv malice
Raised by Alice,        Is for Alice,
In the garden           Who is so in-
Of her palace,          Fernal callous
Down in deah ole        That she's willing
Texan Dallas,           Just to "pal" us.
I can-not but           Is such conduct
Be-come j'alous         Not a fallac-
Of thy bluish           Y for Alice,
Purple chalice.         Digitalis?"
When I came to, long after, a Grecian petticoat
fluttered around the corner of the door, and I heard a
silvery giggle in the clematis vines outside my window.
Why do I yearn to write poems about unpoetical
things? I remembered one of the twenty-five questions
which Robert Frost prepared on himself for a class in
Contemporary Poetry. "Are a 'hundred collars' un-
beautiful?" he asked. "If so, are they fit matter for
poetry? Does calling them 'reality' help any? "Un-
beautiful" things are not fit for poetry; but when the
Muse knocks, we tie up whatever we are thinking of,
into some sort of rhythmic language; and the damage
is done.
I realized with a melancholy consolation, as I sat
looking at my stolen digitalis, that I was not alone in
yearning to sing of unpoetical things. I would be-
come an Imagist. I would chant passionately and
freely of digitalis, and Miss Lowell would take me by
the hand as one too exalted to be confined by the poeti-
cal; and Miss Monroe would give me many pages in
"Poetry." Perhaps Mr. Masters began his career by
obeying a yearning to sing of the unsingable. Oh
gloomy prospect! But at any rate, when next the
Muse knocks, I intend to-knock back!
October, 1917

Go up to Top of Page