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About this Poem 



“Quai de la Tournelle” by John Dos Passos was first published in The Bookman Anthology of Verse in 1922. 

Quai de la Tournelle

In the dark the river spins,
Laughs and ripples never ceasing,
Swells to gurgle under arches,
Swishes past the hows of barges.
In its haste to swirl away
From the stone walls of the city
That has lamps that weight the eddies
Down with snaky silver glitter.
As it flies it calls me with it
Through the meadows to the sea.

I close the door on it, draw the bolts,
Climb the stairs to my silent room;
But through the window that swings open
Comes again its shuttle-song,
Spinning love and night and madness,
Madness of the spring at sea.

The streets are full of lilacs.
Lilacs in boys' buttonholes,
Lilacs at women's waists;
Arms full of lilacs, people trail behind them through the moist night
Long swirls of fragrance.
Fragrance of gardens,
Fragrance of hedgerows where they have wandered
All the May day,
Where the lovers have held each other's hands
And lavished vermilion kisses
Under the portent of the swaying plumes
Of the funereal lilacs.

The streets are full of lilacs
That trail long swirls and eddies of fragrance,
Arabesques of fragrance,
Like the arabesques that form and fade,
In the fleeting ripples of the jade-green river.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos, born January 14, 1896, was an author and essayist best known for his U.S.A. trilogy. He only published one collection of poetry in his lifetime, A Pushcart at the Curb (George H. Doran Company, 1922). He died in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 28, 1970.