Through the open French window the warm sun
lights up the polished breakfast-table, laid
round a bowl of crimson roses, for one
a service of Worcester porcelain, arrayed
near it a melon, peaches, figs, small hot
rolls in a napkin, fairy rack of toast,
butter in ice, high silver coffee-pot,
and, heaped on a salver, the morning’s post.
She comes over the lawn, the young heiress,
from her early walk in her garden-wood,
feeling that life’s a table set to bless
her delicate desires with all that’s good,
that even the unopened future lies
like a love-letter, full of sweet surprise.
This poem has the most intense sense of foreboding, of impending disaster, of any I know. It reminds me of those photographs of people taken seconds before they are vaporized by bombs or tanks. Yet this feeling is conveyed almost entirely by the shift in rhythm in the ninth and tenth lines. Sound in poetry does not merely emphasize sense; sometimes, as here, it undercuts it.