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A Mosaic for Marianne Moore

on the occasion of her eightieth birthday, November 15, 1967

The concluded gardens of personal liking
Are enchanted habitats,
Where real toads may catch imaginary flies,
And the climate will accommodate the tiger
And the polar-bear.

So, in the middle of yours (where it is human
To sit), we see you sitting,
In a wide-brimmed hat beneath a monkey-puzzle,
At your feet the beasts you animated for us
By thinking of them.

Your lion with ferocious chrysanthemum head,
Your jerboa erect on
His Chippendale claw, your pelican behaving
Like charred paper, your musk-ox who smells of water,
Your fond nautilus,

Cope with what surprises them and greet the stranger
In a Mid-Western accent,
Even that bum, the unelephantine creature,
Who is certainly here to worship and often
Selected to mourn.

Egocentric, eccentric, he will name a cat
Peter, a new car Edsel,
Emphasize his own birthday and a few others
He thinks deserve it, as to-day we stress your name,
Miss Marianne Moore,

Who, fastidious but fair, are unaffronted
By those whose disposition
It is to affront, who beg the cobra’s pardon,
Are always on time and never would yourself write
Error with four r’s.

For poems, dolphin-graceful as carts from Sweden,
Our thank-you should be a right
Good salvo of barks: it’s much too muffled to say
“How well and with what unfreckled integrity
It has all been done.”

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