The Proposals, by Nathalia Crane

Ruth Jonas - "The Proposals"
Ruth Jonas – illustration for “The Proposals” in Venus Invisible (1928)

In 1928 appeared Nathalia Crane’s fourth collection of poetry, Venus Invisible and Other Poems. Again, the title comes from one of the poems, but in this case not a noteworthy one. In my opinion, the most important work in the book is the long poem “Tadmor,” a strange oriental love tale with dreams and premonitions, ending in mutual worship; it is organised like an opera, alternating story, dialogues and chorus songs. In this book, the 15-year-old author shows her fully adult sophistication, which she had displayed growingly in her previous collections of verses.

I have chosen the first poem and the corresponding illustration shown at the beginning of the book. Here Nathalia Crane tells us with humour that two flowers spared us a catastrophe by refusing the marriage proposals of a tiger and a viper, which would have led to a monstrous offspring.

by Nathalia Crane

SAID the tiger to the lily,
Said the viper to the rose:
Let us marry so our children
May attain the double pose.

With a feline half a flower—
With the attar in the asp,
We could institute a slaughter
That would make a planet gasp.

But the lily told the tiger
‘Twas an empty enterprise
To raise the little half-breeds
With lanterns in their eyes.

And the rosebud gave her answer
The while she merely smiled:
A babe two-fourths a viper
Would drive a mother wild.

The world is growing gentle,
But few know what she owes
To the understanding lily
And the judgment of the rose.

Source of the poem and illustration: Nathalia Crane, Venus Invisible and Other Poems. Illustrated by Ruth Jonas. Coward-McCann, New York (1928).

Previously published on Agapeta, 2018/03/05.

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