This is a bit of a difficult poem, written in stanzaic paragraphs, in which Lowell is making a social comment related to the metaphor comparing the old to the new: the red slippers symbolize the old in the metaphor while the doll in a "lotus bud" symbolizes the new. Through a rather garish description of the red slippers, Lowell calls attention to the dynamic character of the slippers (they sound like they might be ballet slippers: "balance upon arched insteps") that are "flooding the eyes of passers-by with dripping color,...." Yet, even though the slippers cast their dynamism all the way out to the street, "jamming their crimson reflections against the windows of cabs and tram-cars," passers-by ignore that dynamic and rush by to see what is new:
People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window farther down is a big lotus bud of cardboard, whose petals open every few minutes and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair, lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.
Lowell's message, in simple terms, is that being old and familiar, "One has often seen shoes," does not make something worthless, while being new and novel does not make something great and worthwhile. In more specific social terms, her message is that industries' innovations do not cancel out the worth and value of ancient crafts and products.