“Lilacs” is a poem of 109 lines of free verse separated into four stanzas. The first and third stanzas are of unequal length; the first is a long stanza of fifty-two lines, and the third has twenty-seven lines. The second and fourth stanzas are fifteen lines each. Another asymmetry in the poem is that stanzas 1, 2, and 4 begin with the same five brief lines: “Lilacs,/ False blue,/ White,/ Purple,/ Colour of lilac.” By contrast, the association of lilacs with New England that is mentioned briefly in stanza 1 is developed in the opening lines of stanza 3: “Maine knows you,/ Has for years and years;/ New Hampshire knows you,/ And Massachusetts/ and Vermont.”
Also interesting is the change in perspective as the poem progresses. In the first three stanzas Amy Lowell speaks to the lilacs directly, addressing them as “you.” In the first stanza, she mentions the timelessness of the lilacs and lingers on their details: their heart-shaped leaves and the crooks of their branches. From precise physical detail the poem moves to the acts of lilacs, and it becomes apparent that they are more than mere flowering shrubs. She describes the effect they have on preachers, schoolboys, housewives, and clerks, typical New England figures. Wherever the lilacs occur they have a beneficial effect, as when they call to the clerks and cause them to write poetry.
Lowell refers to the Persian origin of lilacs in the second stanza, comparing their exotic...
(The entire section is 433 words.)