The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

A short poem in free verse, “Meeting-House Hill” contains a single stanza composed of twenty-five lines. Although the title may be taken literally because Amy Lowell is describing the scene of an actual meeting house at the top of a hill, it also serves as a metaphor for the convergence of two cultures. The poem is written in the first person. As the speaker of the poem, Lowell addresses the reader directly, sharing her experience of observing the beauty of two vividly described scenes, one real and one imagined.

The first fifteen lines focus on the scene immediately before Lowell: the blue bay, the church in the city square, the spire reaching toward the sky. In line 16 this perspective changes as Lowell imagines seeing a clipper ship in the distance. The final nine lines describe the imaginary ship in as much detail as the actual scene that lies before her.

Lowell shows that the simple charm of an ordinary New England church matches the more exotic beauty of a “tea-clipper” returning from China. In so doing she moves the reader from the familiar reality of the meeting house to the imagined enchantment of the ship with its cargo of “green and blue porcelain.” Focusing her attention on the ship and the “Chinese coolie” on its deck, she seems to wonder how the church would appear to him as he gazes at it from the ship. As Lowell reflects on the beauty of the two scenes, she shares with the reader the intense emotion she...

(The entire section is 403 words.)