Elizabeth Bishop

(8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979 / Worcester, Massachusetts)

Large Bad Picture

Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or
some northerly harbor of Labrador,
before he became a schoolteacher
a great-uncle painted a big picture.

Receding for miles on either side
into a flushed, still sky
are overhanging pale blue cliffs
hundreds of feet high,

their bases fretted by little arches,
the entrances to caves
running in along the level of a bay
masked by perfect waves.

On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burnt match-sticks.

And high above them, over the tall cliffs'
semi-translucent ranks,
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds
hanging in n's in banks.

One can hear their crying, crying,
the only sound there is
except for occasional sizhine
as a large aquatic animal breathes.

In the pink light
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling,
round and round and round at the same height
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling,

while the ships consider it.
Apparently they have reached their destination.
It would be hard to say what brought them there,
commerce or contemplation.

Comments about Large Bad Picture by Elizabeth Bishop

  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (2/12/2019 1:54:00 PM)

    High above them! ! ! ! !

    Thanks for sharing this poem with us.(Report)Reply

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  • Khairul AhsanKhairul Ahsan (2/12/2019 7:30:00 AM)

    'It would be hard to say what brought them there,
    commerce or contemplation.' - These two lines will leave the readers contemplating.(Report)Reply

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  • Adrian FlettAdrian Flett (2/12/2019 2:24:00 AM)

    Such fine descriptive lines ending in 'commerce or contemplation'.(Report)Reply

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  • Bernard F. AsuncionBernard F. Asuncion (2/12/2019 12:55:00 AM)

    Beautiful poem by Elizabeth Bishop.......(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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Read poems about / on: animal, pink, sunset, running, red, sky, sun, light, remember

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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