Gwen Harwood

(8 June 1920 – 4 December 1995 / Taringa, Queensland)

The Glass Jar - Poem by Gwen Harwood

To Vivian Smith
A child one summer's evening soaked
a glass jar in the reeling sun
hoping to keep, when day was done
and all the sun's disciples cloaked
in dream and darkness from his passion fled,
this host, this pulse of light beside his bed.

Wrapped in a scarf his monstrance stood
ready to bless, to exorcize
monsters that whispering would rise
nightly from the intricate wood
that ringed his bed, to light with total power
the holy commonplace of field and flower.

He slept. His sidelong violence summoned
fiends whose mosaic vision saw
his heart entire. Pincer and claw,
trident and vampire fang, envenomed
with his most secret hate, reached and came near
to pierce him in the thicket of his fear.

He woke, recalled his jar of light,
and trembling reached one hand to grope
the mantling scarf away. Then hope
fell headlong from its eagle height.
Through the dark house he ran, sobbing his loss,
to the last clearing that he dared not cross:

the bedroom where his comforter
lay in his rival's fast embrace
and faithless would not turn her face
from the gross violence done to her.
Love's proud executants played from a score
no child could read or realize. Once more

to bed, and to worse dreams he went.
A ring of skeletons compelled
his steps with theirs. His father held
fiddle and bow, and scraped assent
to the malignant ballet. The child dreamed
this dance perpetual, and waking screamed

fresh morning to his window-sill.
As ravening birds began their song
the resurrected sun, whose long
triumph through flower-brushed fields would fill
night's gulfs and hungers, came to wink and laugh
in a glass jar beside a crumpled scarf.

So the loved other is held
for mortal comfort, and taken,
and the spirit's light dispelled
as it falls from its dream to the deep
to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
to peace in the paradise of sleep.


Comments about The Glass Jar by Gwen Harwood

  • Robert Murray Smith (5/28/2018 11:36:00 PM)


    This poetess has encapsulates the mind of the child that is fantasy filled. Great imagery and imagination. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Susan Williams (5/28/2018 5:13:00 PM)


    She certainly knows about childhood fears and how they are translated into nightmares. Besides this level, there are several more layers of meaning one can easily see in the first reading which makes me wonder how many more there can be. There's Oedipus type mishmash going on in the kid's head, Freud would have a hay day with this, and there is the Christianity of this whole story. Breathtaking brilliance in this write. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (5/28/2018 5:12:00 AM)


    His jar of light! !

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

  • Mahtab Bangalee (5/28/2018 2:07:00 AM)


    So the loved other is held
    for mortal comfort, and taken,
    and the spirit's light dispelled
    as it falls from its dream to the deep
    to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
    to peace in the paradise of sleep.
    (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (5/28/2018 1:33:00 AM)


    Such a fine poem by Gwen Harwood👍👍👍 (Report) Reply

  • Muzahidul Reza (5/28/2018 12:54:00 AM)


    the resurrected sun, will again shines, ........... fantastically written, congrats. and thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

  • (3/19/2018 10:56:00 PM)


    it was lit
    sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good
    (Report) Reply

Read all 7 comments »



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?



Poem Submitted: Friday, April 20, 2012



Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  7. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  8. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  9. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  10. A Dream Within A Dream
    Edgar Allan Poe
[Report Error]