Although the nursery-rhyme-like cadences of her poems and the whimsical drawings with which she illustrated them suggest a child’s innocence, Stevie Smith was much concerned with suffering and mortality. (Her macabre sense of humor can shock, as in her most famous poem, “Not Waving But Drowning.”) Born Florence Margaret Smith in Hull, Yorkshire, she moved with her family to London when three, then lived in the same house the rest of her life. She published several collections of short prose and letters as well as nearly a dozen volumes of verse. Glenda Jackson portrays the eccentric poet in the 1978 movie Stevie.
More By This Poet
The Heavenly City
I sigh for the heavenly country,
Where the heavenly people pass,
And the sea is as quiet as a mirror
Of beautiful beautiful glass.
I walk in the heavenly field,
With lilies and poppies bright,
I am dressed in a heavenly coat
Of polished white.
When I walk...
Not Waving but Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larkinglarking Playing tricks, kidding, fooling around.
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for...
Do not despair of man, and do not scold him,
Who are you that you should so lightly hold him?
Are you not also a man, and in your heart
Are there not warlike thoughts and fear and smart?
Are you not also afraid...