Pretty Words

Elinor Wylie. Nickolas Murray.

Pretty Words

Elinor Wylie


Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:

I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish

Which circle slowly with a silken swish,

And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:

Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,

Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,

Or purring softly at a silver dish,

Blue Persian kittens, fed on cream and curds.


I love bright words, words up and singing early;

Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;

Warm, lazy words, white cattle under trees;

I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,

Like midsummer moths, and honied like bees,

Gilded and sticky with a little sting.


Today is the birthday of Elinor Wylie, who was born on September 7, 1885. This poem by her has always been one of my favorites. The alliteration here is mesmerizing.