I love the strange Gothic poem, She Passed This Way by the poet and novelist, Djuna Barnes, where a lover literally haunts her dead beloved through a weird, supernatural dreamscape. Djuna Barnes was a highflying and much revered modernist poet in the Paris of the 1920s. Paris provided her with the raw material for her novels and stories, as she became part of the loosely defined network of lesbian and bisexual women, mostly actresses and artists, who travelled between Hollywood, New York, and Paris and who were known ironically (and affectionately) as the “Sewing Circle”! Djuna Barnes became a recluse for the last forty years of her life. A recluse! I recognise the impulse! Love Susie. x
She Passed This Way
Here where the trees tremble with your flight
I sit and braid thin whips to beat you down.
How shall we ever find you who have gone
In little dresses, lisping through the town?
Great men on horses hunt you, and strong boys
Employ their arrows in the shallow air.
But I shall be heard whistling where I follow
Braiding long wisps of grass and stallion’s hair.
And in the night when thirty hawks are high
In pendent rhythm, and all the wayside loud;
When they are burning field and bush and hedge,
I’ll steal you like a penny from the crowd.
By Djuna Barnes
In ‘She Passed This Way,’ an early Barnes lyric, a lover laments her dead beloved, whilst on a literal quest to capture her partner’s soul, a quest which re-figures the Pre-Raphaelite adaptation of the dopplegänger archetype. Here, Barnes reverses the haunting process, so that the living lover appears to dog the track of the dead beloved: the poem therefore develops a metaphoric border crossing. In this piece, the beloved passes from life into a type of limbo, and the lover follows her, describing the supernatural landscape to the reader. One might define this poem as embodying that Jacobean quality so admired by [T. S.] Eliot, yet it is mostly nineteenth-century Gothic fictions which Barnes draws upon to create her meditation on passion and the betrayal of love by death.”