Christ, let me die at night
with a semblance of my senses,
like the full moon that fails.
I'll never forget watching a visibly shaken Joseph Brodsky, who was a good friend of Robert Lowell's, read these lines at the poet's funeral at the Church of the Advent in Boston in September 1977.
This fragment was found among the papers Lowell had left at his home in Britain when he departed from there earlier in the month, bound for the United States. On September 12, he died of heart failure in a taxi on the way from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan.
Of course, we were struck by Lowell's uncanny prophesy, but we were also moved by that fact that these lines, some of the last he wrote, had the same startling clarity as his last collection of poems, Day by Day, published the year before his death.
The photograph above of Lowell and his wife, Caroline Blackwood, was taken by Walker Evans in 1973. The portrait of Lowell below was taken by Evans at Milgate House, the couple's home in Kent.
- AUDIO: Lowell recordings from Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room
- Frederick Seidel's 1961 interview with Lowell for Paris Review
- Article about Lowell from American National Biography
- Adam Kirsch on Lowell's poetry