Mar 15 2013

Denise Levertov – The Fountain

Published by at 7:48 am under Poetry

The Fountain
by Denise Levertov

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched — but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

— from Poems: 1960-1967, by Denise Levertov

/ Photo by Weaselmcfee /

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too…

The image of this fountain has such rich resonance.

The water and the “dryness at our hearts.”

Its water springing out of the rock wall.

Footholds allowing us to climb.

Drinking the cool water.

The “woman of that place,” waiting to make sure we drink our fill.

And Levertov’s exhortation, “Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.” That line, to me, is the pulsing heart of the poem. Those words follow you long after the rest of the poem softens into the gossamer of memory.

It is still there and always there…

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us…

Rather than try to offer my own understanding of this poem, I’ll just let these words work their wet alchemy, their “quiet song and strange power… to spring in us.”

Have a beautiful day!

Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat

More poetry by Denise Levertov

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9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Denise Levertov – The Fountain”

  1. Joson 15 Mar 2013 at 10:41 am

    There is always a way to overcome your troubles, if you have the courage to face it.
    I had a bad year,my own fault. I managed to overcome.
    Thank you ivan

  2. marrobon 15 Mar 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Oh thank you Ivan. thank you Denise Levertov.

    What a heartening stream of hope , especially today
    when winter just won’t go away, the wind bites like
    knives and it’s tempting to let ice grip the heart.

    And thanks too to the translator – too often anonymous and

    ‘ it is still there and always there
    with its quiet song and strange power
    to spring in us…’

    Beautiful, like the promise of spring.

  3. Sobhana Bardhanon 15 Mar 2013 at 5:18 pm

    What a beautiful poem … of peace and hope

    Yes, it, “Don’t say, don’t say …” line–like magic power/potion I can’t seem to get it over; it is giving me good feeling; I find it healing

    I very much like the said line repetited…needed to come back pleading our attention lest we forget

    Thank you very much, Ivan for allowing us to enjoy such beautiful poem

  4. ebrahimon 16 Mar 2013 at 12:16 am

    “there are rocks, when they are split open, water gushes forth therefrom.” Quran.

  5. Pegon 16 Mar 2013 at 9:48 am

    This is a beautiful poem of the splitting of the rocks covering the pineal gland in the brain. This uncovering allows the seeker to see the truth of things beyond our physical sight of our two eyes. These repeated mystical experiences give birth to the true waters that quench our spiritual thirst.

    We find this same mythos of renewing water in Greek and Roman mythology. Once we see with the single eye, the fountain of liquid light flows in a toroidal form around the head ever flowing and renewing itself. A second smaller sphere sits on top of the larger. I can’t remember what this is called, but we see this smaller sphere replicated within many cultures by the knotting of the hair in a tight ball on top of the head.

    After the rock is removed from pineal, the crown is able to flower open, a new spiritual ear forms from the foramens located near the pineal in the brain (“those with ears to hear let them hear”). In the poem, Levertov repeats “don’t say” four times, thus matching the brain physiology. The image is of four ears connecting top to bottom in the four directions creating a well of sorts. The sound with those who can hear, hear the sounds or “songs” of the universe, even meteors that enter the earths grid.

    Throughout the poem there is an element of elevation, the “footholds allowing us to climb.” Spiritual mastery involves desire and persistence, as well as, allowing or breaking a pathway through any ego, false beliefs and emotional roadblocks so the energy fires upward through the spinal column. Once we incarnate in body, we are inundated with learning from the left brain, divine masculine. We learn to climb and crawl and define the world through language and physicality–the “footholds.” Reaching spiritual mastery is not possible until we meet the divine feminine, joining at last both sides of the self, the physical defined space with the expanse of the cosmos. We can see this with the two primary people in the poem, the speaker or the masculine principle, and the woman at the fountain or the feminine principle. The final resolution of the poem’s tension occurs at the end with the meeting of the speaker acting within the masculine principle joining the feminine principle. The mythical conflict is transformed to the ultimate union of divine marriage of the Self. This has nothing to do with being gay or straight, or marriage being defined as only between a man and a woman. This union is the marrying of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the feeding of this unified Self with the renewing waters from the fountain of liquid light.

    Much love and light, Peg

  6. ebrahimon 16 Mar 2013 at 11:38 am


  7. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 17 Mar 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I love Denise Levertov’s poetry–so profound in its simplicity.
    Her words: Don’t say there is no water. . .
    it is still there and always there with its. . .
    strange power to spring in us . . .”

    She speaks to me of Peter Kingsley’s works (I’m reading now, Reality)–we contain everything inside ourselves–“this is the experience of utter stillness,more exquisite, more full, than anything under the sun.”

  8. Pegon 18 Mar 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for your support Ebrahim.

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