Senlin, Bread and Roses
I’ve just completed updating all of the files in the Conrad Aiken collection.
These include Senlin, Discordants, Light and Snow, Turns and Movies, and Chiarascuro: Rose, among others. Aiken wrote in a variety of forms, and wrote beautifully crafted rhymed as well as blank verse. A sampling:
Senlin is somewhat autobiographical, and the Morning Song of Senlin, an excerpt from the first section of the poem is a good example of how Aiken combines a sense of awe with a sense of the simple reality around him:
It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.
A favorite poem of Aikens’s is one of the Discordants, subtitled ‘Bread and Music’ with its notes of longing and sadness:
MUSIC I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,--
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
Aiken’s All Lovely Things is a beautiful but somewhat fatalist carpe diem poem:
ALL lovely things will have an ending,
All lovely things will fade and die,
And youth, that's now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by and by.
And from Light and Snow:
When I was a boy, and saw bright rows of icicles
In many lengths along a wall
I was disappointed to find
That I could not play music upon them:
I ran my hand lightly across them
And they fell, tinkling.
I tell you this, young man, so that your expectations of life
Will not be too great.