Part II: Memories
Part IV: In a Hospital
Part V: through Part VIII
Part IX through Part XII:
Flame and Shadow|
by Sara Teasdale
"Recois la flamme ou l'ombre
De tous mes jours."
- How many million Aprils came
- Before I ever knew
- How white a cherry bough could be,
- A bed of squills, how blue!
- And many a dancing April
- When life is done with me,
- Will lift the blue flame of the flower
- And the white flame of the tree.
- Oh burn me with your beauty, then,
- Oh hurt me, tree and flower,
- Lest in the end death try to take
- Even this glistening hour.
- O shaken flowers, O shimmering trees,
- O sunlit white and blue,
- Wound me, that I, through endless sleep,
- May bear the scar of you.
- Alone in the night
- On a dark hill
- With pines around me
- Spicy and still,
- And a heaven full of stars
- Over my head,
- White and topaz
- And misty red;
- Myriads with beating
- Hearts of fire
- That aeons
- Cannot vex or tire;
- Up the dome of heaven
- Like a great hill,
- I watch them marching
- Stately and still,
- And I know that I
- Am honored to be
- Of so much majesty.
What Do I Care?
- What do I care, in the dreams and the languor of spring,
- That my songs do not show me at all?
- For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
- I am an answer, they are only a call.
- But what do I care, for love will be over so soon,
- Let my heart have its say and my mind stand idly by,
- For my mind is proud and strong enough to be silent,
- It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.
- In the silver light after a storm,
- Under dripping boughs of bright new green,
- I take the low path to hear the meadowlarks
- Alone and high-hearted as if I were a queen.
- What have I to fear in life or death
- Who have known three things: the kiss in the night,
- The white flying joy when a song is born,
- And meadowlarks whistling in silver light.
- My forefathers gave me
- My spirit's shaken flame,
- The shape of hands, the beat of heart,
- The letters of my name.
- But it was my lovers,
- And not my sleeping sires,
- Who gave the flame its changeful
- And iridescent fires;
- As the driftwood burning
- Learned its jewelled blaze
- From the sea's blue splendor
- Of colored nights and days.
I Have Loved Hours at Sea"
- I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
- The fragile secret of a flower,
- Music, the making of a poem
- That gave me heaven for an hour;
- First stars above a snowy hill,
- Voices of people kindly and wise,
- And the great look of love, long hidden,
- Found at last in meeting eyes.
- I have loved much and been loved deeply --
- Oh when my spirit's fire burns low,
- Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
- I shall be tired and glad to go.
- The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
- Over the blue Connecticut hills;
- The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
- And over my head the swallows rushed
- This way and that, with changeful wills.
- I heard them twitter and watched them dart
- Now together and now apart
- Like dark petals blown from a tree;
- The maples stamped against the west
- Were black and stately and full of rest,
- And the hazy orange moon grew up
- And slowly changed to yellow gold
- While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
- To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
- Down the hill I went, and then
- I forgot the ways of men,
- For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
- Wakened ecstasy in me
- On the brink of a shining pool.
- O Beauty, out of many a cup
- You have made me drunk and wild
- Ever since I was a child,
- But when have I been sure as now
- That no bitterness can bend
- And no sorrow wholly bow
- One who loves you to the end?
- And though I must give my breath
- And my laughter all to death,
- And my eyes through which joy came,
- And my heart, a wavering flame;
- If all must leave me and go back
- Along a blind and fearful track
- So that you can make anew,
- Fusing with intenser fire,
- Something nearer your desire;
- If my soul must go alone
- Through a cold infinity,
- Or even if it vanish, too,
- Beauty, I have worshipped you.
- Let this single hour atone
- For the theft of all of me.
Part II: Memories
- Places I love come back to me like music,
- Hush me and heal me when I am very tired;
- I see the oak woods at Saxton's flaming
- In a flare of crimson by the frost newly fired;
- And I am thirsty for the spring in the valley
- As for a kiss ungiven and long desired.
- I know a bright world of snowy hills at Boonton,
- A blue and white dazzling light on everything one sees,
- The ice-covered branches of the hemlocks sparkle
- Bending low and tinkling in the sharp thin breeze,
- And iridescent crystals fall and crackle on the snow-crust
- With the winter sun drawing cold blue shadows from the trees.
- Violet now, in veil on veil of evening
- The hills across from Cromwell grow dreamy and far;
- A wood-thrush is singing soft as a viol
- In the heart of the hollow where the dark pools are;
- The primrose has opened her pale yellow flowers
- And heaven is lighting star after star.
- Places I love come back to me like music --
- Mid-ocean, midnight, the waves buzz drowsily;
- In the ship's deep churning the eerie phosphorescence
- Is like the souls of people who were drowned at sea,
- And I can hear a man's voice, speaking, hushed, insistent,
- At midnight, in mid-ocean, hour on hour to me.
- As the waves of perfume, heliotrope, rose,
- Float in the garden when no wind blows,
- Come to us, go from us, whence no one knows;
- So the old tunes float in my mind,
- And go from me leaving no trace behind,
- Like fragrance borne on the hush of the wind.
- But in the instant the airs remain
- I know the laughter and the pain
- Of times that will not come again.
- I try to catch at many a tune
- Like petals of light fallen from the moon,
- Broken and bright on a dark lagoon,
- But they float away -- for who can hold
- Youth, or perfume or the moon's gold?
Only In Sleep
- Only in sleep I see their faces,
- Children I played with when I was a child,
- Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,
- Annie with ringlets warm and wild.
- Only in sleep Time is forgotten --
- What may have come to them, who can know?
- Yet we played last night as long ago,
- And the doll-house stood at the turn of the stair.
- The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces,
- I met their eyes and found them mild --
- Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder,
- And for them am I too a child?
- Redbirds, redbirds,
- Long and long ago,
- What a honey-call you had
- In hills I used to know;
- Redbud, buckberry,
- Wild plum-tree
- And proud river sweeping
- Southward to the sea,
- Brown and gold in the sun
- Sparkling far below,
- Trailing stately round her bluffs
- Where the poplars grow --
- Redbirds, redbirds,
- Are you singing still
- As you sang one May day
- On Saxton's Hill?
Sunset: Saint Louis
- Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
- When I came home again from far-off places,
- How many times I saw my western city
- Dream by her river.
- Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
- Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
- Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
- Gray, high-flung bridges.
- Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
- Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
- And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
- Across the levee.
- High over them the black train swept with thunder,
- Cleaving the city, leaving far beneath it
- Wharf-boats moored beside the old side-wheelers
- Resting in twilight.
- Into my heart's treasury
- I slipped a coin
- That time cannot take
- Nor a thief purloin, --
- Oh better than the minting
- Of a gold-crowned king
- Is the safe-kept memory
- Of a lovely thing.
- Atoms as old as stars,
- Mutation on mutation,
- Millions and millions of cells
- Dividing yet still the same,
- From air and changing earth,
- From ancient Eastern rivers,
- From turquoise tropic seas,
- Unto myself I came.
- My spirit like my flesh
- Sprang from a thousand sources,
- From cave-man, hunter and shepherd,
- From Karnak, Cyprus, Rome;
- The living thoughts in me
- Spring from dead men and women,
- Forgotten time out of mind
- And many as bubbles of foam.
- Here for a moment's space
- Into the light out of darkness,
- I come and they come with me
- Finding words with my breath;
- From the wisdom of many life-times
- I hear them cry: "Forever
- Seek for Beauty, she only
- Fights with man against Death!"
Day and Night
- In Warsaw in Poland
- Half the world away,
- The one I love best of all
- Thought of me to-day;
- I know, for I went
- Winged as a bird,
- In the wide flowing wind
- His own voice I heard;
- His arms were round me
- In a ferny place,
- I looked in the pool
- And there was his face --
- But now it is night
- And the cold stars say:
- "Warsaw in Poland
- Is half the world away."
- I should be glad of loneliness
- And hours that go on broken wings,
- A thirsty body, a tired heart
- And the unchanging ache of things,
- If I could make a single song
- As lovely and as full of light,
- As hushed and brief as a falling star
- On a winter night.
- There never was a mood of mine,
- Gay or heart-broken, luminous or dull,
- But you could ease me of its fever
- And give it back to me more beautiful.
- In many another soul I broke the bread,
- And drank the wine and played the happy guest,
- But I was lonely, I remembered you;
- The heart belongs to him who knew it best.
Oh You are Coming
- Oh you are coming, coming, coming,
- How will hungry Time put by the hours till then? --
- But why does it anger my heart to long so
- For one man out of the world of men?
- Oh I would live in myself only
- And build my life lightly and still as a dream --
- Are not my thoughts clearer than your thoughts
- And colored like stones in a running stream?
- Now the slow moon brightens in heaven,
- The stars are ready, the night is here --
- Oh why must I lose myself to love you,
- My dear?
- He has come, he is here,
- My love has come home,
- The minutes are lighter
- Than flying foam,
- The hours are like dancers
- On gold-slippered feet,
- The days are young runners
- Naked and fleet --
- For my love has returned,
- He is home, he is here,
- In the whole world no other
- Is dear as my dear!
- It was April when you came
- The first time to me,
- And my first look in your eyes
- Was like my first look at the sea.
- We have been together
- Four Aprils now
- Watching for the green
- On the swaying willow bough;
- Yet whenever I turn
- To your gray eyes over me,
- It is as though I looked
- For the first time at the sea.
- I made you many and many a song,
- Yet never one told all you are --
- It was as though a net of words
- Were flung to catch a star;
- It was as though I curved my hand
- And dipped sea-water eagerly,
- Only to find it lost the blue
- Dark splendor of the sea.
- Your eyes drink of me,
- Love makes them shine,
- Your eyes that lean
- So close to mine.
- We have long been lovers,
- We know the range
- Of each other's moods
- And how they change;
- But when we look
- At each other so
- Then we feel
- How little we know;
- The spirit eludes us,
- Timid and free --
- Can I ever know you
- Or you know me?
Part IV: In a Hospital
- Out of the window a sea of green trees
- Lift their soft boughs like the arms of a dancer,
- They beckon and call me, "Come out in the sun!"
- But I cannot answer.
- I am alone with Weakness and Pain,
- Sick abed and June is going,
- I cannot keep her, she hurries by
- With the silver-green of her garments blowing.
- Men and women pass in the street
- Glad of the shining sapphire weather,
- But we know more of it than they,
- Pain and I together.
- They are the runners in the sun,
- Breathless and blinded by the race,
- But we are watchers in the shade
- Who speak with Wonder face to face.
The New Moon
- Day, you have bruised and beaten me,
- As rain beats down the bright, proud sea,
- Beaten my body, bruised my soul,
- Left me nothing lovely or whole --
- Yet I have wrested a gift from you,
- Day that dies in dusky blue:
- For suddenly over the factories
- I saw a moon in the cloudy seas --
- A wisp of beauty all alone
- In a world as hard and gray as stone --
- Oh who could be bitter and want to die
- When a maiden moon wakes up in the sky?
- Supper comes at five o'clock,
- At six, the evening star,
- My lover comes at eight o'clock --
- But eight o'clock is far.
- How could I bear my pain all day
- Unless I watched to see
- The clock-hands laboring to bring
- Eight o'clock to me.
- Oh, I could let the world go by,
- Its loud new wonders and its wars,
- But how will I give up the sky
- When winter dusk is set with stars?
- And I could let the cities go,
- Their changing customs and their creeds, --
- But oh, the summer rains that blow
- In silver on the jewel-weeds!
- Waves are the sea's white daughters,
- And raindrops the children of rain,
- But why for my shimmering body
- Have I a mother like Pain?
- Night is the mother of stars,
- And wind the mother of foam --
- The world is brimming with beauty,
- But I must stay at home.
The Broken Field
- My soul is a dark ploughed field
- In the cold rain;
- My soul is a broken field
- Ploughed by pain.
- Where grass and bending flowers
- Were growing,
- The field lies broken now
- For another sowing.
- Great Sower when you tread
- My field again,
- Scatter the furrows there
- With better grain.
- Death went up the hall
- Unseen by every one,
- Trailing twilight robes
- Past the nurse and the nun.
- He paused at every door
- And listened to the breath
- Of those who did not know
- How near they were to Death.
- Death went up the hall
- Unseen by nurse and nun;
- He passed by many a door --
- But he entered one.
- When I am dying, let me know
- That I loved the blowing snow
- Although it stung like whips;
- That I loved all lovely things
- And I tried to take their stings
- With gay unembittered lips;
- That I loved with all my strength,
- To my soul's full depth and length,
- Careless if my heart must break,
- That I sang as children sing
- Fitting tunes to everything,
- Loving life for its own sake.
On to the next poem.