Flame and Shadow
by Sara Teasdale
"Recois la flamme ou l'ombre
De tous mes jours."
- Will it always be like this until I am dead,
- Every spring must I bear it all again
- With the first red haze of the budding maple boughs,
- And the first sweet-smelling rain?
- Oh I am like a rock in the rising river
- Where the flooded water breaks with a low call --
- Like a rock that knows the cry of the waters
- And cannot answer at all.
I Know the Stars
- I know the stars by their names,
- Aldebaran, Altair,
- And I know the path they take
- Up heaven's broad blue stair.
- I know the secrets of men
- By the look of their eyes,
- Their gray thoughts, their strange thoughts
- Have made me sad and wise.
- But your eyes are dark to me
- Though they seem to call and call --
- I cannot tell if you love me
- Or do not love me at all.
- I know many things,
- But the years come and go,
- I shall die not knowing
- The thing I long to know.
- I understood the rest too well,
- And all their thoughts have come to be
- Clear as grey sea-weed in the swell
- Of a sunny shallow sea.
- But you I never understood,
- Your spirit's secret hides like gold
- Sunk in a Spanish galleon
- Ages ago in waters cold.
- We will never walk again
- As we used to walk at night,
- Watching our shadows lengthen
- Under the gold street-light
- When the snow was new and white.
- We will never walk again
- Slowly, we two,
- In spring when the park is sweet
- With midnight and with dew,
- And the passers-by are few.
- I sit and think of it all,
- And the blue June twilight dies, --
- Down in the clanging square
- A street-piano cries
- And stars come out in the skies.
It Is Not a Word
- It is not a word spoken,
- Few words are said;
- Nor even a look of the eyes
- Nor a bend of the head,
- But only a hush of the heart
- That has too much to keep,
- Only memories waking
- That sleep so light a sleep.
My Heart Is Heavy
- My heart is heavy with many a song
- Like ripe fruit bearing down the tree,
- But I can never give you one --
- My songs do not belong to me.
- Yet in the evening, in the dusk
- When moths go to and fro,
- In the gray hour if the fruit has fallen,
- Take it, no one will know.
The Nights Remember
- The days remember and the nights remember
- The kingly hours that once you made so great,
- Deep in my heart they lie, hidden in their splendor,
- Buried like sovereigns in their robes of state.
- Let them not wake again, better to lie there,
- Wrapped in memories, jewelled and arrayed --
- Many a ghostly king has waked from death-sleep
- And found his crown stolen and his throne decayed.
Let It Be Forgotten
- Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
- Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
- Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
- Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
- If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
- Long and long ago,
- As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
- In a long forgotten snow.
Part VI: The Dark Cup
- A delicate fabric of bird song
- Floats in the air,
- The smell of wet wild earth
- Is everywhere.
- Red small leaves of the maple
- Are clenched like a hand,
- Like girls at their first communion
- The pear trees stand.
- Oh I must pass nothing by
- Without loving it much,
- The raindrop try with my lips,
- The grass with my touch;
- For how can I be sure
- I shall see again
- The world on the first of May
- Shining after the rain?
Since There Is No Escape
- Since there is no escape, since at the end
- My body will be utterly destroyed,
- This hand I love as I have loved a friend,
- This body I tended, wept with and enjoyed;
- Since there is no escape even for me
- Who love life with a love too sharp to bear:
- The scent of orchards in the rain, the sea
- And hours alone too still and sure for prayer --
- Since darkness waits for me, then all the more
- Let me go down as waves sweep to the shore
- In pride; and let me sing with my last breath;
- In these few hours of light I lift my head;
- Life is my lover -- I shall leave the dead
- If there is any way to baffle death.
The Dreams of My Heart
- The dreams of my heart and my mind pass,
- Nothing stays with me long,
- But I have had from a child
- The deep solace of song;
- If that should ever leave me,
- Let me find death and stay
- With things whose tunes are played out and forgotten
- Like the rain of yesterday.
A Little While
- A little while when I am gone
- My life will live in music after me,
- As spun foam lifted and borne on
- After the wave is lost in the full sea.
- A while these nights and days will burn
- In song with the bright frailty of foam,
- Living in light before they turn
- Back to the nothingness that is their home.
- My heart is a garden tired with autumn,
- Heaped with bending asters and dahlias heavy and dark,
- In the hazy sunshine, the garden remembers April,
- The drench of rains and a snow-drop quick and clear as a spark;
- Daffodils blowing in the cold wind of morning,
- And golden tulips, goblets holding the rain --
- The garden will be hushed with snow, forgotten soon, forgotten --
- After the stillness, will spring come again?
- I cannot die, who drank delight
- From the cup of the crescent moon,
- And hungrily as men eat bread,
- Loved the scented nights of June.
- The rest may die -- but is there not
- Some shining strange escape for me
- Who sought in Beauty the bright wine
- Of immortality?
In A Cuban Garden
- Hibiscus flowers are cups of fire,
- (Love me, my lover, life will not stay)
- The bright poinsettia shakes in the wind,
- A scarlet leaf is blowing away.
- A lizard lifts his head and listens --
- Kiss me before the noon goes by,
- Here in the shade of the ceiba hide me
- From the great black vulture circling the sky.
If I Must Go
- If I must go to heaven's end
- Climbing the ages like a stair,
- Be near me and forever bend
- With the same eyes above me there;
- Time will fly past us like leaves flying,
- We shall not heed, for we shall be
- Beyond living, beyond dying,
- Knowing and known unchangeably.
In Spring, Santa Barbara
- I have been happy two weeks together,
- My love is coming home to me,
- Gold and silver is the weather
- And smooth as lapis is the sea.
- The earth has turned its brown to green
- After three nights of humming rain,
- And in the valleys peck and preen
- Linnets with a scarlet stain.
- High in the mountains all alone
- The wild swans whistle on the lakes,
- But I have been as still as stone,
- My heart sings only when it breaks.
- Heaven-invading hills are drowned
- In wide moving waves of mist,
- Phlox before my door are wound
- In dripping wreaths of amethyst.
- Ten feet away the solid earth
- Changes into melting cloud,
- There is a hush of pain and mirth,
- No bird has heart to speak aloud.
- Here in a world without a sky,
- Without the ground, without the sea,
- The one unchanging thing is I,
- Myself remains to comfort me.
- Arcturus brings the spring back
- As surely now as when
- He rose on eastern islands
- For Grecian girls and men;
- The twilight is as clear a blue,
- The star as shaken and as bright,
- And the same thought he gave to them
- He gives to me to-night.
- It will not hurt me when I am old,
- A running tide where moonlight burned
- Will not sting me like silver snakes;
- The years will make me sad and cold,
- It is the happy heart that breaks.
- The heart asks more than life can give,
- When that is learned, then all is learned;
- The waves break fold on jewelled fold,
- But beauty itself is fugitive,
- It will not hurt me when I am old.
- A diamond of a morning
- Waked me an hour too soon;
- Dawn had taken in the stars
- And left the faint white moon.
- O white moon, you are lonely,
- It is the same with me,
- But we have the world to roam over,
- Only the lonely are free.
- A fog drifts in, the heavy laden
- Cold white ghost of the sea --
- One by one the hills go out,
- The road and the pepper-tree.
- I watch the fog float in at the window
- With the whole world gone blind,
- Everything, even my longing, drowses,
- Even the thoughts in my mind.
- I put my head on my hands before me,
- There is nothing left to be done or said,
- There is nothing to hope for, I am tired,
- And heavy as the dead.
- At six o'clock of an autumn dusk
- With the sky in the west a rusty red,
- The bells of the mission down in the valley
- Cry out that the day is dead.
- The first star pricks as sharp as steel --
- Why am I suddenly so cold?
- Three bells, each with a separate sound
- Clang in the valley, wearily tolled.
- Bells in Venice, bells at sea,
- Bells in the valley heavy and slow --
- There is no place over the crowded world
- Where I can forget that the days go.
- O lovely chance, what can I do
- To give my gratefulness to you?
- You rise between myself and me
- With a wise persistency;
- I would have broken body and soul,
- But by your grace, still I am whole.
- Many a thing you did to save me,
- Many a holy gift you gave me,
- Music and friends and happy love
- More than my dearest dreaming of;
- And now in this wide twilight hour
- With earth and heaven a dark, blue flower,
- In a humble mood I bless
- Your wisdom -- and your waywardness.
- You brought me even here, where I
- Live on a hill against the sky
- And look on mountains and the sea
- And a thin white moon in the pepper tree.
"There Will Come Soft Rains"
- There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
- And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
- And frogs in the pools singing at night,
- And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
- Robins will wear their feathery fire
- Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
- And not one will know of the war, not one
- Will care at last when it is done.
- Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
- If mankind perished utterly;
- And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
- Would scarcely know that we were gone.
In A Garden
- The world is resting without sound or motion,
- Behind the apple tree the sun goes down
- Painting with fire the spires and the windows
- In the elm-shaded town.
- Beyond the calm Connecticut the hills lie
- Silvered with haze as fruits still fresh with bloom,
- The swallows weave in flight across the zenith
- On an aerial loom.
- Into the garden peace comes back with twilight,
- Peace that since noon had left the purple phlox,
- The heavy-headed asters, the late roses
- And swaying hollyhocks.
- For at high-noon I heard from this same garden
- The far-off murmur as when many come;
- Up from the village surged the blind and beating
- Red music of a drum;
- And the hysterical sharp fife that shattered
- The brittle autumn air,
- While they came, the young men marching
- Past the village square. . . .
- Across the calm Connecticut the hills change
- To violet, the veils of dusk are deep --
- Earth takes her children's many sorrows calmly
- And stills herself to sleep.
- Bowed as an elm under the weight of its beauty,
- So earth is bowed, under her weight of splendor,
- Molten sea, richness of leaves and the burnished
- Bronze of sea-grasses.
- Clefts in the cliff shelter the purple sand-peas
- And chicory flowers bluer than the ocean
- Flinging its foam high, white fire in sunshine,
- Jewels of water.
- Joyous thunder of blown waves on the ledges,
- Make me forget war and the dark war-sorrow --
- Against the sky a sentry paces the sea-cliff
- Slim in his khaki.
- I went out at night alone;
- The young blood flowing beyond the sea
- Seemed to have drenched my spirit's wings --
- I bore my sorrow heavily.
- But when I lifted up my head
- From shadows shaken on the snow,
- I saw Orion in the east
- Burn steadily as long ago.
- From windows in my father's house,
- Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
- I watched Orion as a girl
- Above another city's lights.
- Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
- The world's heart breaks beneath its wars,
- All things are changed, save in the east
- The faithful beauty of the stars.
- Out of the noise of tired people working,
- Harried with thoughts of war and lists of dead,
- His beauty met me like a fresh wind blowing,
- Clean boyish beauty and high-held head.
- Eyes that told secrets, lips that would not tell them,
- Fearless and shy the young unwearied eyes --
- Men die by millions now, because God blunders,
- Yet to have made this boy he must be wise.
- I watch the great clear twilight
- Veiling the ice-bowed trees;
- Their branches tinkle faintly
- With crystal melodies.
- The larches bend their silver
- Over the hush of snow;
- One star is lighted in the west,
- Two in the zenith glow.
- For a moment I have forgotten
- Wars and women who mourn --
- I think of the mother who bore me
- And thank her that I was born.
On to the next poem.