American Lyrical Poet
Sara Teasdale, born Sara Trevor Teasdale, aka Sara Teasdale Filsinger
American Lyrical Poet
For I shall learn from flower and leaf, that color every drop they hold, to change the lifeless wine of grief to living gold.
For tho' I know he loves me, to-night my heart is sad; his kiss was not so wonderful as all the dreams I had.
A hush is over everything, silent as women wait for love; the world is waiting for the spring.
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.
Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more to thee, God's daughter, powerful as God, it is that thou hast made my life too sweet to hold the added sweetness of a song. There is a quiet at the heart of love, and I have pierced the pain and come to peace.
How should they know that Sappho lived and died faithful to love, not faithful to the lover, never transfused and lost in what she loved, never so wholly loving nor at peace.
All this grows bitter that was once so sweet, and many mouths must drain the dregs of it. But none will pity me, nor pity him whom Love so lashed, and with such cruel thongs.
I almost gave my life long ago for a thing that has gone to dust now, stinging my eyes?it is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.
And as I played, a child came thro' the gate, a boy who looked at me without a word, as tho' he saw stretch far behind my head long lines of radiant angels, row on row. That day we spoke a little, timidly, and after that I never heard the voice that sang so many songs for love of me.
I am alone, as though I stood on the highest peak of the tired gray world, about me only swirling snow, above me, endless space unfurled; with earth hidden and heaven hidden, and only my own spirit's pride to keep me from the peace of those who are not lonely, having died.
And when you spoke to me, I did not know that to my life's high altar came its priest.
I am wild, I will sing to the trees, I will sing to the stars in the sky, I love, I am loved, he is mine, now at last I can die! I am sandaled with wind and with flame, I have heart-fire and singing to give, I can tread on the grass or the stars, now at last I can live!
I was a queen, the daughter of a king.
The crown was never heavy on my head,
It was my right, and was a part of me.
The women thought me proud, the men were kind,
And bowed right gallantly to kiss my hand,
And watched me as I passed them calmly by,
Along the halls I shall not tread again.
What if, to-night, I should revisit them?
The warders at the gates, the kitchen-maids,
The very beggars would stand off from me,
And I, their queen, would climb the stairs alone,
Pass through the banquet-hall, a loathed thing,
And seek my chambers for a hiding-place,
And I should find them but a sepulchre,
The very rushes rotted on the floors,
The fire in ashes on the freezing hearth.
I was a queen, and he who loved me best
Made me a woman for a night and day,
And now I go unqueened forevermore.
A queen should never dream on summer eves,
When hovering spells are heavy in the dusk: --
I think no night was ever quite so still,
So smoothly lit with red along the west,
So deeply hushed with quiet through and through.
And strangely clear, and deeply dyed with light,
The trees stood straight against a paling sky,
With Venus burning lamp-like in the west.
I walked alone amid a thousand flowers,
That drooped their heads and drowsed beneath the dew,
And all my thoughts were quieted to sleep.
Behind me, on the walk, I heard a step --
I did not know my heart could tell his tread,
I did not know I loved him till that hour.
Within my breast I felt a wild, sick pain,
The garden reeled a little, I was weak,
And quick he came behind me, caught my arms,
That ached beneath his touch; and then I swayed,
My head fell backward and I saw his face.
All this grows bitter that was once so sweet,
And many mouths must drain the dregs of it.
But none will pity me, nor pity him
Whom Love so lashed, and with such cruel thongs.
There! See the line of lights,
A chain of stars down either side the street --
Why can't you lift the chain and give it to me,
A necklace for my throat? I'd twist it round
And you could play with it. You smile at me
As though I were a little dreamy child
Behind whose eyes the fairies live. . . . And see,
The people on the street look up at us
All envious. We are a king and queen,
Our royal carriage is a motor bus,
We watch our subjects with a haughty joy. . . .
How still you are! Have you been hard at work
And are you tired to-night? It is so long
Since I have seen you -- four whole days, I think.
My heart is crowded full of foolish thoughts
Like early flowers in an April meadow,
And I must give them to you, all of them,
Before they fade. The people I have met,
The play I saw, the trivial, shifting things
That loom too big or shrink too little, shadows
That hurry, gesturing along a wall,
Haunting or gay -- and yet they all grow real
And take their proper size here in my heart
When you have seen them. . . . There's the Plaza now,
A lake of light! To-night it almost seems
That all the lights are gathered in your eyes,
Drawn somehow toward you. See the open park
Lying below us with a million lamps
Scattered in wise disorder like the stars.
We look down on them as God must look down
On constellations floating under Him
Tangled in clouds. . . . Come, then, and let us walk
Since we have reached the park. It is our garden,
All black and blossomless this winter night,
But we bring April with us, you and I;
We set the whole world on the trail of spring.
I think that every path we ever took
Has marked our footprints in mysterious fire,
Delicate gold that only fairies see.
When they wake up at dawn in hollow tree-trunks
And come out on the drowsy park, they look
Along the empty paths and say, "Oh, here
They went, and here, and here, and here! Come, see,
Here is their bench, take hands and let us dance
About it in a windy ring and make
A circle round it only they can cross
When they come back again!" . . . Look at the lake --
Do you remember how we watched the swans
That night in late October while they slept?
Swans must have stately dreams, I think. But now
The lake bears only thin reflected lights
That shake a little. How I long to take
One from the cold black water -- new-made gold
To give you in your hand! And see, and see,
There is a star, deep in the lake, a star!
Oh, dimmer than a pearl -- if you stoop down
Your hand could almost reach it up to me. . . .
There was a new frail yellow moon to-night --
I wish you could have had it for a cup
With stars like dew to fill it to the brim. . . .
How cold it is! Even the lights are cold;
They have put shawls of fog around them, see!
What if the air should grow so dimly white
That we would lose our way along the paths
Made new by walls of moving mist receding
The more we follow. . . . What a silver night!
That was our bench the time you said to me
The long new poem -- but how different now,
How eerie with the curtain of the fog
Making it strange to all the friendly trees!
There is no wind, and yet great curving scrolls
Carve themselves, ever changing, in the mist.
Walk on a little, let me stand here watching
To see you, too, grown strange to me and far. . . .
I used to wonder how the park would be
If one night we could have it all alone --
No lovers with close arm-encircled waists
To whisper and break in upon our dreams.
And now we have it! Every wish comes true!
We are alone now in a fleecy world;
Even the stars have gone. We two alone!
I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.
There was no other creature
That saw what I could see --
I stood and watched the evening star
As long as it watched me.
I saw above a sea of hills
A solitary planet shine,
And there was no one, near or far,
to keep the world from being mine.
I saw the sunset-colored sands,
The Nile like flowing fire between,
Where Rameses stares forth serene,
And Ammon's heavy temple stands.
I saw the rocks where long ago,
Above the sea that cries and breaks,
Swift Perseus with Medusa's snakes
Set free the maiden white like snow.
And many skies have covered me,
And many winds have blown me forth,
And I have loved the green, bright north,
And I have loved the cold, sweet sea.
But what to me are north and south,
And what the lure of many lands,
Since you have learned to catch my hands
And lay a kiss upon my mouth.
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.
I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things;
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out;
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control --
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.
From my spirit's gray defeat,
From my pulse's flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault's slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.
For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit's sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.
If I should see your eyes again,
I know how far their look would go --
Back to a morning in the park
With sapphire shadows on the snow.
Or back to oak trees in the spring
When you unloosed my hair and kissed
The head that lay against your knees
In the leaf shadow's amethyst.
And still another shining place
We would remember -- how the dun
Wild mountain held us on its crest
One diamond morning white with sun.
But I will turn my eyes from you
As women turn to put away
The jewels they have worn at night
And cannot wear in sober day.
I must passed the crest a while ago
And now I am going down
Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know,
But the brambles were always catching the hem of my gown.
And the morning I thought how proud I should be
To stand there straight as a queen,
Wrapped in the wind and the sun with the world under me
But the air was dull; there was little I could have seen.
It was nearly level along the beaten track
And the brambles caught in my gown
But it's no use now to think of turning back,
The rest of the way will be only going down.
When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange -- my youth.
Until I lose my soul and lie
Blind to the beauty of the earth,
Deaf though shouting wind goes by,
Dumb in a storm of mirth;
Until my heart is quenched at length
And I have left the land of men,
Oh, let me love with all my strength
Careless if I am loved again.
It is enough for me by day
To walk the same bright earth with him;
Enough that over us by night
The same great roof of stars is dim.
I do not hope to bind the wind
Or set a fetter on the sea --
It is enough to feel his love
Blow by like music over me.