Poems of the Week, April 22…:Two Cheerer-Uppers by Sarah Teasdale
Sarah Teasdale was born to elderly parents in St. Louis in 1884. Frail in childhood, she grew into an etherial and beautiful young woman who attracted the love of several men, including the eccentric poet Vachel Lindsay. The two poets did not marry. Teasdale married a businessman, and Lindsay committed suicide eventually, as did Teasdale. "There will come soft rain" was used by Ray Bradbury as the title of a story.
There will come soft rain 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.
Steely stars and moon of brass,
How mockingly you watch me pass!
You know as well as I how soon
I shall be blind to stars and moon,
Deaf to the wind in the hemlock tree,
Dumb when the brown earth weighs on me.
With envious dark rage I bear,
Stars, your cold complacent stare;
Heart-broken in my hate look up,
Moon, at your clear immortal cup,
Changing to gold from dusky red—
Age after age when I am dead
To be filled up with light, and then
Emptied, to be refilled again.
What has man done that only he
Is slave to death—so brutally
Beaten back into the earth
Impatient for him since his birth?
Oh let me shut my eyes, close out
The sight of stars and earth and be
Sheltered a minute by this tree.
Hemlock, through your fragrant boughs
There moves no anger and no doubt,
No envy of immortal things.
The night-wind murmurs of the sea
With veiled music ceaselessly,
That to my shaken spirit sings.
From their frail nest the robins rouse,
In your pungent darkness stirred,
Twittering a low drowsy word—
And me you shelter, even me.
In your quietness you house
The wind, the woman and the bird.
You speak to me and I have heard:
by Walter Savage Landor
Ah, what avails the sceptred race! Ah, what the form divine! What every virtue, every grace! Rose Aylmer, all were thine. Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes May weep, but never see, A night of memories and sighs I consecrate to thee. On Leaving Pisa I leave with unreverted eye the towers Of Pisa pining o'er her desert stream. Pleasure (they say) yet lingers in thy bowers, Florence, thou patriot's sigh, though poet's dream! O could I find thee as thou once wert known, Thoughtful and lofty, liberal and free! But the pure Spirit from thy wreck has flown And only Pleasure's phantom dwells with thee. On Catullus Tell me not what too well I know About the bard of Sirmio-- Yes, in Thalia's son Such stains there are as when a grace Sprinkles another's laughing face With nectar, and runs on. [Catullus was a Roman poet--hence son of the Muse Thalia--who wrote very beautifully but engaged in occasional indecency.] I strove with none, for none was worth my strife. Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art: I warm'd both hands before the fire of life; It sinks, and I am ready to depart.
Elinor Wylie was once a very popular American poet and novelist, but these days here novels are forgotten and her poetry survives mostly in anthologies for students. She was a beautiful lady, but the less said about her marriages, the better.
Wild Peaches by Elinor Wylie
When the world turns completely upside down
You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town,
You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold colour.
Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.
The winter will be short, the summer long,
The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot,
Tasting of cider and of scuppernong;
All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all.
The squirrels in their silver fur will fall
Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.
The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass
Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold.
The misted early mornings will be cold;
The little puddles will be roofed with glass.
The sun, which burns from copper into brass,
Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold
Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold
Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.
Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover;
A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year;
The spring begins before the winter's over.
By February you may find the skins
Of garter snakes and water moccasins
Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear.
When April pours the colours of a shell
Upon the hills, when every little creek
Is shot with silver from the Chesapeake
In shoals new-minted by the ocean swell,
When strawberries go begging, and the sleek
Blue plums lie open to the blackbird's beak,
We shall live well -- we shall live very well.
The months between the cherries and the peaches
Are brimming cornucopias which spill
Fruits red and purple, sombre-bloomed and black;
Then, down rich fields and frosty river beaches
We'll trample bright persimmons, while you kill
Bronze partridge, speckled quail, and canvasback.
Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There's something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There's something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.
I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.
Prof. Brownlow has submitted two poems of Siegfried Sassoon. Best known for the poetry he wrote in Word War I and the Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man, Sassoon was descended from a Middle Eastern Jewish merchant who followed the British to India and went to England as a very rich nabob. I used to know a fine Semiticist, Jack Sasson, who was descended from a brother who stayed in the Middle East.
On Passing the New Menin Gate
Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
the unheroic dead who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate,–
Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?
Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.
Here was the world’s worst wound. And here with pride
‘Their name liveth for ever’, the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
as these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.
When I was young my heart and head were light,
And I was gay and feckless as a colt
Out in the fields, with morning in the may,
Wind on the grass, wings in the orchard bloom.
O thrilling sweet, my joy, when life was free,
And all the paths led on from hawthorn-time
Across the carolling meadows into June.
But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit
Burning my dreams away besides the fire;
And I am rich in all that I have lost.
O starshine on the fields of long-ago,
Bring me the darkness and the nightingale;
Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home,
And silence: and the faces of my friends.