The poetess Sara Teasdale

07/07/2012

Memorizing poetry has become such a rewarding pastime for me (see earlier post). To commit words to memory is like imprinting them on to my heart. Due to the fact that rhyming stanzas lend themselves to easier memorization, this is the style of poetry I’ve always been drawn to. Here, today, is a lovely and wise poem called “Barter”. I memorized it nearly twenty years ago. Also here are three more poems of hers as well. And, because I truly enjoy researching and sharing details, I’ve included a biography of this prolific writer. I hope you enjoy.

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Barter

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Life has loveliness to sell,

All beautiful and splendid things;

Blue waves whitened on a cliff,

Soaring fire that sways and sings,

And children’s faces looking up,

Holding wonder like a cup.

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Life has loveliness to sell;

Music like a curve of gold,

Scent of pine trees in the rain,

Eyes that love you, arms that hold,

And, for the Spirit’s still delight,

Holy thoughts that star the night.

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Give all you have for loveliness;

Buy it, and never count the cost!

For one white, singing hour of peace

Count many a year of strife well lost;

And for a breath of ecstasy,

Give all you have been, or could be.

written by Sara Teasdale

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1919 photograph by Arnold Gentle
Source: Library of Congress

On August 8, 1884 Sara Trevor Teasdale was born in St. Louis, Missouri, into an old, established, and devout family. She was home-schooled until she was nine and traveled frequently to Chicago, where she became part of the circle surrounding Poetry magazine and Harriet Monroe. Teasdale published Sonnets to Duse, and Other Poems, her first volume of verse, in 1907. Her second collection, Helen of Troy, and Other Poems, followed in 1911, and her third, Rivers to the Sea, in 1915.

In 1914 Teasdale married businessman Ernst Filsinger; she had previously rejected a number of suitors, including the poet Vachel Lindsay. She moved with her husband to New York City in 1916. In 1918, she won the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize (which became the Pulitzer Prize for poetry) and the Poetry Society of America Prize for Love Songs. She published three more volumes of poetry during her lifetime: Flame and Shadow (1920), Dark of the Moon (1926), and Stars To-night (1930).

Sara Teasdale received public admiration for her well-crafted lyrical poetry, which center on a woman’s changing perspectives on beauty, love, and death. Many of Teasdale’s poems chart developments in her own life, from her experiences as a sheltered young woman in St. Louis, to those as a successful yet increasingly uneasy writer in New York City. She passed away on January 29, 1933 after years of illness and a difficult bout with pneumonia. Her final collection, Strange Victory appeared posthumously that same year.

Sources: Poets.org and Poetry Foundation

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Here are more of her poems, with the first one being something that she wrote during World War I and her sensitive poetic heart is quite apparent. With the second one, in my humble interpretation, I can feel her sadness upon moving to New York City with her husband. I have not memorized these, but I find within them a haunting beauty and I did not want to miss this opportunity to present more of her works. I especially enjoy her conclusion to “The Wind In The Hemlock” as she shares of the deep comfort that I too have experienced from sitting under a tree. 

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There Will Come Soft Rains

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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.

written by Sara Teasdale

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The River

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I came from the sunny valleys 


And sought for the open sea, 


For I thought in its gray expanses 


My peace would come to me.



I came at last to the ocean 


And found it wild and black, 


And I cried to the windless valleys, 


“Be kind and take me back!”



But the thirsty tide ran inland, 


And the salt waves drank of me, 


And I who was fresh as the rainfall 


Am bitter as the sea.

written by Sara Teasdale

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The Wind In The Hemlock

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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?


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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.

written by Sara Teasdale

12 responses to The poetess Sara Teasdale

  1. 

    Reblogged this on Milenanik3's Blog and commented:
    Amazing article about Sara Teasdale,read and enjoy as much as I did.Gina thank You for writing this and sharing with us.Be blessed!

  2. 

    “And for a breath of ecstasy,

    Give all you have been, or could be.”

    I loved all of these poems, Gina, but the above two lines stunned me. Wow…

    Thank you for sharing some of the work of a gifted poet and reflecting more of your wonderul spirit in the process.

    Russ

    • 

      I love the fact that of all these lines you pulled my favorites as well. Stunning indeed. I am delighted that you enjoyed my post about this special poet. Thank you so much, always, for your kind comments dear Russ.
      Your friend, Gina

  3. 
    LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words 07/07/2012 at 9:14 am

    Beautiful post
    I will keep her on my list now to “repeat” reading
    Thank you for sharing….I did not know of her…
    now I am glad i do…
    Take Care…
    )0(
    maryrose

  4. 

    two of my favorites: Break of Day by John Donne

    ‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?
    O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
    Why should we rise because ‘tis light?
    Did we lie down because ‘twas night?
    Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
    Should in despite of light keep us together.

    written half a millennium ago…

    and Anne Bradstreet of 1600 New England “To My Dear and Loving Husband”

    thanks for making me think of these again…

    • 

      Wow…. incredible. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve heard the name John Donne but only in passing and I neglected to follow up. Now you have brought his name to the forefront of my mind to research. This excerpt you’ve shared is amazing. It is wonderful to ‘meet’ you dear kindred spirit. I am delighted we have found each other so we can share our love of old poetry, and more.
      Blessings, Gina

  5. 

    Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    Wonderful collection. Hugs, Barbara