Colors of Life
Max Eastman

    American Ideals of Poetry, a Preface


  1. Coming to Port
  2. The Lonely Bather
  3. In My Room
  4. Hours
  5. Fire and Water
  6. You Make No Answer
  7. Out of a Dark Night
  8. A Morning
  9. Anniversary
  10. Autumn Light
  11. A Modern Messiah
  12. In a Red Cross Hospital
  13. A Visit
  14. To Love
  15. Car-Window
  16. Little Fishes
  17. Invocation
  18. Sometimes
  19. To Marie Sukloff an Assassin
  20. To an Actress
  21. Eyes
  22. X-Rays


    A Preface About Sonnets

  23. A Praiseful Complaint
  24. Those You Dined With
  25. The Passions of a Child
  26. As the Crag Eagle
  27. To My Father
  28. To Edward S. Martin
  29. Europe 1914
  30. Isadora Duncan
  31. The Sun
  32. The Net
  33. A Dune Sonnet


  34. Sea-Shore
  35. Rainy Song
  36. A Hymn to God
  37. Coming Spring
  38. Daisies
  39. Bobolink
  40. Diogenes

    Earlier Poems

    A Preface About Their Philosophy

  41. At the Aquarium
  42. Earth's Night
  43. The Thought of Protagoras
  44. To The Ascending Moon
  45. Leif Ericson
  46. Midnight
  47. In March
  48. The Flowers at Church
  49. To the Little Bed at Night
  50. In a Dungeon of Russia
  51. To a Tawny Thrush
  52. The Saint Gaudens Statues
  53. Summer Sunday

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Max Eastman
Colors of Life
Songs and Sonnets

Max Eastman


Edited for the Web
by Steve Spanoudis

. A Praiseful Complaint

    YOU love me not as I love, or when I
    Grow listless of the crimson of your lips,
    And turn not to your burning finger-tips,
    You would show fierce and feverish your eye,
    And hotly my numb wilfulness decry,
    Holding your virtues over me like whips,
    And stinging with the visible eclipse
    Of that sweet poise of life I crucify!

    How can you pass so proudly from my face,
    With all the tendrils of your passion furled,
    So adequate and animal in grace,
    As one whose mate is only all the world!
    I never taste the sweet exceeding thought
    That you might love me, though I loved you not!

    Max Eastman

. Those You Dined With

    THEY would have made you like a pageant, bold
    And nightly festive, lustre-lit for them,
    And round your beauty, like a dusky gem,
    Have poured the glamour of the pride of gold;
    And you would lie in life as in her bed
    The mistress of a pale king, indolent,
    Though hot her limbs and strong her languishment,
    And her deep spirit is unvisited.

    But I would see you like a gypsy, free
    As windy morning in the sunny air,
    Your wild warm self, your vivid self, to be,
    A miracle of nature's liberty,
    Giving your gift of being kind and fair,
    High, gay and careless-handed everywhere!

    Max Eastman

. The Passions of a Child

    THE passions of a child attend his dreams.
    He lives, loves, hopes, remembers, is forlorn
    For legendary creatures, whom he deems
    Not too unreal--until one golden morn
    The gracious, all-awaking sun shines in
    Upon his tranquil pillow, and his eyes
    Are touched, and opened greatly, and begin
    To drink reality with rich surprise.

    I loved the impetuous souls of ancient story--
    Heroic characters, kings, queens, whose wills
    Like empires rose, achieved, and fell, in glory.
    I was a child, until the radiant dawn,
    Thy beauty, woke me--O thy spirit fills
    The stature of those heroes, they are gone!

    Max Eastman

. As the Crag Eagle

    AS THE crag eagle to the zenith's height
    Wings his pursuit in his exalted hour
    Of her the tempest-reared, whose airy power
    Of plume and passion challenges his flight
    To that wild altitude, where they unite,
    In mutual tumultuous victory
    And the swift sting of nature's ecstasy,
    Their shuddering pinions and their skyward might--

    As they, the strong, to the full height of heaven
    Bear up that joy which to the strong is given,
    Thus, thus do we, whose stormy spirits quiver
    In the bold air of utter liberty,
    Clash equal at our highest, I and thee,
    Unconquered and unconquering forever!

    Max Eastman

. To My Father

    THE eastern hill hath scarce unveiled his head,
    And the deliberate sky hath but begun
    To meditate upon a future sun,
    When thou dost rise from thy impatient bed.
    Thy morning prayer unto the stars is said.
    And not unlike a child, the penance done
    Of sleep, thou goest to thy serious fun,
    Exuberant--yet with a whisper tread.

    And when that lord doth to the world appear,
    The jovial sun, he leans on his old hill,
    And levels forth to thee a golden smile--
    Thee in his garden, where each warming year
    Thou toilest in all joy with him, to fill
    And flood the soil with Summer for a while.

    Max Eastman

. To Edward S. Martin, from a Professional Hobo

    [In an editorial in Life, Mr. Martin had described as "professional hoboes" a number of revolutionary agitators whom he did not like--Pancho Villa, William D. Haywood, Wild Joe O'Carroll--and he did me the honor to include me among them. --Max Eastman]

    HOW old, my friend, is that fine-pointed pen
    Wherewith in smiling quietude you trace
    The maiden maxims of your writing-place,
    And on this gripped and mortal-sweating den
    And battle-pit of hunger now and then
    Dip out, with nice and intellectual grace,
    The faultless wisdoms of a nurtured race
    Of pale-eyed, pink, and perfect gentlemen!

    How long have art and wit and poetry,
    With all their power, been content, like you,
    To gild the smiling fineness of the few,
    To filmy-curtain what they dare not see,
    In multitudinous reality,
    The rough and bloody soul of what is true !

    Max Eastman

. Europe--1914

    SINCE Athens died, the life that is a light
    Has never shone in Europe. Alien moods,
    The oriental morbid sanctitudes,
    Have darkened on her like the fear of night.
    In happy augury we dared to guess
    That her pure spirit shot one sunny glance
    Of paganry across the fields of France,
    Clear startling this dim fog of soulfulness.

    But now, with arms and carnage and the cries
    Of Holy Murder, rolling to the clouds
    Her bloody-shadowed smoke of sacrifice,
    The Superstition conquers, and the shrouds
    Of sick black wonder lay their murky blight
    Where shone of old the immortal-seeming light.

    Max Eastman

. Isadora Duncan

    YOU bring the fire and terror of the wars
    Of infidels in thunder-running hordes,
    With spears like sun-rays, shields, and wheeling swords
    Flame shape, death shape and shaped like scimitars,
    With crimson eagles and blue pennantry,
    And teeth and armor flashing, and white eyes
    Of battle horses, and the silver cries
    Of trumpets unto storm and victory!

    Who is this naked-footed lovely girl
    Of summer meadows dancing on the grass?
    So young and tenderly her footsteps pass,
    So dreamy-limbed and lightly wild and warm--
    The bugles murmur and the banners furl,
    And they are lost and vanished like a storm!

    Max Eastman

. The Sun

    NOW autumn, and that sadness as of love
    Heroic in immortal solitude;
    Those veins of flaming passion through the wood;
    But in the blue and infinite above
    A shining circle like the light of truth,
    Self-poising; deathless his desire sublime,
    Whose motion is the measurement of time,
    Whose step is morning, and his smile is youth.

    No passion burns upon the livid earth
    Whose stain can tint that circle, or whose cry
    Can rout the tranquilly receiving sky.
    All passion, all its crimson stream, from birth
    To murder, bloom and pestilential blight,
    All flows beneath the sanction of his light.

    Max Eastman

. The Net

    THE net brings up, how long and languidly,
    A million vivid quiverings of life,
    Keen-finned and gleaming like a steely knife,
    All colors, green and silver of the sea,
    All forms of skill and eagerness to be--
    They die and wither of the very breath
    That sounds your pity of their lavish death
    While they are leaping, star-like, to be free.

    They die and wither, but the agéd sea,
    Insane old salty womb of mystery,
    Is pregnant with a million million more,
    Whom she will suckle in her oozy floor,
    Whom she will vomit on a heedless shore,
    While onward her immortal currents pour.

    Max Eastman

. A Dune Sonnet

    I WAS so lonely on the dunes to-day;
       The shadow of a bird passed o'er the sand,
       And I, a driftwood relic in my hand . . .
    Sea winds are not more lonely when they stray
    A little fitful and bewildered way
       In this wan acre, Whose dry billows stand
       So pitilessly still of curve, so bland,
    And wide, and waiting, infinitely grey.

    In hollows I could almost hear them say,
    The misty breezes--Run, we will not stay
       In this unreal and spiritual land!
       Our soul of life is calling from the strand,
    Whose blue and breathing bosom leapt or lay
    Or laughed to us in shots of silver spray !

    Max Eastman

. Sea-Shore

    THE wind blows in along the sea--
       Its salty wet caresses
    Impart to all the ships that be
       A thrill before it passes.

    The tide is never at a stand,
       A mountain in its motion,
    Forever homing to the land,
       And ever to the ocean.

    And on its fickle, mighty breast
       The waters still are moving,
    With love in every running crest
       And laughter in the loving--

    Light love to touch the prows of ships
       That slip along so slenderly.
    I would as lightly touch your lips,
       And your heart as tenderly,

    If you would move with all that move,
       The flowing and caressing,
    Who have no firmness in their love,
       No sorrow in its passing.

    Max Eastman

. Rainy Song

    DOWN the dripping pathway dancing through the rain,
    Brown eyes of beauty, laugh to me again!

    Eyes full of starlight, moist over fire,
    Full of young wonder, touch my desire!

    O like a brown bird, like a bird's flight,
    Run through the rain drops lithely and light.

    Body like a gypsy, like a wild queen,
    Slim brown dress to slip through the green--

    The little leaves hold you as soft as a child,
    The little path loves you, the path that runs wild.

    Who would not love you, seeing you move,
    Warm-eyed and beautiful through the green grove?

    Let the rain kiss you, trickle through your hair,
    Laugh if my fingers mingle with it there,

    Laugh if my cheek too is misty and drips--
    Wetness is tender--laugh on my lips

    The happy sweet laughter of love without pain,
    Young love, the strong love, burning in the rain.

    Max Eastman

. A Hymn to God in Time of Stress

    LIFT, dark and glorious Wonder,
    Once again thy gleaming sword,
    Cleave this killing doubt asunder
    With one sheer and sacred word!

    For my heart is weak and broken,
    And the struggle runs too high,
    And there is no burning token
    In the new immortal sky.

    Oh, not curb or courage only
    Does my hour demand of me,
    It is thought supreme and lonely
    And responsible and free!

    And I quail before the danger
    As a bark before the blast,
    When the beacon star's a stranger
    In the mountains piling fast,

    And there is no light but reason
    And the compass of the ship.
    God, a word of thine in season!
    God, a motion of thy lip!

    Max Eastman

. Coming Spring

    ICE is marching down the river,
       Gaily out to sea!
    Sunbeams o'er the snow-hills quiver,
       Setting torrents free!

    Yellow are the water-willows,
       Yellow clouds are they,
    Rising where the laden billows
       Swell along their way!

    Arrows of the sun are flying!
       Winter flees the light,
    And his chilly horn is sighing
       All the moisty night!

    Lovers of the balmy weather,
       Lovers of the sun!
    Drifts and duty melt together
       Get your labors done!

    Ice is marching down the river,
       Gaily out to sea!
    Sing the healthy-hearted ever,
       Spring is liberty!

    Max Eastman

. Daisies

    DAISIES, daisies, all surprise!
    Open wide your sunny eyes!
    See the linnet on the wing;
    See the crimson feather!
    See the life in every thing,
    Sun, and wind, and weather!
    Shadow of the passer-by,
    Bare-foot skipping over,
    Meadow where the heifers lie,
    Butter-cup, and clover!
    All is vivid, all is real,
    All is high surprising!
    Ye are pure to see and feel;
    Ye the gift are prizing
    Men and gods would perish for--
    Gods with all their thunder!--
    Could they have the thing ye are,
    Everlasting wonder!

    Max Eastman

. Bobolink

    BRIGHT little bird with a downward wing,
    How many birds within you sing?

    Two or three at the least it seems,
    Overflowing golden streams.

    If I could warble on a wing so strong,
    Filling five acres full of song,

    I'd never sit on the grey rail fence,
    I'd never utter a word of sense,

    I'd float forever in a light blue sky,
    Uttering joy to the passers-by!

    Max Eastman

. Diogenes

    A HUT, and a tree,
    And a hill for me,
    And a piece of a weedy meadow.

    I'll ask no thing,
    Of God or King,
    But to clear away His shadow.

    Max Eastman

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