Love Songs
Sara Teasdale

Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2000, 2020 S.L. Spanoudis and
All rights reserved worldwide.

Transcribed for Poets' Corner
July 2000 by S.L.Spanoudis

[This 1917 work is believed to be in the public domain in the US. Please check local restrictions in other geographies.]

[Editor's Note: This book, as originally published, contains many selections taken from two of Teasdale's previous works, Rivers to the Sea and Helen of Troy and Other Poems. Only a few of these poems are included in this online version, primarily in cases where Teasdale made slight changes from earlier versions. Note that she left instructions for only about 15 of the works from sections I and III be included in her Collected Poems. Modifications are individually noted for each poem. -- Steve]

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Sara Teasdale
Love Songs

by Sara Teasdale

To E.


    Part II

    Interlude: Songs out of Sorrow

    I. Spirit's House

      FROM naked stones of agony
      I will build a house for me;
      As a mason all alone
      I will raise it, stone by stone,
      And every stone where I have bled
      Will show a sign of dusky red.
      I have not gone the way in vain,
      For I have good of all my pain;
      My spirit's quiet house will be
      Built of naked stones I trod
      On roads where I lost sight of God.

    II. Mastery

      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.

    III. Lessons

      UNLESS I learn to ask no help
           From any other soul but mine,
      To seek no strength in waving reeds
           Nor shade beneath a straggling pine;
      Unless I learn to look at Grief
           Unshrinking from her tear-blind eyes,
      And take from Pleasure fearlessly
           Whatever gifts will make me wise --
      Unless I learn these things on earth,
      Why was I ever given birth?

    IV. Wisdom

      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.

    V. In a Burying Ground

      This is the spot where I will lie
           When life has had enough of me,
      These are the grasses that will blow
           Above me like a living sea.

      These gay old lilies will not shrink
           To draw their life from death of mine,
      And I will give my body's fire
           To make blue flowers on this vine.

      "O Soul," I said, "have you no tears?
           Was not the body dear to you?"
      I heard my soul say carelessly,
           "The myrtle flowers will grow more blue."

    VI. Wood Song

      I HEARD a wood thrush in the dusk
           Twirl three notes and make a star --
      My heart that walked with bitterness
           Came back from very far.

      Three shining notes were all he had,
           And yet they made a starry call --
      I caught life back against my breast
           And kissed it, scars and all.


      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.

    On to the next poem.

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