Flame and Shadow
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 1920 work is believed to be in the public domain in the US. Please check local restrictions in other geographies.]

Click to return to Poets' Corner
Sara Teasdale
Flame and Shadow

by Sara Teasdale

To E.

"Recois la flamme ou l'ombre
De tous mes jours."


    Part V

    Spring Torrents

      Will it always be like this until I am dead,
      Every spring must I bear it all again
      With the first red haze of the budding maple boughs,
      And the first sweet-smelling rain?

      Oh I am like a rock in the rising river
      Where the flooded water breaks with a low call --
      Like a rock that knows the cry of the waters
      And cannot answer at all.

    I Know the Stars

      I know the stars by their names,
      Aldebaran, Altair,
      And I know the path they take
      Up heaven's broad blue stair.

      I know the secrets of men
      By the look of their eyes,
      Their gray thoughts, their strange thoughts
      Have made me sad and wise.

      But your eyes are dark to me
      Though they seem to call and call --
      I cannot tell if you love me
      Or do not love me at all.

      I know many things,
      But the years come and go,
      I shall die not knowing
      The thing I long to know.


      I understood the rest too well,
      And all their thoughts have come to be
      Clear as grey sea-weed in the swell
      Of a sunny shallow sea.

      But you I never understood,
      Your spirit's secret hides like gold
      Sunk in a Spanish galleon
      Ages ago in waters cold.


      We will never walk again
      As we used to walk at night,
      Watching our shadows lengthen
      Under the gold street-light
      When the snow was new and white.

      We will never walk again
      Slowly, we two,
      In spring when the park is sweet
      With midnight and with dew,
      And the passers-by are few.

      I sit and think of it all,
      And the blue June twilight dies, --
      Down in the clanging square
      A street-piano cries
      And stars come out in the skies.

    It Is Not a Word

      It is not a word spoken,
      Few words are said;
      Nor even a look of the eyes
      Nor a bend of the head,
      But only a hush of the heart
      That has too much to keep,
      Only memories waking
      That sleep so light a sleep.

    My Heart Is Heavy

      My heart is heavy with many a song
      Like ripe fruit bearing down the tree,
      But I can never give you one --
      My songs do not belong to me.

      Yet in the evening, in the dusk
      When moths go to and fro,
      In the gray hour if the fruit has fallen,
      Take it, no one will know.

    The Nights Remember

      The days remember and the nights remember
      The kingly hours that once you made so great,
      Deep in my heart they lie, hidden in their splendor,
      Buried like sovereigns in their robes of state.

      Let them not wake again, better to lie there,
      Wrapped in memories, jewelled and arrayed --
      Many a ghostly king has waked from death-sleep
      And found his crown stolen and his throne decayed.

    Let It Be Forgotten

      Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
      Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
      Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
      Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

      If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
      Long and long ago,
      As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
      In a long forgotten snow.

    Part VI: The Dark Cup

    May Day

      A delicate fabric of bird song
      Floats in the air,
      The smell of wet wild earth
      Is everywhere.

      Red small leaves of the maple
      Are clenched like a hand,
      Like girls at their first communion
      The pear trees stand.

      Oh I must pass nothing by
      Without loving it much,
      The raindrop try with my lips,
      The grass with my touch;

      For how can I be sure
      I shall see again
      The world on the first of May
      Shining after the rain?

    Since There Is No Escape

      Since there is no escape, since at the end
      My body will be utterly destroyed,
      This hand I love as I have loved a friend,
      This body I tended, wept with and enjoyed;
      Since there is no escape even for me
      Who love life with a love too sharp to bear:
      The scent of orchards in the rain, the sea
      And hours alone too still and sure for prayer --
      Since darkness waits for me, then all the more
      Let me go down as waves sweep to the shore
      In pride; and let me sing with my last breath;
      In these few hours of light I lift my head;
      Life is my lover -- I shall leave the dead
      If there is any way to baffle death.

    The Dreams of My Heart

      The dreams of my heart and my mind pass,
      Nothing stays with me long,
      But I have had from a child
      The deep solace of song;

      If that should ever leave me,
      Let me find death and stay
      With things whose tunes are played out and forgotten
      Like the rain of yesterday.

    A Little While

      A little while when I am gone
      My life will live in music after me,
      As spun foam lifted and borne on
      After the wave is lost in the full sea.

      A while these nights and days will burn
      In song with the bright frailty of foam,
      Living in light before they turn
      Back to the nothingness that is their home.

    The Garden

      My heart is a garden tired with autumn,
      Heaped with bending asters and dahlias heavy and dark,
      In the hazy sunshine, the garden remembers April,
      The drench of rains and a snow-drop quick and clear as a spark;

      Daffodils blowing in the cold wind of morning,
      And golden tulips, goblets holding the rain --
      The garden will be hushed with snow, forgotten soon, forgotten --
      After the stillness, will spring come again?

    The Wine

      I cannot die, who drank delight
      From the cup of the crescent moon,
      And hungrily as men eat bread,
      Loved the scented nights of June.

      The rest may die -- but is there not
      Some shining strange escape for me
      Who sought in Beauty the bright wine
      Of immortality?

    In A Cuban Garden

      Hibiscus flowers are cups of fire,
      (Love me, my lover, life will not stay)
      The bright poinsettia shakes in the wind,
      A scarlet leaf is blowing away.

      A lizard lifts his head and listens --
      Kiss me before the noon goes by,
      Here in the shade of the ceiba hide me
      From the great black vulture circling the sky.

    If I Must Go

      If I must go to heaven's end
      Climbing the ages like a stair,
      Be near me and forever bend
      With the same eyes above me there;
      Time will fly past us like leaves flying,
      We shall not heed, for we shall be
      Beyond living, beyond dying,
      Knowing and known unchangeably.

    Part VII

    In Spring, Santa Barbara

      I have been happy two weeks together,
      My love is coming home to me,
      Gold and silver is the weather
      And smooth as lapis is the sea.

      The earth has turned its brown to green
      After three nights of humming rain,
      And in the valleys peck and preen
      Linnets with a scarlet stain.

      High in the mountains all alone
      The wild swans whistle on the lakes,
      But I have been as still as stone,
      My heart sings only when it breaks.

    White Fog

      Heaven-invading hills are drowned
      In wide moving waves of mist,
      Phlox before my door are wound
      In dripping wreaths of amethyst.

      Ten feet away the solid earth
      Changes into melting cloud,
      There is a hush of pain and mirth,
      No bird has heart to speak aloud.

      Here in a world without a sky,
      Without the ground, without the sea,
      The one unchanging thing is I,
      Myself remains to comfort me.


      Arcturus brings the spring back
      As surely now as when
      He rose on eastern islands
      For Grecian girls and men;

      The twilight is as clear a blue,
      The star as shaken and as bright,
      And the same thought he gave to them
      He gives to me to-night.


      It will not hurt me when I am old,
      A running tide where moonlight burned
      Will not sting me like silver snakes;
      The years will make me sad and cold,
      It is the happy heart that breaks.

      The heart asks more than life can give,
      When that is learned, then all is learned;
      The waves break fold on jewelled fold,
      But beauty itself is fugitive,
      It will not hurt me when I am old.

    Morning Song

      A diamond of a morning
      Waked me an hour too soon;
      Dawn had taken in the stars
      And left the faint white moon.

      O white moon, you are lonely,
      It is the same with me,
      But we have the world to roam over,
      Only the lonely are free.

    Gray Fog

      A fog drifts in, the heavy laden
      Cold white ghost of the sea --
      One by one the hills go out,
      The road and the pepper-tree.

      I watch the fog float in at the window
      With the whole world gone blind,
      Everything, even my longing, drowses,
      Even the thoughts in my mind.

      I put my head on my hands before me,
      There is nothing left to be done or said,
      There is nothing to hope for, I am tired,
      And heavy as the dead.


      At six o'clock of an autumn dusk
      With the sky in the west a rusty red,
      The bells of the mission down in the valley
      Cry out that the day is dead.

      The first star pricks as sharp as steel --
      Why am I suddenly so cold?
      Three bells, each with a separate sound
      Clang in the valley, wearily tolled.

      Bells in Venice, bells at sea,
      Bells in the valley heavy and slow --
      There is no place over the crowded world
      Where I can forget that the days go.

    Lovely Chance

      O lovely chance, what can I do
      To give my gratefulness to you?
      You rise between myself and me
      With a wise persistency;
      I would have broken body and soul,
      But by your grace, still I am whole.
      Many a thing you did to save me,
      Many a holy gift you gave me,
      Music and friends and happy love
      More than my dearest dreaming of;
      And now in this wide twilight hour
      With earth and heaven a dark, blue flower,
      In a humble mood I bless
      Your wisdom -- and your waywardness.
      You brought me even here, where I
      Live on a hill against the sky
      And look on mountains and the sea
      And a thin white moon in the pepper tree.

    Part VIII

    "There Will Come Soft Rains"

      (War Time)

      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.

    In A Garden

      The world is resting without sound or motion,
      Behind the apple tree the sun goes down
      Painting with fire the spires and the windows
      In the elm-shaded town.

      Beyond the calm Connecticut the hills lie
      Silvered with haze as fruits still fresh with bloom,
      The swallows weave in flight across the zenith
      On an aerial loom.

      Into the garden peace comes back with twilight,
      Peace that since noon had left the purple phlox,
      The heavy-headed asters, the late roses
      And swaying hollyhocks.

      For at high-noon I heard from this same garden
      The far-off murmur as when many come;
      Up from the village surged the blind and beating
      Red music of a drum;

      And the hysterical sharp fife that shattered
      The brittle autumn air,
      While they came, the young men marching
      Past the village square. . . .

      Across the calm Connecticut the hills change
      To violet, the veils of dusk are deep --
      Earth takes her children's many sorrows calmly
      And stills herself to sleep.


      Bowed as an elm under the weight of its beauty,
      So earth is bowed, under her weight of splendor,
      Molten sea, richness of leaves and the burnished
      Bronze of sea-grasses.

      Clefts in the cliff shelter the purple sand-peas
      And chicory flowers bluer than the ocean
      Flinging its foam high, white fire in sunshine,
      Jewels of water.

      Joyous thunder of blown waves on the ledges,
      Make me forget war and the dark war-sorrow --
      Against the sky a sentry paces the sea-cliff
      Slim in his khaki.

    Winter Stars

      I went out at night alone;
      The young blood flowing beyond the sea
      Seemed to have drenched my spirit's wings --
      I bore my sorrow heavily.

      But when I lifted up my head
      From shadows shaken on the snow,
      I saw Orion in the east
      Burn steadily as long ago.

      From windows in my father's house,
      Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
      I watched Orion as a girl
      Above another city's lights.

      Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
      The world's heart breaks beneath its wars,
      All things are changed, save in the east
      The faithful beauty of the stars.

    A Boy

      Out of the noise of tired people working,
      Harried with thoughts of war and lists of dead,
      His beauty met me like a fresh wind blowing,
      Clean boyish beauty and high-held head.

      Eyes that told secrets, lips that would not tell them,
      Fearless and shy the young unwearied eyes --
      Men die by millions now, because God blunders,
      Yet to have made this boy he must be wise.

    Winter Dusk

      I watch the great clear twilight
      Veiling the ice-bowed trees;
      Their branches tinkle faintly
      With crystal melodies.

      The larches bend their silver
      Over the hush of snow;
      One star is lighted in the west,
      Two in the zenith glow.

      For a moment I have forgotten
      Wars and women who mourn --
      I think of the mother who bore me
      And thank her that I was born.

    On to the next poem.

Poets' Corner - Home . The Other Pages

©1994-2020 Poets' Corner Editorial Staff, All Rights Reserved Worldwide