Rivers to the Sea
Sara Teasdale

Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2000, 2020 S.L. Spanoudis and
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Transcribed for Poets' Corner
July 2000 by S.L.Spanoudis

[This 1915 work is believed to be in the public domain in the US. Please check local restrictions in other geographies.]

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Sara Teasdale


To Ernst


    Part I

    Spring Night

      THE park is filled with night and fog,
      The veils are drawn about the world,
      The drowsy lights along the paths
      Are dim and pearled.

      Gold and gleaming the empty streets,
      Gold and gleaming the misty lake,
      The mirrored lights like sunken swords,
      Glimmer and shake.

      Oh, is it not enough to be
      Here with this beauty over me?
      My throat should ache with praise, and I
      Should kneel in joy beneath the sky.

      Oh, beauty are you not enough?
      Why am I crying after love
      With youth, a singing voice and eyes
      To take earth's wonder with surprise?

      Why have I put off my pride,
      Why am I unsatisfied,
      I for whom the pensive night
      Binds her cloudy hair with light,

      I for whom all beauty burns
      Like incense in a million urns?
      Oh, beauty, are you not enough?
      Why am I crying after love?

    The Flight

      LOOK back with longing eyes and know that I will follow,
      Lift me up in your love as a light wind lifts a swallow,
      Let our flight be far in sun or windy rain--
      But what if I heard my first love calling me again?

      Hold me on your heart as the brave sea holds the foam,
      Take me far away to the hills that hide your home;
      Peace shall thatch the roof and love shall latch the door--

      But what if I heard my first love calling me once more?

    New Love and Old

      IN my heart the old love
      Struggled with the new;
      It was ghostly waking
      All night thru.

      Dear things, kind things,
      That my old love said,
      Ranged themselves reproachfully
      Round my bed.

      But I could not heed them,
      For I seemed to see
      The eyes of my new love
      Fixed on me.

      Old love, old love,
      How can I be true?
      Shall I be faithless to myself
      Or to you?

    The Look

      STREPHON kissed me in the spring,
      Robin in the fall,
      But Colin only looked at me
      And never kissed at all.

      Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
      Robin's lost in play,
      But the kiss in Colin's eyes
      Haunts me night and day.


      IN Central Park the lovers sit,
      On every hilly path they stroll,
      Each thinks his love is infinite,
      And crowns his soul.

      But we are cynical and wise,
      We walk a careful foot apart,
      You make a little joke that tries
      To hide your heart.

      Give over, we have laughed enough;
      Oh dearest and most foolish friend,
      Why do you wage a war with love
      To lose your battle in the end?

    The Lighted Window

      HE said:

      "In the winter dusk
      When the pavements were gleaming with rain,
      I walked thru a dingy street
      Hurried, harassed,
      Thinking of all my problems that never are solved.
      Suddenly out of the mist, a flaring gas-jet
      Shone from a huddled shop.
      I saw thru the bleary window
      A mass of playthings:
      False-faces hung on strings,
      Valentines, paper and tinsel,
      Tops of scarlet and green,
      Candy, marbles, jacks--
      A confusion of color
      Pathetically gaudy and cheap.
      All of my boyhood
      Rushed back.
      Once more these things were treasures
      Wildly desired.
      With covetous eyes I looked again at the marbles,
      The precious agates, the pee-wees, the chinies--
      Then I passed on.

      In the winter dusk,
      The pavements were gleaming with rain;
      There in the lighted window
      I left my boyhood."

    The Kiss

      BEFORE you kissed me only winds of heaven
      Had kissed me, and the tenderness of rain--
      Now you have come, how can I care for kisses
          Like theirs again?

      I sought the sea, she sent her winds to meet me,
      They surged about me singing of the south--
      I turned my head away to keep still holy
          Your kiss upon my mouth.

      And swift sweet rains of shining April weather
      Found not my lips where living kisses are;
      I bowed my head lest they put out my glory
          As rain puts out a star.

      I am my love's and he is mine forever,
      Sealed with a seal and safe forevermore--
      Think you that I could let a beggar enter
          Where a king stood before?


      NIGHT is over the park, and a few brave stars
      Look on the lights that link it with chains of gold,
      The lake bears up their reflection in broken bars
      That seem too heavy for tremulous water to hold.

      We watch the swans that sleep in a shadowy place,
      And now and again one wakes and uplifts its head;
      How still you are--your gaze is on my face--
      We watch the swans and never a word is said.

    The Old Maid

      I SAW her in a Broadway car,
      The woman I might grow to be;
      I felt my lover look at her
      And then turn suddenly to me.

      Her hair was dull and drew no light
      And yet its color was as mine;
      Her eyes were strangely like my eyes
      Tho' love had never made them shine.

      Her body was a thing grown thin,
      Hungry for love that never came;
      Her soul was frozen in the dark
      Unwarmed forever by love's flame.

      I felt my lover look at her
      And then turn suddenly to me,--
      His eyes were magic to defy
      The woman I shall never be.

    From the Woolworth Tower

      VIVID with love, eager for greater beauty
      Out of the night we come
      Into the corridor, brilliant and warm.
      A metal door slides open,
      And the lift receives us.
      Swiftly, with sharp unswerving flight
      The car shoots upward,
      And the air, swirling and angry,
      Howls like a hundred devils.
      Past the maze of trim bronze doors,
      Steadily we ascend.
      I cling to you
      Conscious of the chasm under us,
      And a terrible whirring deafens my ears.

      The flight is ended.

      We pass thru a door leading onto the ledge--
      Wind, night and space
      Oh terrible height
      Why have we sought you?
      Oh bitter wind with icy invisible wings
      Why do you beat us?
      Why would you bear us away?
      We look thru the miles of air,
      The cold blue miles between us and the city,
      Over the edge of eternity we look
      On all the lights,
      A thousand times more numerous than the stars;
      Oh lines and loops of light in unwound chains
      That mark for miles and miles
      The vast black mazy cobweb of the streets;
      Near us clusters and splashes of living gold
      That change far off to bluish steel
      Where the fragile lights on the Jersey shore
      Tremble like drops of wind-stirred dew.
      The strident noises of the city
      Floating up to us
      Are hallowed into whispers.
      Ferries cross thru the darkness
      Weaving a golden thread into the night,
      Their whistles weird shadows of sound.

      We feel the millions of humanity beneath us,--
      The warm millions, moving under the roofs,
      Consumed by their own desires;
      Preparing food,
      Sobbing alone in a garret,
      With burning eyes bending over a needle,
      Aimlessly reading the evening paper,
      Dancing in the naked light of the café,
      Laying out the dead,
      Bringing a child to birth--
      The sorrow, the torpor, the bitterness, the frail joy
      Come up to us
      Like a cold fog wrapping us round.
      Oh in a hundred years
      Not one of these blood-warm bodies
      But will be worthless as clay.
      The anguish, the torpor, the toil
      Will have passed to other millions
      Consumed by the same desires.
      Ages will come and go,
      Darkness will blot the lights
      And the tower will be laid on the earth.
      The sea will remain
      Black and unchanging,
      The stars will look down
      Brilliant and unconcerned.

      Tho' sorrow, futility, defeat
      Surround us,
      They cannot bear us down.
      Here on the abyss of eternity
      Love has crowned us
      For a moment

    At Night

      WE are apart; the city grows quiet between us,
      She hushes herself, for midnight makes heavy her eyes,
      The tangle of traffic is ended, the cars are empty,
      Five streets divide us, and on them the moonlight lies.

      Oh are you asleep, or Iying awake, my lover?
      Open your dreams to my love and your heart to my words,
      I send you my thoughts-the air between us is laden,
      My thoughts fly in at your window, a flock of wild birds.

    To the Years

      TO-NIGHT I close my eyes and see
      A strange procession passing me--
      The years before I saw your face
      Go by me with a wistful grace;
      They pass, the sensitive shy years,
      As one who strives to dance, half blind with tears.

      The years went by and never knew
      That each one brought me nearer you;
      Their path was narrow and apart
      And yet it led me to your heart--
      Oh sensitive shy years, oh lonely years,
      That strove to sing with voices drowned in tears.


      PEACE flows into me
         AS the tide to the pool by the shore;
         It is mine forevermore,
      It ebbs not back like the sea.

      I am the pool of blue
         That worships the vivid sky;
         My hopes were heaven-high,
      They are all fulfilled in you.

      I am the pool of gold
         When sunset burns and dies,--
         You are my deepening skies,
      Give me your stars to hold.


      THE roofs are shining from the rain,
      The sparrows twitter as they fly,
      And with a windy April grace
      The little clouds go by.

      Yet the back-yards are bare and brown
      With only one unchanging tree--
      I could not be so sure of Spring
      Save that it sings in me.


      COME, when the pale moon like a petal
      Floats in the pearly dusk of spring,
      Come with arms outstretched to take me,
      Come with lips pursed up to cling.

      Come, for life is a frail moth flying
      Caught in the web of the years that pass,
      And soon we two, so warm and eager
      Will be as the gray stones in the grass.


      I AM the still rain falling,
      Too tired for singing mirth--
      Oh, be the green fields calling,
      Oh, be for me the earth!

      I am the brown bird pining
      To leave the nest and fly--
      Oh, be the fresh cloud shining,
      Oh, be for me the sky!

    April Song

      WILLOW in your April gown
      Delicate and gleaming,
      Do you mind in years gone by
      All my dreaming?

      Spring was like a call to me
      That I could not answer,
      I was chained to loneliness,
      I, the dancer.

      Willow, twinkling in the sun,
      Still your leaves and hear me,
      I can answer spring at last,
      Love is near me!

    May Day

      THE shining line of motors,
      The swaying motor-bus,
      The prancing dancing horses
      Are passing by for us.

      The sunlight on the steeple,
      The toys we stop to see,
      The smiling passing people
      Are all for you and me.

      "I love you and I love you!"--
      "And oh, I love you, too!"--
      "All of the flower girl's lilies
      Were only grown for you!"

      Fifth Avenue and April
      And love and lack of care--
      The world is mad with music
      Too beautiful to bear.


      I WEAR a crown invisible and clear,
      And go my lifted royal way apart
      Since you have crowned me softly in your heart
      With love that is half ardent, half austere;
      And as a queen disguised might pass anear
      The bitter crowd that barters in a mart,
      Veiling her pride while tears of pity start,
      I hide my glory thru a jealous fear.
      My crown shall stay a sweet and secret thing
      Kept pure with prayer at evensong and morn,
      And when you come to take it from my head,
      I shall not weep, nor will a word be said,
      But I shall kneel before you, oh my king,
      And bind my brow forever with a thorn.

    To a Castilian Song

      WE held the book together timidly,
      Whose antique music in an alien tongue
      Once rose among the dew-drenched vines that hung
      Beneath a high Castilian balcony.
      I felt the lute strings' ancient ecstasy,
      And while he read, my love-filled heart was stung,
      And throbbed, as where an ardent bird has clung
      The branches tremble on a blossomed tree.
      Oh lady for whose sake the song was made,
      Laid long ago in some still cypress shade,
      Divided from the man who longed for thee,
      Here in a land whose name he never heard,
      His song brought love as April brings the bird,
      And not a breath divides my love from me!


      THIS is the quiet hour; the theaters
      Have gathered in their crowds, and steadily
      The million lights blaze on for few to see,
      Robbing the sky of stars that should be hers.
      A woman waits with bag and shabby furs,
      A somber man drifts by, and only we
      Pass up the street unwearied, warm and free,
      For over us the olden magic stirs.
      Beneath the liquid splendor of the lights
      We live a little ere the charm is spent;
      This night is ours, of all the golden nights,
      The pavement an enchanted palace floor,
      And Youth the player on the viol, who sent
      A strain of music thru an open door.

    A Winter Bluejay

      CRISPLY the bright snow whispered,
      Crunching beneath our feet;
      Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
      Our shadows danced,
      Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
      Across the lake the skaters
      Flew to and fro,
      With sharp turns weaving
      A frail invisible net.
      In ecstasy the earth
      Drank the silver sunlight;
      In ecstasy the skaters
      Drank the wine of speed;
      In ecstasy we laughed
      Drinking the wine of love.
      Had not the music of our joy
      Sounded its highest note?
      But no,
      For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
      "Oh look!"
      There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
      Fearless and gay as our love,
      A bluejay cocked his crest!
      Oh who can tell the range of joy
      Or set the bounds of beauty?

    In a Restaurant

      THE darkened street was muffled with the snow,
      The falling flakes had made your shoulders white,
      And when we found a shelter from the night
      Its glamor fell upon us like a blow.
      The clash of dishes and the viol and bow
      Mingled beneath the fever of the light.
      The heat was full of savors, and the bright
      Laughter of women lured the wine to flow.
      A little child ate nothing while she sat
      Watching a woman at a table there
      Lean to a kiss beneath a drooping hat.
      The hour went by, we rose and turned to go,
      The somber street received us from the glare,
      And once more on your shoulders fell the snow.


      I AM wild, I will sing to the trees,
      I will sing to the stars in the sky,
      I love, I am loved, he is mine,
      Now at last I can die!

      I am sandaled with wind and with flame,
      I have heart-fire and singing to give,
      I can tread on the grass or the stars,
      Now at last I can live!

    In a Railroad Station

      WE stood in the shrill electric light,
      Dumb and sick in the whirling din
      We who had all of love to say
      And a single second to say it in.

      "Good-by!" "Good-by!"--you turned to go,
      I felt the train's slow heavy start,
      You thought to see me cry, but oh
      My tears were hidden in my heart.

    In the Train

      FIELDS beneath a quilt of snow
      From which the rocks and stubble peep,
      And in the west a shy white star
      That shivers as it wakes from sleep.

      The restless rumble of the train,
      The drowsy people in the car,
      Steel blue twilight in the world,
      And in my heart a timid star.

    To One Away

      I HEARD a cry in the night,
      A thousand miles it came,
      Sharp as a flash of light,
      My name, my name!

      It was your voice I heard,
      You waked and loved me so--
      I send you back this word,
      I know, I know!


      Love me with your whole heart
      Or give no love to me,

      Half-love is a poor thing,
      Neither bond nor free.

      You must love me gladly
      Soul and body too,

      Or else find a new love,
      And good-by to you.

    Deep in the Night

      DEEP in the night the cry of a swallow,
      Under the stars he flew,
      Keen as pain was his call to follow
      Over the world to you.

      Love in my heart is a cry forever
      Lost as the swallow's flight,
      Seeking for you and never, never
      Stilled by the stars at night.

    The India Wharf

      HERE in the velvet stillness
      The wide sown fields fall to the faint horizon,
      Sleeping in starlight. . . .

      A year ago we walked in the jangling city
      Together . . . . forgetful.
      One by one we crossed the avenues,
      Rivers of light, roaring in tumult,
      And came to the narrow, knotted streets.
      Thru the tense crowd
      We went aloof, ecstatic, walking in wonder,
      Unconscious of our motion.
      Forever the foreign people with dark, deep-seeing eyes
      Passed us and passed.
      Lights and foreign words and foreign faces,
      I forgot them all;
      I only felt alive, defiant of all death and sorrow,
      Sure and elated.

      That was the gift you gave me. . . .

      The streets grew still more tangled,
      And led at last to water black and glossy,
      Flecked here and there with lights, faint and far off.
      There on a shabby building was a sign
      "The India Wharf " . . . and we turned back.

      I always felt we could have taken ship
      And crossed the bright green seas
      To dreaming cities set on sacred streams
      And palaces
      Of ivory and scarlet.

    I Shall Not Care

      WHEN I am dead and over me bright April
      Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
      Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted,
      I shall not care.

      I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
      When rain bends down the bough,
      And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
      Than you are now.

    Desert Pools

      I LOVE too much; I am a river
      Surging with spring that seeks the sea,
      I am too generous a giver,
      Love will not stoop to drink of me.

      His feet will turn to desert places
      Shadowless, reft of rain and dew,
      Where stars stare down with sharpened faces
      From heavens pitilessly blue.

      And there at midnight sick with faring,
      He will stoop down in his desire
      To slake the thirst grown past all bearing
      In stagnant water keen as fire.


      I AM not sorry for my soul
      That it must go unsatisfied,
      For it can live a thousand times,
      Eternity is deep and wide.

      I am not sorry for my soul,
      But oh, my body that must go
      Back to a little drift of dust
      Without the joy it longed to know.


      THEY never saw my lover's face,
      They only know our love was brief,
      Wearing awhile a windy grace
      And passing like an autumn leaf.

      They wonder why I do not weep,
      They think it strange that I can sing,
      They say, "Her love was scarcely deep
      Since it has left so slight a sting."

      They never saw my love, nor knew
      That in my heart's most secret place
      I pity them as angels do
      Men who have never seen God's face.

    After Parting

      OH I have sown my love so wide
      That he will find it everywhere;
      It will awake him in the night,
      It will enfold him in the air.

      I set my shadow in his sight
      And I have winged it with desire,
      That it may be a cloud by day
      And in the night a shaft of fire.


      IT is enough for me by day
      To walk the same bright earth with him;
      Enough that over us by night
      The same great roof of stars is dim.

      I have no care to bind the wind
      Or set a fetter on the sea--
      It is enough to feel his love
      Blow by like music over me.


      I LIFT my heart as spring lifts up
      A yellow daisy to the rain;
      My heart will be a lovely cup
      Altho' it holds but pain.

      For I shall learn from flower and leaf
      That color every drop they hold,
      To change the lifeless wine of grief
      To living gold.


      THEY spoke of him I love
      With cruel words and gay;
      My lips kept silent guard
      On all I could not say.

      I heard, and down the street
      The lonely trees in the square
      Stood in the winter wind
      Patient and bare.

      I heard . . . oh voiceless trees
      Under the wind, I knew
      The eager terrible spring
      Hidden in you.


      I WENT out on an April morning
      All alone, for my heart was high,
      I was a child of the shining meadow,
      I was a sister of the sky.

      There in the windy flood of morning
      Longing lifted its weight from me,
      Lost as a sob in the midst of cheering,
      Swept as a sea-bird out to sea.

    May Night

      THE spring is fresh and fearless
      And every leaf is new,
      The world is brimmed with moonlight,
      The lilac brimmed with dew.

      Here in the moving shadows
      I catch my breath and sing--
      My heart is fresh and fearless
      And over-brimmed with spring.

    Dusk in June

      EVENING, and all the birds
      In a chorus of shimmering sound
      Are easing their hearts of joy
      For miles around.

      The air is blue and sweet,
      The few first stars are white,--
      Oh let me like the birds
      Sing before night.


      I AM free of love as a bird flying south in the autumn,
      Swift and intent, asking no joy from another,
      Glad to forget all of the passion of April
      Ere it was love-free.

      I am free of love, and I listen to music lightly,
      But if he returned, if he should look at me deeply,
      I should awake, I should awake and remember
      I am my lover's.

    Summer Night, Riverside

      IN the wild soft summer darkness
      How many and many a night we two together
      Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
      Wearing her lights like golden spangles
      Glinting on black satin.
      The rail along the curving pathway
      Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
      And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
      Sheltered us
      While your kisses and the flowers,
      Falling, falling,
      Tangled my hair. . . .

      The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.

      And now, far off
      In the fragrant darkness
      The tree is tremulous again with bloom
      For June comes back.

      To-night what girl
      When she goes home,
      Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
      This year's blossoms, clinging in its coils ?

    In a Subway Station

      AFTER a year I came again to the place;
      The tireless lights and the reverberation,
      The angry thunder of trains that burrow the ground,
      The hunted, hurrying people were still the same--
      But oh, another man beside me and not you!
      Another voice and other eyes in mine!
      And suddenly I turned and saw again
      The gleaming curve of tracks, the bridge above--
      They were burned deep into my heart before,
      The night I watched them to avoid your eyes,
      When you were saying, "Oh, look up at me!"
      When you were saying, "Will you never love me?"
      And when I answered with a lie. Oh then
      You dropped your eyes. I felt your utter pain.
      I would have died to say the truth to you.
      After a year I came again to the place--
      The hunted hurrying people were still the same....

    After Love

      THERE is no magic when we meet,
      We speak as other people do,
      You work no miracle for me
      Nor I for you.

      You were the wind and I the sea--
      There is no splendor any more,
      I have grown listless as the pool
      Beside the shore.

      But tho' the pool is safe from storm
      And from the tide has found surcease,
      It grows more bitter than the sea,
      For all its peace.

    Dooryard Roses

      I HAVE come the selfsame path
      To the selfsame door,
      Years have left the roses there
      Burning as before.

      While I watch them in the wind
      Quick the hot tears start--
      Strange so frail a flame outlasts
      Fire in the heart.

    A Prayer

      UNTIL I lose my soul and lie
      Blind to the beauty of the earth,
      Deaf tho' a lyric wind goes by,
      Dumb in a storm of mirth;

      Until my heart is quenched at length
      And I have left the land of men,
      Oh let me love with all my strength
      Careless if I am loved again.

    On to the next poem.

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