Nox Oculis

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Sara Trevor Teasdale est née à St. Louis, au Missouri, le 8 août 1884, dans une famille établie et dévote. Elle fut éduquée à la maison jusqu'à l'âge de 9 ans puis dans une école privée, Hosmer Hall. Elle se rendit souvent à Chicago, où elle devint une habituée du magazine Poetry et du cercle de Harriet Monroe. En 1905, elle voyagea en Europe. Elle publia son premier poème en mai 1907, dans l'hebdomadaire de St. Louis, le Reedy's Mirror, et son premier recueil, Sonnets to Duse, and Other Poems la même année. Elle maria l'homme d'affaires Ernst B. Filsinger le 19 décembre 1914 ; elle avait auparavant rejeté les avances de plusieurs prétendants, y compris le poète Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931). Elle suivit son époux à New York en 1916. En 1918, elle reçut le prix annuel de la Poetry Society of America pour son volume Love Songs, et le prix de la Columbia University Poetry Society, précurseur du prix Pulitzer pour la poésie. Dans la décennie qui suivit, elle publia plusieurs recueils de poésie. Son mariage se termina par un divorce en 1929. Elle vécut ensuite en semi-invalide. Affaiblie par la pneumonie, elle se suicida à New York le 29 janvier 1933, avec une surdose de barbituriques, à l'âge de 48 ans.

Les poèmes de Teasdale sont souvent courts, d'une simplicité classique et d'une intensité tranquille chargée d'un lyrisme personnel. Les poèmes qui suivirent son divorce montrent une grande force de caractère et reflètent la souffrance de l'abandon et de la solitude. Ses dernières oeuvres affichent une finesse croissante et une grande subtilité poétiques.


    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.

    Sara Teasdale

Arcturus in Autumn

    When, in the gold October dusk, I saw you near to setting,
    Arcturus, bringer of spring,
    Lord of the summer nights, leaving us now in autumn,
    Having no pity on our withering ;

    Oh, then I knew at last that my own autumn was upon me,
    I felt it in my blood,
    Restless as dwindling streams that still remember
    The music of their flood.
    There in the thickening dark a wind-bent tree above me
    Loosed its last leaves in flight --
    I saw you sink and vanish, pitiless Arcturus,
    You will not stay to share our lengthening night.

    Sara Teasdale, 1926

August Moonrise

    The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
    Over the blue Connecticut hills ;
    The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
    And over my head the swallows rushed
    This way and that, with changeful wills.

    I heard them twitter and watched them dart
    Now together and now apart
    Like dark petals blown from a tree ;
    The maples stamped against the west
    Were black and stately and full of rest,

    And the hazy orange moon grew up
    And slowly changed to yellow gold
    While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
    To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.

    Down the hill I went, and then
    I forgot the ways of men,
    For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
    Wakened ecstasy in me
    On the brink of a shining pool.

    O Beauty, out of many a cup
    You have made me drunk and wild
    Ever since I was a child,
    But when have I been sure as now
    That no bitterness can bend
    And no sorrow wholly bow
    One who loves you to the end ?
    And though I must give my breath
    And my laughter all to death,
    And my eyes through which joy came,

    And my heart, a wavering flame ;
    If all must leave me and go back
    Along a blind and fearful track
    So that you can make anew,
    Fusing with intenser fire,
    Something nearer your desire ;

    If my soul must go alone
    Through a cold infinity,
    Or even if it vanish, too,
    Beauty, I have worshipped you.

    Let this single hour atone
    For the theft of all of me.

    Sara Teasdale

The Crystal Gazer

    I shall gather myself into myself again,
    I shall take my scattered selves and make them one,
    I shall fuse them into a polished crystal ball
    Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.

    I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent,
    Watching the future come and the present go --
    And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
    In tiny self-importance to and fro.

    Sara Teasdale

The Falling Star

    I saw a star slide down the sky.
    Blinding the north as it went by.
    Too burning and too quick to hold.
    Too lovely to be bought or sold.
    Good only to make wishes on.
    And then forever to be gone.

    Sara Teasdale

February Twilight

    I stood beside a hill
    Smooth with new-laid snow,
    A single star looked out
    From the cold evening glow.

    There was no other creature
    That saw what I could see --
    I stood and watched the evening star
    As long as it watched me.

    Sara Teasdale

"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.

    Sara Teasdale

In the Train

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

    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.

    Sara Teasdale, 1915


    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 !

    Sara Teasdale, 1915


    One by one, like leaves from a tree,
    All my faiths have forsaken me ;
    But the stars above my head
    Burn in white and delicate red,
    And beneath my feet the earth
    Brings the sturdy grass to birth.
    I who was content to be
    But a silken-singing tree,
    But a rustle of delight
    In the wistful heart of night --
    I have lost the leaves that knew
    Touch of rain and weight of dew.
    Blinded by a leafy crown
    I looked neither up nor down --
    But the little leaves that die
    Have left me room to see the sky ;
    Now for the first time I know
    Stars above and earth below.

    Sara Teasdale

Moon's Ending

    Moon, worn thin to the width of a quill,
    Into the dawn clouds flying,
    How good to go, light into light, and still
    Giving light, dying.

    Sara Teasdale


    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.

    Sara Teasdale

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.

    Sara Teasdale

The New Moon

    Day, you have bruised and beaten me,
    As rain beats down the bright, proud sea,
    Beaten my body, bruised my soul,
    Left me nothing lovely or whole --
    Yet I have wrested a gift from you,
    Day that dies in dusky blue :

    For suddenly over the factories
    I saw a moon in the cloudy seas --
    A wisp of beauty all alone
    In a world as hard and gray as stone --
    Oh who could be bitter and want to die
    When a maiden moon wakes up in the sky ?

    Sara Teasdale

Night in Arizona

    The moon is a charring ember
    Dying into the dark ;
    Off in the crouching mountains
    Coyotes bark.

    The stars are heavy in heaven,
    Too great for the sky to hold --
    What if they fell and shattered
    The earth with gold ?

    No lights are over the mesa,
    The wind is hard and wild,
    I stand at the darkened window
    And cry like a child.

    Sara Teasdale, 1915


    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.

    Sara Teasdale

A November Night

    There ! See the line of lights,
    A chain of stars down either side the street --
    Why can't you lift the chain and give it to me,
    A necklace for my throat ? I'd twist it round
    And you could play with it. You smile at me
    As though I were a little dreamy child
    Behind whose eyes the fairies live. . . . And see,
    The people on the street look up at us
    All envious. We are a king and queen,
    Our royal carriage is a motor bus,
    We watch our subjects with a haughty joy. . . .
    How still you are ! Have you been hard at work
    And are you tired to-night ? It is so long
    Since I have seen you -- four whole days, I think.
    My heart is crowded full of foolish thoughts
    Like early flowers in an April meadow,
    And I must give them to you, all of them,
    Before they fade. The people I have met,
    The play I saw, the trivial, shifting things
    That loom too big or shrink too little, shadows
    That hurry, gesturing along a wall,
    Haunting or gay -- and yet they all grow real
    And take their proper size here in my heart
    When you have seen them. . . . There's the Plaza now,
    A lake of light ! To-night it almost seems
    That all the lights are gathered in your eyes,
    Drawn somehow toward you. See the open park
    Lying below us with a million lamps
    Scattered in wise disorder like the stars.
    We look down on them as God must look down
    On constellations floating under Him
    Tangled in clouds. . . . Come, then, and let us walk
    Since we have reached the park. It is our garden,
    All black and blossomless this winter night,
    But we bring April with us, you and I ;
    We set the whole world on the trail of spring.
    I think that every path we ever took
    Has marked our footprints in mysterious fire,
    Delicate gold that only fairies see.
    When they wake up at dawn in hollow tree-trunks
    And come out on the drowsy park, they look
    Along the empty paths and say, "Oh, here
    They went, and here, and here, and here ! Come, see,
    Here is their bench, take hands and let us dance
    About it in a windy ring and make
    A circle round it only they can cross
    When they come back again !" . . . Look at the lake --
    Do you remember how we watched the swans
    That night in late October while they slept ?
    Swans must have stately dreams, I think. But now
    The lake bears only thin reflected lights
    That shake a little. How I long to take
    One from the cold black water -- new-made gold
    To give you in your hand! And see, and see,
    There is a star, deep in the lake, a star !
    Oh, dimmer than a pearl -- if you stoop down
    Your hand could almost reach it up to me. . . .

    There was a new frail yellow moon to-night --
    I wish you could have had it for a cup
    With stars like dew to fill it to the brim. . . .

    How cold it is ! Even the lights are cold ;
    They have put shawls of fog around them, see !
    What if the air should grow so dimly white
    That we would lose our way along the paths
    Made new by walls of moving mist receding
    The more we follow. . . . What a silver night !
    That was our bench the time you said to me
    The long new poem -- but how different now,
    How eerie with the curtain of the fog
    Making it strange to all the friendly trees !
    There is no wind, and yet great curving scrolls
    Carve themselves, ever changing, in the mist.
    Walk on a little, let me stand here watching
    To see you, too, grown strange to me and far. . . .
    I used to wonder how the park would be
    If one night we could have it all alone --
    No lovers with close arm-encircled waists
    To whisper and break in upon our dreams.
    And now we have it ! Every wish comes true !
    We are alone now in a fleecy world ;
    Even the stars have gone. We two alone !

    Sara Teasdale


    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.

    Sara Teasdale, 1915

The Solitary

    My heart has grown rich with the passing of years,
    I have less need now than when I was young
    To share myself with every comer
    Or shape my thoughts into words with my tongue.

    It is one to me that they come or go
    If I have myself and the drive of my will,
    And strength to climb on a summer night
    And watch the stars swarm over the hill.

    Let them think I love them more than I do,
    Let them think I care, though I go alone ;
    If it lifts their pride, what is it to me
    Who am self-complete as a flower or a stone.

    Sara Teasdale, 1933

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 are 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.
    O 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 ?
    O beauty, are you not enough ?
    Why am I crying after love ?

    Sara Teasdale, 1915

The Star

    A white star born in the evening glow
    Looked to the round green world below,
    And saw a pool in a wooded place
    That held like a jewel her mirrored face.
    She said to the pool: "Oh, wondrous deep,
    I love you, I give you my light to keep.
    Oh, more profound than the moving sea
    That never has shown myself to me !
    Oh, fathomless as the sky is far,
    Hold forever your tremulous star !"

    But out of the woods as night grew cool
    A brown pig came to the little pool ;
    It grunted and splashed and waded in
    And the deepest place but reached its chin.
    The water gurgled with tender glee
    And the mud churned up in it turbidly.

    The star grew pale and hid her face
    In a bit of floating cloud like lace.

    Sara Teasdale


    Alone in the night
    On a dark hill
    With pines around me
    Spicy and still,

    And a heaven full of stars
    Over my head,
    White and topaz
    And misty red ;

    Myriads with beating
    Hearts of fire
    That aeons
    Cannot vex or tire ;

    Up the dome of heaven
    Like a great hill,
    I watch them marching
    Stately and still.

    And I know that I
    Am honored to be
    Of so much majesty.

    Sara Teasdale


    The moon is a curving flower of gold,
    The sky is still and blue ;
    The moon was made for the sky to hold,
    And I for you.

    The moon is a flower without a stem,
    The sky is luminous ;
    Eternity was made for them,
    To-night for us.

    Sara Teasdale


    The stately tragedy of dusk
    Drew to its perfect close,
    The virginal white evening star
    Sank, and the red moon rose.

    Sara Teasdale

The Wind in the Hemlock

    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 ?

    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 :

    If I am peaceful, I shall see
    Beauty's face continually ;
    Feeding on her wine and bread
    I shall be wholly comforted,
    For she can make one day for me
    Rich as my lost eternity.

    Sara Teasdale

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.

    Sara Teasdale

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.

    Sara Teasdale

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