It Sings In Me

Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933)

I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.

Sara Teasdale

April

by Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain.
The sparrows tritter 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.


Sara Teasdale was born in St. Louis into a wealthy family.   As a young woman she spent time in Chicago’s literary circles, including a friendship with Harriet Monroe through whom she met and dated the poet Vachel Lindsay.   Teasdale rejected Lindsay’s marriage proposals, an itinerant poet whom may have lacked the income to be a suitable partner in her eyes, but may have been a better match intellectually.  Instead she married Ernst Filsinger in 1914 and moved to New York City.   Teasdale published several collections of  classical poetry and edited several other anthologies.  Though her work is often overlooked today, she was popular with both critics and readers in her day.  Following her divorce in 1929, her health declined rapidly.  Teasdale became an invalid and died following a bout with pneumonia by an overdose of barbiturates.  

There is a sadness that runs through much of Teasdale’s poetry, as if life just didn’t quite measure up to her hopes and dreams.   Its hard to know if it was maniac depression or something darker that had blotted out her joy, but Teasdale seemed to run out of steam as the economic depression of the 1930’s took hold and the life of privilege and wealth that she had enjoyed started to feel out of reach.  In her bob hair cut, and beautiful smile, it would be interesting to know the back story to the last two lines of the sonnet below, but from my perspective the beauty in her words will never be dull.  


 

Sonnet

by Sara Teasdale

I saw a ship sail forth at evening time;
Her prow was gilded by the western fire,
And all her rigging one vast golden lyre,
For winds to play on to the ocean’s rhyme
Of wave on wave forever singing low.
She floated on a web of burnished gold,
And in such light as praying men behold
Cling round a vision, were her sails aglow.
I saw her come again when dawn was grey,
Her wonder faded and her splendor dead — ‘
She whom I loved once had upon her way
A light most like the sunset. Now ’tis sped.
And this is saddest — what seemed wondrous fair
Are now but straight pale lips, and dull gold hair.

Spring Is Fresh And Fearless

Lilacs
May Lilacs

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

— Margaret Atwood

May Night

by Sara Teasdale

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.


After several cold weeks, and taunting frosts, spring is finally busting out. Just when we thought we would never turn off our furnaces, the forecast has a high that starts with an 8 in it next week. Lilacs are scenting Minnesota air and a seemingly infinite variation of green abound everywhere I look.

Lilacs are magic. They are for Minnesota gardeners what might constitute as an aphrodisiac, inspiring more than a few to take a bath, scrub the dirt out from underneath their fingernails and get a hair cut.  Lilacs and crab apple blossoms lead directly to lily’s of the valley, and from there it feels like almost anything’s still possible this summer.  Almost anything, even baseball. 

Here’s a little ditty I wrote this week, reminding myself not to take Spring so seriously this year….  Lighten up.  It’s Spring!


Maianthemum

by T. A. Fry

Lily of the valley’s dainty bells,
Faintly ring – Spring cast its spell,
Peonies and iris are on their way.
It’s worth the wait, to wait for May.

Go on, outside, look about!
Rains in May make mushrooms sprout.
Try peering at the forest floor,
Trillium and elves are more than lore.

Look down, then up, take a step,
Drink in the scent the lilacs wept.
And if good fortune brings morels,
Leave some for our friends – the elves.

Of Darkness and Of Hurtling Sound

notre Dame
Notre Dame cathedral, Paris France

The Staircase of Notre Dame, Paris

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

As one who, groping in a narrow stair,
Hath a strong sound of bells upon his ears,
Which, being at a distance off, appears
Quite close to him because of the pent air:
So with this France. She stumbles file and square
Darkling and without space for breath: each one
Who hears the thunder says: “It shall anon
Be in among her ranks to scatter her.”
This may be; and it may be that the storm
Is spent in rain upon the unscathed seas,
Or wasteth other countries ere it die:
Till she,—having climbed always through the swarm
Of darkness and of hurtling sound,—from these
Shall step forth on the light in a still sky.


Paris In Spring

by Sara Teasdale

The city’s all a-shining
Beneath a fickle sun,
A gay young wind’s a-blowing,
The little shower is done.
But the rain-drops still are clinging
And falling one by one —
Oh it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And spring-time has begun.

I know the Bois is twinkling
In a sort of hazy sheen,
And down the Champs the gray old arch
Stands cold and still between.
But the walk is flecked with sunlight
Where the great acacias lean,
Oh it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And the leaves are growing green.

The sun’s gone in, the sparkle’s dead,
There falls a dash of rain,
But who would care when such an air
Comes blowing up the Seine?
And still Ninette sits sewing
Beside her window-pane,
When it’s Paris, it’s Paris,
And spring-time’s come again.

We Have The World To Roam

cabaret
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret

“Fear, after all, is our real enemy. Fear is taking over our world. Fear is being used as a tool of manipulation in our society. Itʼs how politicians peddle policy and how Madison Avenue sells us things that we donʼt need.” (A Single Man)

Christopher Isherwood

 

Morning Song

Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933

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.


 

Bob Fosse’s Broadway show and film Cabaret had its birth place in Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye To Berlin, which is often published with other stories under the name Berlin Stories. As a writer, Isherwood earned far more over his lifetime writing plays and for Hollywood movies than for his novels. What is interesting is the multiple stage and movie adaptations of Goodbye To Berlin were created by other people, who found inspiration in Isherwood’s work. The success of the stage version of Cabaret continues to generate income for his estate. Isherwood loosely modeled Sally Bowles from a real life character Jean Ross, but the stage and movie depictions would evolve to have little connection to the real life Ross. Isherwood was quoted towards the end of his life that he could barely remember Jean Ross, Sally Bowles a true creation of Isherwood’s imagination.

Isherwood wrote Berlin stories at a time when he and Auden were frequent traveling companions. They were both gay and Berlin offered intellectual and physical stimulation that suited their adventurous natures. Isherwood’s writing is viewed by some as the beginning of modern gay story telling in literature and the theater. Isherwood left Berlin and moved to Los Angeles, California, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

Isherwood was not a poet but he was a brilliant romantic.  His greatest creation was his own avant-garde life, which reads like fiction, complete with evading authorities, on the run across Europe before WWII, his lover ultimately being arrested by the Nazi’s, seducing the great love of his life who was 30 years his junior in his late 40’s, immersing himself in India’s culture, his translation of the Bhagavad Gita with Swami Prabhavananda is considered the first fluid translation in English.  Isherwood was a bit misogynistic, an anti-Semite, a hypochondriac, but also a kind and gentle human being. Isherwood lived a big life and left an iconic character in Sally Bowles to keep on singing.

 


 

Poem

by W. H. Auden

He watched with all his organs of concern
How princes walk, what wives and children say;
Reopened old graves in his heart to learn
What laws the dead had died to disobey;

And came reluctantly to his conclusion:
“All the arm-chair philosopher’s are false,
To love another adds to the confusion,
The song of pity is the Devil’s waltz.”

And bowed to fate, and was successful so
That soon he was the king of all the creatures:
Yet, shaking in an autumn nightmare, saw

Approaching down an empty corridor,
A figure with his own distorted features
That wept, and grew enormous, and cried Woe.