Springing Naked To The Light

Sir, say no more.
Within me ’t is as if
The green and climbing eyesight of a cat
Crawled near my mind’s poor birds.


Live Blindly And Upon The Hour

By Trumbull Stickney
Live blindly and upon the hour. The Lord,
Who was the Future, died full long ago.
Knowledge which is the Past is folly. Go,
Poor child, and be not to thyself abhorred.
Around thine earth sun-wingèd winds do blow
And planets roll; a meteor draws his sword;
The rainbow breaks his seven-coloured chord
And the long strips of river-silver flow:
Awake! Give thyself to the lovely hours.
Drinking their lips, catch thou the dream in flight
About their fragile hairs’ aërial gold.
Thou art divine, thou livest,—as of old
Apollo springing naked to the light,
And all his island shivered into flowers.

I Used To Think

by Trumbull Stickney
I used to think
The mind essential in the body, even
As stood the body essential in the mind:
Two inseparable things, by nature equal
And similar, and in creation’s song
Halving the total scale: it is not so.
Unlike and cross like driftwood sticks they come
Churned in the giddy trough: a chunk of pine,
A slab of rosewood: mangled each on each
With knocks and friction, or in deadly pain
Sheathing each other’s splinters: till at last
Without all stuff or shape they ’re jetted up
Where in the bluish moisture rot whate’er
Was vomited in horror from the sea.

Actors, Ill and Mad With Wine


Trumball Stickney (1874 – 1904)

The passions that we fought with and subdued
Never quite die. In some maimed serpent’s coil
They lurk, ready to spring and vindicate
That power was once our torture and our lord.
Trumball Stickney

You Say, Columbus With His Argosies

by Trumbull Stickney

You say, Columbus with his argosies
Who rash and greedy took the screaming main
And vanished out before the hurricane
Into the sunset after merchandise,
Then under western palms with simple eyes
Trafficked and robbed and triumphed home again:
You say this is the glory of the brain
And human life no other use than this?
I then do answering say to you: The line
Of wizards and of saviors, keeping trust
In that which made them pensive and divine,
Passes before us like a cloud of dust.
What were they? Actors, ill and mad with wine,
And all their language babble and disgust.

Trumbull Stickney died of a brain tumor at age 30.   Born into an accomplished family of academics in Switzerland, he failed to thrive as either student or lecturer, unhappy and unfulfilled in both applications.   However, he pursued his artistic  aspirations more passionately, writing as zealously as he pursued several affairs of the heart, though neither prospering quite as he had hoped.  Following his untimely death, his family destroyed all his correspondence to his lover(s), likely wiping out some of his best work along with it.
I find Stickney’s poetry strangely inconsistent, filled with literary references and his own philosophical musings, that make it feel a bit too academic, mixed with some remarkably modern turn of phrases that are stellar.   He was obviously self aware of his mortality.   The Soul of Time is an interesting poem with a jolting, unexpected ending.   It paints the stark reality of self awareness, the idea that communication with our inner selves with complete honesty is difficult to impossible, let alone those closest to us.
The first poem above is easier to contemplate if you know the definition of argosies, which mean merchant ships.   It is a beautiful erasure of the typical myth building of Columbus as hero of the America’s.  Instead it casts him in the rather modern light of invading pestilent conqueror whose only real goals were personal wealth and recognition at the terrible consequence of the native people’s already present.   I think you could replace Columbus with name Bezos in this poem and raise the same timely issues on whether progress is truly progress or simply an ever increasing defiling of our planet under the ruse of capitalism and industry.

The Soul Of Time

by Trumbull Stickney

TIME’S a circumference
Whereof the segment of our station seems
A long straight line from nothing into naught.
Therefore we say ” progress, ” ” infinity ” —
Dull words whose object
Hangs in the air of error and delights
Our boyish minds ahunt for butterflies.
For aspiration studies not the sky
But looks for stars; the victories of faith
Are soldiered none the less with certainties,
And all the multitudinous armies decked
With banners blown ahead and flute before
March not to the desert or th’ Elysian fields,
But in the track of some discovery,
The grip and cognizance of something true,
Which won resolves a better distribution
Between the dreaming mind and real truth.

I cannot understand you.

‘T is because
You lean over my meaning’s edge and feel
A dizziness of the things I have not said.