- No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed.
- Advice to a Girl, Strange Victory (1933)
Helen of Troy and Other Poems (1911)
- This is the funeral pyre and Troy is dead
That sparkled so the day I saw it first,
And darkened slowly after. I am she
Who loves all beauty — yet I wither it.
- My dreams are over, I have ceased to cry
Against the fate that made men love my mouth
And left their spirits all too deaf to hear
The little songs that echoed through my soul.
I have no anger now. The dreams are done;
Yet since the Greeks and Trojans would not see
Aught but my body's fairness, till the end,
In all the islands set in all the seas,
And all the lands that lie beneath the sun,
Till light turn darkness, and till time shall sleep,
Men's lives shall waste with longing after me,
For I shall be the sum of their desire,
The whole of beauty, never seen again.
- And as I played, a child came thro' the gate,
A boy who looked at me without a word,
As tho' he saw stretch far behind my head
Long lines of radiant angels, row on row.
That day we spoke a little, timidly,
And after that I never heard the voice
That sang so many songs for love of me.
- Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more
To thee, God's daughter, powerful as God,
It is that thou hast made my life too sweet
To hold the added sweetness of a song.
There is a quiet at the heart of love,
And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.
- We weep before the Blessed Mother's shrine,
To think upon her sorrows, but her joys
What nun could ever know a tithing of?
The precious hours she watched above His sleep
Were worth the fearful anguish of the end.
Yea, lack of love is bitterest of all.
- All this grows bitter that was once so sweet,
And many mouths must drain the dregs of it.
But none will pity me, nor pity him
Whom Love so lashed, and with such cruel thongs.
- Make songs for Death as you would sing to Love —
But you will not assuage him. He alone
Of all the gods will take no gifts from men.
- I may not speak till Eros' torch is dim,
The god is bitter and will have it so.
- I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that recedes.
- Perhaps when all the world is bare
And cruel winter holds the land,
The Love that finds no place to hide
Will run and catch my hand.
I shall not care to have him then,
I shall be bitter and a-cold —
It grows too late for frolicking
When all the world is old.
Then little hiding Love, come forth,
Come forth before the autumn goes,
And let us seek thro' ruined paths
The garden's last red rose.
- For tho' I know he loves me,
To-night my heart is sad;
His kiss was not so wonderful
As all the dreams I had.
- "The Kiss"
- With the man I love who loves me not
I walked in the street-lamps' flare —
But oh, the girls who can ask for love
In the lights of Union Square.
- There is no sign of leaf or bud,
A hush is over everything —
Silent as women wait for love,
The world is waiting for the spring.
- I hope that when he smiles at me
He does not guess my joy and pain,
For if he did, he is too kind
To ever look my way again.
- The greenish sky glows up in misty reds,
The purple shadows turn to brick and stone,
The dreams wear thin, men turn upon their beds,
And hear the milk-cart jangle by alone.
Rivers to the Sea (1915)
- 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?
- Oh, beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love?
- I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies,—
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.
- 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.
- 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.
- But oh, to him I loved
Who loved me not at all,
I owe the little open gate
That led thru heaven's wall.
- How should they know that Sappho lived and died
Faithful to love, not faithful to the lover,
Never transfused and lost in what she loved,
Never so wholly loving nor at peace.
- I have grown weary of the winds of heaven.
I will not be a reed to hold the sound
Of whatsoever breath the gods may blow,
Turning my torment into music for them.
They gave me life; the gift was bountiful,
I lived with the swift singing strength of fire,
Seeking for beauty as a flame for fuel —
Beauty in all things and in every hour.
The gods have given life — I gave them song;
The debt is paid and now I turn to go.
Love Songs (1917)
- Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
- Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
- But I will turn my eyes from you
As women turn to put away
The jewels they have worn at night
And cannot wear in sober day.
- If I can find out God, then I shall find Him,
If none can find Him, then I shall sleep soundly,
Knowing how well on earth your love sufficed me,
A lamp in darkness.
- "The Lamp"
Flame and Shadow (1920)
- I try to catch at many a tune
Like petals of light fallen from the moon,
Broken and bright on a dark lagoon,
But they float away — for who can hold
Youth, or perfume or the moon's gold?
- I should be glad of loneliness
And hours that go on broken wings,
A thirsty body, a tired heart
And the unchanging ache of things,
If I could make a single song
As lovely and as full of light,
As hushed and brief as a falling star
On a winter night.
- But you I never understood,
Your spirit's secret hides like gold
Sunk in a Spanish galleon
Ages ago in waters cold.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sun-swept beaches with a light wind blowing
From the immense blue circle of the sea,
And the soft thunder where long waves whiten —
These were the same for Sappho as for me.
Two thousand years — much has gone by forever,
Change takes the gods and ships and speech of men —
But here on the beaches that time passes over
The heart aches now as then.
- Oh Earth, you gave me all I have,
I love you, I love you, — oh what have I
That I can give you in return —
Except my body after I die?
- The window-lights, myriads and myriads,
Bloom from the walls like climbing flowers.
- I am alone, as though I stood
On the highest peak of the tired gray world,
About me only swirling snow,
Above me, endless space unfurled;
With earth hidden and heaven hidden,
And only my own spirit's pride
To keep me from the peace of those
Who are not lonely, having died.
- 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.