Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale
* Poems. * Time Line. * Books.


Alphabetic index:

Buy 'The Collected'

Contains poems from:

  1. Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907).
  2. Helen of Troy and Other Poems (1911).
  3. Rivers To The Sea (1915).
  4. Love Songs (1917).
  5. Flame and Shadow (1920).
  6. Dark of the Moon (1926).
  7. Stars To-night: Verses for Boys and Girls (1930).
  8. Strange Victory (1933).

Sixth of her books. Possibly her strongest. Includes:

        (Pont de Neuilly)

   The Seine flows out of the mist
     And into the mist again;  
   The trees lean over the water,
     The small leaves fall like rain.

   The leaves fall patiently,
     Nothing remembers or grieves;
   The river takes to the sea
     The yellow drift of the leaves.

   Milky and cold is the air,
     The leaves float with the stream,
   The river comes out of a sleep
     And goes away in a dream.


   "She who could bind you"

   She who could bind you
     Could bind fire to a wall;
   She who could hold you
     Could hold a waterfall.
   She who could keep you
     Could keep the wind from blowing
   On a warm spring night
     With a low moon glowing.

Her fifth collection. At 48 pages, one of the longer in The Collected Poems.

While this group is still full of love poems such as:


   My forefathers gave me
     My spirit's shaken flame,  
   The shape of hands, the beat of heart,
     The letters of my name.

   But it was my lovers,
     And not my sleeping sires,
   Who gave the flame its changeful
     And iridescent fires;

   As the driftwood burning
     Learned its jeweled blaze
   From the sea's blue splendor
     Or colored nights and days.

It also contains poems about the acceptance of death, including this amazing poem (ignoring some needed cuts in the first four lines) written during World War One:

        "There will come soft rains"
                (War Time)

   There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
   And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
   And frogs in the pools singing at night,
   And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

   Robins will wear their feathery fire
   Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
   And not one will know of the war, not one
   Will care at last when it is done.

   Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
   If mankind perished utterly;
   And Spring herself, when she work at dawn,
   Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Her second (and therefore another early) collection.

Buy 'Love Songs'

Her fourth collection.

Of this book's four sections, the first fills half of the book. Its poems are mostly short (8-to-16-line) yet significant poems of yearning for a lost or secret or impossible love. Notice the volta-like turn in many of her poems, such as this one where she lays out her three examples and then her response:


   If I should see your eyes again,
      I know how far their look would go —  
   Back to a morning in the park
      With sapphire shadows on the snow.

   Or back to oak trees in the spring
      When you unloosed my hair and kissed
   The head that lay against your knees
      In the leaf shadow's amethyst.

   And still another shining place
      We would remember -- how the dun
   Wild mountain held us on its crest
      One diamond morning white with sun.

   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.

Her rhymes pull the reader forward in the curiosity and delight of 'what next'. Sometimes the rhymes astonish (such as kissed/amethyst), though sometimes the form still drives the words (such as her use above of 'dun' in line 10).

In the second section she shows her spiritual struggles and her romantic feelings about her own death, such as "In a Burying Ground", whose middle stanza is:


   "O Soul," I said, "have you no tears?
      Was not the body dear to you?"
   I heard my soul say carelessly,
      "The myrtle flowers will grow more blue."  

Many of the poems are in 2 or more sections with the same number of lines in each stanza. Specifically:

The poems are usually small. Only one is more than a page. Specifically:

Her third collection of youthful poems:

Her first published book. While these are early poems, they are enthusiastic and often insightful.

Besides the many sonnets, Teasdale includes poems of 3-stanza quatrains and of a single 6-line stanza. Most of the lines are end-stopped.

One of my favorites (included in Love Songs as well as The Collected Poems) is:


   They came to tell your faults to me,
   They named them over one by one;
   I laughed aloud when they were done,
   I knew them all so well before, —
   Oh, they were blind, too blind to see
   Your faults had made me love you more.  

The form of her sonnets is the 14-line Italian (or Petrarchan) Sonnet, which starts with 8 lines that use two rhymes in the 'abbaabba' pattern of rima baciata ("kissing rhyme"), a more romantic term than the English "envelope" rhyme. In the traditional form, the eight opening lines are a unit and then there is an emotional or logical volta (jump or shift), with the conclusion of the poem in a sestet in " chained rhyme" , which can use a variety of sequences. Teasdale includes:

   c d c d c d 
   c d d c c d 
   c d d c e e 
   c d d e c e 
   c d e c d e  

Seventh of her books.

Teasdale apparently though that these poems are about nature, rather than about love or death (at least on the surface), would be of more interest to children rather than adults. But she is still mind stretching as in "I stood upon a star":

   I stretched my mind until I stood
     Out in space, upon a star; 
   I looked, and saw the flying earth
     Where seven planets are. 
   I saw the dark side of the moon
     No man has ever seen.

Eighth of her books, and her second strongest (second only to Dark of the Moon), published posthumously. An increasing acceptance of death, as for example:

             Moon's Ending 

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


        "All that was mortal"

   All that was mortal shall be burned away,
     All that was mind shall have been put to sleep.  
   Only the spirit shall awake to say
     What the deep says to the deep;
   But for an instance, for it too is fleeting—
     As on a field with new snow everywhere,
   Footprints of birds record a brief alighting
     In flight begun and ended in the air.

Time Line.

Born Sarah Trevor Teasdale on August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri. Youngest child in a Baptist family. [She had a sister, Mary (17), and two brothers, George (20) and John Warren Jr. (14).)

Attended the prestigious all-girl Mary Institute in St. Louis.

Began study in Hosmer Hall.

Graduated from Hosmer Hall.

With friends published a monthly literary magazine, The Potter's Wheel.

First of several trips to Europe.
Continued to live at home when she was not traveling.

First poem "Guenevere" printed in Reedy's Mirror.
Published first book, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems.

Published second book, Helen of Troy and Other Poems.

Courted by poet Vachel Lindsay (born 1879 in Springfield, Illinois) and by businessman Ernst Filsinger.
Began to consider suicide.

Married Ernst Filsinger.

Moved to New York City with her husband Ernst Filsinger.
Published Rivers To The Sea.

Published Love Songs.
Edited The Answering Voice; A Hundred Love Lyrics by Women.

For Love Songs, won

Published Flame and Shadow.

Published Dark of the Moon.

Divorced Ernst Filsinger.

Published Stars To-night: Verses for Boys and Girls.

Death (December 5) of her long-time friend, the poet Vachel Lindsay, by suicide.

Made final trip (in summer) to England.

Died January 29, 1933, by suicide.
Strange Victory published posthumously.

The Collected Poems published posthumously.

Inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

One of 48 women poets in 100 essential modern poems by women:


Links and Books.

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