Sunday Poetry: Peace, by Sarah 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.

- by Sarah Teasdale

Of all the poets that I’ve written about here, Sarah Teasdale is probably the one I would least like to have met. She grew up in my home town of St. Louis, a sickly rich girl who fell in love with a poet but married money instead. After making two additional people miserable (the poet committed suicide and she divorced her husband in an age where that was uncommon), she killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills when she was my age. During her life, she created several books of gushy, dramatic poetry about passions she never acted upon. She described herself as a “flower in a toiling world”. In short, she was a pampered, self-absorbed drama queen.

But she did write a few memorable poems.

In this one, she takes a simple image of a pool near the ocean, filled with water that reflects the blue sky during the day and the starry sky at night. It’s a pretty poem, and the directive “give me your stars to hold” contrasts with the passivity of the rest of the poem.

The poem gains additional interest when it is contrasted with another “pool” poem by Teasdale concerning the other side of love:

After Love

There is no magic any more,
We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
Nor I for you.

You were the wind and I the sea –
There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
Beside the shore.

But though the pool is safe from storm
And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
For all its peace.

Reading Sarah Teasdale’s poetry is a bit like reading a teenager’s journal – self-indulgent, self-absorbed and over-the-top. It’s pretty and interesting in small doses, but you wonder what she might have accomplished if she had ever grown up.

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