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Featured Poem: August Moonrise by Sara Teasdale

Written by The Reader, 15th August 2016

American poet Sara Teasdale provides this week's Featured Poem August Moonrise, which recounts a moonlit walk through the Connecticut countryside.

Born in Missouri in August 1884, Sara Teasdale published her first poem in a  local newspaper at the age of 23, her first collection Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems was published later that same year, 1907.

Her writing success continued to flourish when she published her second collection in 1911. Helen of Troy and Other Poems was well received by critics who praised its lyrical mastery and romantic subject matter.

Romance seemed prevalent in this period of Teasdale's life. She rejected several suitors during this time, including the poet Vachel Lindsay, who though he is said to have loved her deeply, did not feel he could provide enough financial stability. Teasdale eventually did marry Ernst Filsinger, a longtime admirer of her poetry, in 1914.

Shortly afterward she published her third collection, Rivers to the Sea, which was reprinted several times and remains a bestseller, followed in 1917 by Love Songs which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1918. Teasdale was by now living in New York but she found that her husband's business travel caused her much loneliness and divorced him in 1929, and rekindled her friendship with Vachel Lindsay who was by now married with children.

Teasdale suffered a bout of pneumonia in 1933 and tragically committed suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills. Her final collection Strange to Victory was published posthumously later that year.

Today we look at Teasdale's August Moonrise, which was written in 1916, around the same period as Barter. Teasdale had recently returned from a stay in Cromwell, Connecticut, where she had gone to escape from her marriage for a while. Filsinger was working desperately to arrange his affairs as his business failed and Teasdale wrote to him often expressing her longing to see him, and concern about him working so much.

August Moonrise describes a moonlit walk she took through the countryside, overcome by the beauty of the landscape she resolves that she could die having witnessed it.

August Moonrise

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.

I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,

And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.

Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,

And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;

If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshiped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

By Sara Teasdale

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