Sara Teasdale

October 4, 2006

sara-teasdale.jpg
(1884-1933)

Sarah Trevor Teasdale
Known as Sadie in her family
Raised in the “Genteel Tradition” of her time, in which she was educated at home until she was nine, and then sent to girl’s schools
Teasdale was sheltered and thought to be frail by her family, and was made to rest and retreat from the world when stressed: over the years, she developed illness as response to stress and enervating experiences, and her preoccupation with death stems from an early age
Learned early to submerge her feelings under a placid, nice exterior
Poetry spans the tradition of women’s poetry of the middle and late nineteenth century to the sometimes shocking, to her, twentieth century
Wrote of her emotions, her emotional response to the world and people around her: major themes were love, nature’s beauty, and death: seen as primarily a love poet
Was courted by two admirers: poet Vachel Lindsay asked her to marry him, but though she had deep feelings for Vachel she instead married Ernst Filsinger, a shoemaker, for financial reasons
Committed suicide: overdosed on sleeping pills and fell asleep in a bath
According to Teasdale biographer William Drake:

“Nowhere else in our literature has such a transition been recorded so clearly and articulately. She spoke for all women emerging from the humility of subservience into the pride of achievement, recognizing that her art sprang from the conflict of forces that pulled her in opposite directions.”

Quotations:

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 woke at dawn, / Would scarcely know that we were gone.

-There Will Come Soft Rains (in whole)

Does the poem belittle the effects of war by showing that the earth will heal itself in the end, or does it warn humanity of its ability to destroy itself by contrasting the apocalyptic war to the peacefulness of nature in its constant rebirth? 

We walked together in the dusk / To watch the tower grow dimly white, / And saw it lift against the sky / Its flower of amber light.
You talked of half a hundred things, / I kept each hurried word you said; / And when at last the hour was full, / I saw the light turn red.
You did not know the time had come, / You did not see the sudden flower, / Nor know that in my heart Love’s birth / Was reckoned from that hour.

-The Metropolitan Tower (in whole)

With the man I love who loves me not, / I walked in the street-lamps’ flare; / We watched the world go home that night / In a flood through Union Square.
I leaned to catch the words he said / That were light as a snowflake falling; / Ah well that he never learned to hear / The words my heart was calling.
And on we walked and on we walked / Past the fiery lights of the picture shows- / Where the girls with thirsty eyes go by / On the errand each man knows.
And on we walked and on we walked, / At the door at last we said good-bye; / I knew by his smile he ha dnot heard / My heart’s unuttered cry.
With the man I love who loves me not / I walked in the street-lamps’ flare- / But oh, the girls who ask for love / In the lights of Union Square.

-Union Square (in whole)

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