Category Archives: Sara Teasdale

‘Let It Be Forgotten’ by Sara Teasdale

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten forever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long-forgotten snow.

This is a soft, chanting lament for some undefined past glory such as love that has died, or youth that has passed.

Teasdale repeats her mantra, “Let it be forgotten” throughout the piece. To me, this repeated phrase could be an incantation or a prayer; she is willing herself to forget, but can’t. Is she afraid to speak of it? And why? It could also be a challenge or dare put to the reader, saying ‘I dare you to forget something so beautiful’. Another reading might suggest that she is so sure of the value of what she has lost, that she is careless of whether others remember it or not: “Let it be forgotten” — because it doesn’t matter; it was glorious while it lasted, and that is all that counts. Like all great poems, this one can be read in multiple ways.

The poet holds up two important images in this poem: the “flower” and the “fire”. “Let it be forgotten”, she writes, like a “flower” is forgotten, or a “fire that was once singing gold”. I love that image of the “singing gold”; for me, it really evokes the passionate love of youth. The flower and the fire are both things that are beautiful, but which cannot last; it is a certainty that they will one day either die or burn out. It is perhaps even the very fact that these things are ephemeral that makes them so beautiful.

Teasdale has a great talent for sad beauty, and I just adore the melancholic tone of this poem. She has understood what Keats said of melancholy in his Ode on Melancholy: “She dwells with Beauty — Beauty that must die”. But melancholy though the poem is, Teasdale nevertheless maintains the sense that her internal life is rich because of what she has possessed in this love or youth. There is a secret joy hidden in the poem. There is a wistfulness and a longing in the long-vowelled rhyme scheme that makes this piece truly musical.

In the final verse it becomes clear that the poet has not forgotten this love or youth or passion that she is evoking. “If anyone asks”, she writes, “say it was forgotten”. The language here implies deceit; she hasn’t forgotten at all; she just wants people to think she has. Perhaps she does not wish to talk about it because it is too powerful a memory — too wonderful a thing. Or perhaps it is simply impossible to put into words.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘I thought of you’ by Sara Teasdale

I thought of you and how you love this beauty,
And walking up the long beach all alone
I heard the waves breaking in measured thunder
As you and I once heard their monotone.

Around me were the echoing dunes, beyond me
The cold and sparkling silver of the sea –
We two will pass through death and ages lengthen
Before you hear that sound again with me.

Here is a poem by Sara Teasdale, whose work never fails to touch me with its simplicity and its beauty. This is, of course, a very sad poem, because it evokes a love that is in many ways impossible (the lovers will never meet again in this life). I think it delivers an incredibly true sense of what it is to be separated from the one you love, and describes so beautifully the simplicity of what it is we need or miss in that person when they are gone…

In the poem, the poet is walking along the beach “all alone”, surrounded by the “beauty” of the “echoing dunes,” and the “cold and sparkling silver of the sea”. The scene is beautiful, but nonetheless empty and cold, and her heart is full of the one who she longs to share her experience with. She tells us that she and her loved one will “pass through death and ages lengthen” before they can listen to the sound of the waves again together.

This a terribly sad scene that is presented in Teasdale’s poem, but what I love about this is the simplicity of what the speaker longs for. This is what we miss when our Other is far away: just their presence. All the poet wants in this poem is to hear the waves with him… to see this scene with him…  it’s just the togetherness that matters to her. I love this because there’s nothing fancy about it, and that feels real and true to me.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘My heart is heavy’ by Sara Teasdale

My heart is heavy with many a song
Like ripe fruit bearing down the tree,
But I can never give you one –
My songs do not belong to me.

Yet in the evening, in the dusk
When moths go to and fro,
In the gray hour if the fruit has fallen,
Take it, no one will know.

I find Sara Teasdale’s poems to be incredibly touching. This one in particular moves me with its sad, wistful tone and sense of secrecy.

The way the poet describes her heart as being heavy with “song” is starkly unusual. Normally, I think of song as a joyful thing, or at least a thing that gives release to creativity; I don’t think of song as something that would make the heart heavy. These songs are “ripe fruit”, full of goodness and potential for pleasure, but the poet’s heart is heavy because she cannot “give you one”. Her songs or poems have become a weight on her heart because they “do not belong to [her]”. She cannot give her song, her poem, her heart, to the person she wants.

It seems likely that this poem was written for Vachel Lindsay, who courted Teasdale when they were young and wrote her many love letters, yet who did not have enough money to marry her. Sara Teasdale married a wealthy business man called Filsinger instead, but the marriage was very unhappy and ended in divorce. Teasdale never dropped her friendship with Vachel Lindsay, though he also married and had children with another woman, and they both committed suicide within two years of each other.

When I read this poem I feel like it is full of regret and full secret love for Vachel Lindsay. The way she says “My songs do not belong to me” evokes the idea that her heart, her body, even her soul no longer belong to her, but to her husband. She cannot write a poem for Lindsay, or a love letter, or see him because she is married. Yet I love the way she asks her loved one to take the fallen fruit — to take her song — in the evening when “no one will know.” It is irresistibly secretive and sad.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh