Friday, January 12, 2018

Finding the Lost Sorrow

Leonora Speyer
—Painting by John Singer Sargent, 1907
—Poems by Leonora Speyer (1872-1956)
—Anonymous Photos of Victorian Gardens


I Woke:—

Night, lingering, poured upon the world

Of drowsy hill and wood and lake

Her moon-song,

And the breeze accompanied with hushed fingers

On the birches.
Gently the dawn held out to me

A golden handful of bird’s-notes.


All night the crickets chirp,
Like little stars of twinkling sound
In the dark silence.
They sparkle through the summer stillness
With a crisp rhythm:
They lift the shadows on their tiny voices.
But at the shining note of birds that wake,
Flashing from tree to tree till all the wood is lit—
O golden coloratura of dawn!—
The cricket-stars fade slowly,
One by one. 


Out of the storm that muffles shining night

Flash roses ghastly-sweet,

And lilies far too pale.

There is a pang of livid light,

A terror of familiarity,

I see a dripping swirl of leaves and petals

That I once tended happily,

Borders of flattened, frightened little things,
And writhing paths I surely walked in that other life—

My specter-garden beckons to me,

Gibbers horribly—

And vanishes!


The squall sweeps gray-winged across the obliterated hills,

And the startled lake seems to run before it;

From the wood comes a clamor of leaves,

Tugging at the twigs,

Pouring from the branches,

And suddenly the birds are still.
Thunder crumples the sky,

Lightning tears at it.
And now the rain!

The rain—thudding—implacable—

The wind, reveling in the confusion of great pines!
And a silver sifting of light,

A coolness;

A sense of summer anger passing,

Of summer gentleness creeping nearer—

Penitent, tearful,



It would be easy to forgive,
If I could but remember;
If I could hear, lost love of mine,
The music of your cruelties,
Shaking to sound the silent skies,
Could voice with them their song divine,
Red with pain’s leaping ember:
It would be easy to forgive,
If I could but remember.

It would be easy to forget,
If I could find lost Sorrow;
If I could kiss her plaintive face,
And break with her her bitter bread,
Could share again her woeful bed,
And know with tears her pale embrace.
Make yesterday, to-morrow:
It would be easy to forget,
If I could find lost Sorrow.


They dip their wings in the sunset,

They dash against the air

As if to break themselves upon its stillness:

In every movement, too swift to count,

Is a revelry of indecision,

A furtive delight in trees they do not desire

And in grasses that shall not know their weight.
They hover and lean toward the meadow

With little edged cries;

And then,

As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,

They seek the high austerity of evening sky

And swirl into its depth.

Today’s LittleNip:


The wood is talking in its sleep.—
Have a care, trees!
You are heard by the brook and the breeze
And the listening lake;
And some of the birds are awake,
I know—
Green, garrulous wood; I trusted you so!


Leonora Speyer was born in Washington, D.C., in 1872. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for her poetry collection,
Fiddler’s Farewell (Knopf, 1926). Speyer died in 1956. For more about her, see


 Sir Edgar and Lady Leonora Speyer, c. 1921
Celebrate poetry!

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