Archibald MacLeish: Selected Poetry.
Navigation

The Poet

From New Found Land (1930)


Cinema of a Man

The earth is bright though the boughs of the moon like 
	a dead planet
It is silent it has no sound the sun is on it
It shines in the dark like a white stone in a deep meadow
It is round above it is flattened under with shadow

			     *  *  *  *

He sits in the rue St. Jacques at the iron table
It is dusk it is growing cold the roof stone glitters 
	on the gable
The taxis turn in the rue du Pot de Fer
The gas jets brighten one by one behind the windows of 
	the stair

			     *  *  *  *

THis is his face the chin long the eyes looking

 			     *  *  *  *

Now he sits on the porch of the Villa Serbelloni
He is eating white bread and brown honey
The sun is hot on the lake there are boats rowing
It is spring the rhododendrons are out the wind is blowing

			     *  *  *  *

Above Bordeaux by the canal
His shadow passes on the evening wall
His legs are crooked at the knee he has one shoulder
He arms are long he vanishes among the shadows of the alder

			     *  *  *  *

He wakes in the Grand Hotel Vierjahreszeiten
It is dawn the carts go by the cutains whiten
He sees her yellow hair she has neither father nor mother
Her name is Ann she has had him now and before another

 			     *  *  *  *

This is his face in the light of the full moon
His skin is white and grey like the skin of a quadroon
His head is raised to the sky he stands staring
His mouth is still his face is still his eyes are staring

 			     *  *  *  *

He walks with Ernest in the streets in Saragossa
They are drunk their mouths are hard they say qué cosa
They say the cruel words they hurt each other
Their elbows touch their shoulders touch their feet go on and on 
	together

  			     *  *  *  *

Now he is by the sea at St.-Tropez
The pines roar in the wind it is hot it is noonday
He is naked he swims in the blue under the sea water
His limbs are drowned in the dapple of the sun like the limbs
	 of the sea's daughter

			     *  *  *  *

Now he is in Chicago he is sleeping
The footstep passes on the stone the roofs are dripping
The door is closed the walls are dark the shadows deepen
His head is motionless upon his arm his hand is open

			     *  *  *  *

Those are the cranes above the Karun River
They fly across the night their wings go over
They cross Orion and the south star of the Wain
A wave has broken in the sea beyond the coast of Spain



You, Andrew Marvell

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift, how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on...



Reproach to Dead Poets

You who have spoken words in the earth,
You have broken the silence,
			utterers,
Sayers in all lands to all peoples,
Writers in candel soot on the skins
Of rams for those who come after you,
				voices
Echoed at night in the arched doors,
And at noon in the shadow of fig trees,
Hear me!
				Were there not
Words?
Were there not words to tell with?
Were there not leaf sounds in the mouths 
Of women from over-sea, and a call
Of birds on the lips of the children of strangers?
Were there not words in all languages——
In many tongues the same thing differently,
The name cried out, Thalassa! the sea!
The Sea!
The sun and moon character representing
Brightness, the night sound of the wind for
Always, for ever and ever, the verb
Created after the speech of crickets——
	Were there not words to tell with?
				——to tell
What lands these are:
		    What are these
Lights though the night leaves and these voices
Crying among us as winds rise,

Or whence, of what race we are that dwell with them?
Were there not words to tell with,
				you that have told
The kngs' names and the hills remembered for battles?



Epistle to Be Left in the Earth

...It is colder now,
		    there are many stars,
 					 we are drifting
North by the Great Bear,
			the leaves are falling,
THe water is stone in the scooped rocks,
					to southward
Red sun grey air:
		the crows are
Slow on their crooked wings,
			   the jays have left us:
Long since we passed the flares of Orion.
Each man believes in his heart he will die.
Many have written last thoughts and last letters.
None know if our deaths are now or forever:
None know if this wandering earth will be found.

We lie down and the snow covers our garments.
I pray you,
	  you (if any open this writing)
Make in your mouths the words that were our names.
I will tell you all we have learned,
				I will tell you everything:
The earth is round,
		   there are springs under the orchards,
The loam cuts with a blunt knife,
				beware of 
Elms in thunder,
		the lights in the sky are stars——
We think they do not see,
			we think also
The trees do not know nor the leaves of the grasses hear us:
The birds too are ignorant.
			   Do not listen.
Do not stand at dark in the open windows.
We before you have heard this:
				they are voices:
They are not words at all but the wind rising.
Also none among us has seen God.
(...We have thought often
The flaws of sun in the late and driving weather
Pointed to one tree but it was not so.)
As for the nights I warn you the nights are dangerous:
The wind changes at night and the dreams come.

It is very cold,
		there are strange stars near Arcturus,

Voices are crying an unknown name in the sky




"Prologue" from Conquistador (1932)

And the way goes on in the worn earth:
					and we (others)——

What are the dead to us in our better fortune?
They have left us the roads made and the walls standing:
They have left us the chairs in the rooms:
				what is there more of them——


Either their words in the stone or their graves in the land
Or the rusted tang in the turf-root where they fought——
Has truth against us?
			(And another man

Where the wild geese rise form Michigan the water
Veering the clay bluff: in another wind....)

Surely the will of GOd in the earth alters:

Time done is dark as are sleep's thickets:
Dark is the past: none waking walk there:
Neither may live men of those water drink:

And their speech they have left upon the coins to 
	mock us:
And the weight of their skulls at our touch is a 
	shuck's weight:
And their rains are dry and the sound of their leaves 
	fallen:

(We that have still the sun and the green places)
And they care nothing for living men: and the honey of
Sun is slight in their teeth as a seed's taste——

What are the dead to us in the world's wonder?
Why (and again now) on their shadowy beaches
Pouring before them the slow painful blood

Do we return to force the truthful speech of them
Shrieking like snipe along their gusty sand
And stand: and as the dark ditch fills beseech them

(Reaching across the surf their fragile hands) to
Speak to us?
	    as by that other ocean
The elder shadows to the sea-borne man

Guarding the ram's flesh and the bloody dole....
Speak to me Conquerors!
			But not as they!
Bring not those others with you whose new-closed

(O Brothers! Bones now in the witless rain!)
And weeping eyes remember living men:
(Not Anticlea! Not Elpenor's face!)

Bring not among you hither the new dead——
Lest they should wake and the unwilling lids
Open and know me——and the not-known end!....

And Sándoval comes first adn the Pálos wind
Stirs in the youg hair: and the smoky candle
Shdders the sick face and the fevered skin:

And still the dead feet come: and Alvarádo
Clear in that shadow as a faggot kindled:
The brave one: stupid: and the face he had

Shining with good looks: his pink skin:
His legs warped at the knee like the excellent horseman
And gentleman's ways and the tail of the sword swinging:

And Olíd the good fighter: his face coarse:
His teeth clean as a dog's: the lip wrinkled:
Oléa——so do the winds follow unfortune——

Oléa with the blade drawn and the clinging
Weeds about him and broken hands:
And still they come: and from the shadow fixes

Eyes against me a mute armored man
Staring as wakened sleeper into embers:
This is Cortés that took the famous land:

The eye-holes narrow to the long night's ebbing:
The grey skin crawls beneath the scanty beard:
Neither the eyes nor the sad mouth remember:

Other and nameless are there shadows here
Cold in the little light as winter crickets:
Torpid with old death: under sullen years

Numb as pale spiders in the blind leaves hidden:
These to the crying voices do not stir:
So still are trees the climbing stars relinquish:

And last and through the weak dead comes——the uncertain
Fingers before him on the sightless air——
An old man speaking: and the wind-blown words

Blur and the mouth moves and before the staring
Eyes go shadows of that ancient time:
So does a man speak from the dream that bears his

Sleeping body with it and the cry
Comes from a great way off as over water——
As the sea-bell's that the veering wind divides:

(And the sound runs on the valleys of the water:)

And the light returns as in past time
				as in evenings
Distant with yellow summer on the straw——

As the light in America comes: without leaves....




From Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City (1933)


Bury Ground by the Ties

Ayee! Ai! This is heavy earth on our shoulders:
there were none of us born to be buried in this earth:
Niggers we were, Portugese, Magyars, Polacks:

We were born to another look of the sky certainly.
Now we lie here in the river pastures:
We lie in the mowings under the thick turf:

We hear the earth and the all-day rasp of the grasshoppers.
It was we laid the steel to this land from ocean to ocean:
It was we (if you know) put the U.P. through the passes

Bringing her down into Laramie full load,
Eighteen mile on the granite anticlinal,
Forty-three foot to the mile and the grade holding:

It was we did it: hunkies of our kind.
It was we dug the caved-in holes for the cold water:
It was we built the gully spurs and the freight sidings:

Who would do it but we and the Irishmen bossing us?
It was all foreign-born men there were in this country:
It was Scotsmen, Englishmen, Chinese, Squareheads, Austrians...

Ayee! but there's weight to the earth under it.
Not for this did we come out——to be lying her
Nameless under the ties in the clay cuts:

There's nothing good in the world but the rich will buy it:
Everything sticks to the grease of a gold note——
Even a continent——even a new sky!

Do not pity us much for the strange grass over us:
We laid the steel to the stone stock of these mountains:
The place of our graves is marked by the telegraph poles!

It was not to lie in the bottoms we came out
And the trains going over us here in the hollows...



Background with Revolutionaries

		And the corn singing Millennium!
		Lenin! Millenium! Lennium!

When they're shunting the cars on the Katy a mile off
When they're shunting the cars when they're shunting the cars 
	on the Katy
You can hear the clank of the couplings riding away.

Also Comrade Devine who writes of America
Most instructively having in 'Seventy-four
Crossed to the Hoboken side on the Barclay Street Ferry.

She sits on a settle in the State of North Dakota,
O she sits on a settle in State of North Dakota,
She can hear the engines whistle over Iowa and Idao.

Also Comrade Edward Reminton Ridge
Who has prayed God since the April of 'Seventeen
To replace in his life his lost (M.E.) religion.

And The New York Dauly Worker goes a'blowing over Arkansas,
The New York Daily Worker goes a'blowing over Arkansas,
The grasses let it go along the Ozarks over Arkansas.

Even Comrade Grenadine Grilt who has tried since
August tenth for something to feel about strongly in
Verses——his personal passions having tired.

I can tell my land by the jays in the apple-trees,
Tell my land by the jays in the apple-trees,
I can tell my people by the blue-jays in the apple-trees.

Aindt you read in d' books you are all brudders?
D' glassic historic objective broves you are brudders!
You and d' WOps and d' Chinks you are all brudders!
Havend't you got it d' same ideology? Havend't you?

When it's yesterday in Oregon it's one A M in Maine
And she slides: and the day slides: and it runs: runs over us:
And the bells strike twelve strike twelve strike twelve
In Marblehead in Buffalo in Cheyenne in Cherokee:
Yesterday runs on the states like a crow's shadow.

For Marx has said to us, Workers what do you need?
And Stalin has said to us, Starvers what do you need?
You need the Dialectical Materialism!

She's a tough land under the corn, mister:
She has changed the bone in the cheeks of many races:
She has winced the eyes of the soft Slavs with her sun on them:
She has tried the fat from the round rumps of Italians:
Even the voice of the English has gone dry
And hard on the tongue and alive in the throat speaking.

She's a tough land under the oak-trees, mister:
It may be she can change the word in the book
As she changes the bone of a man's head in his children:
It may be that the earth and the men remain...

There is too much sun on the lids of my eyes to be listening.



Invocation to the Social Muse (1932)

Señora, it is true the Greeks are dead.

It is true also that we here are Americans:
That we use the machines: that a sight of the gof is unusual:
That more people have more thoughts: that there are

Progress and science and tractors and revolutions and
Marx and the wars more antiseptic and murderous
And music in every home: there is also Hoover.

Does the lady suggest we should write it out in The Word?
Does Madame recall our responsibilities? We are
Whores, Fräulein: poets, Fräulein, are persons of

Known vocation following troops: they must sleep with
Stragglers from either prince and of both views.
The rules permit them to further the business of neither.

It is also strictly forbidden to mix in maneuvers.
Those that infringe are inflated with praise on the plazas——
Their bones are resultantly afterwards found under newspapers.

Preferring life with the sons to death with the fathers,
We also doubt on the record whether the sons
Will still be shouting around with the same huzzas——

For we hope Lady to live to lie with the youngest.
There are only a handful of things a man likes,
Generation to generation, hungry or

Well fed: the earth's one: life's
One: Mister Morgan is not one.

There is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style.

He that goes naked goes further at last than another.
Wrap the bard in a flag or a school and they'll jimmy his
Door down and be thick in his bed——for a month:

(Who recalls the address now of the Imagists?)
But the naked man has always his own nakedness.
People remeber forever his live limbs.

They may drive him out of the camps but will take him.
They may stop his tongue on his teeth with a rope's argument——
He will lie in a house and be warm when they are shaking.

Besides, Tovarishch, how to embrace an army?
How to take to one's chamber a million souls?
How to conceive in the name of a column of marchers?

The things of the poet are done to a man alone
As the things of love are done——or of death when he hears the
Step withdraw on the stair the clock tick only.

Neither his class nor his kind nor his trade may come near him
There where he lies on his left arm and will die,
Nor his class nor his kind not his trade when the blood 
	is jeering

And his knee's in the soft of the bed where his love lies.

I remind you, Barinya, the life of the poet is hard——
A hardy life with a boor as quick as a fiver:

Is it just to demand of us also to bear arms?



From Public Speech (1936)

Speech to Those Who Say Comrade

 The brotherhood is not by the blood certainly,
But neither are men brothers by speech——by saying so:
Men are brothers by life lived and are hurt for it.


Hunger and hurt are the great begetters of brotherhood:
Humiliation has gotten much love:
Danger I say is the nobler father and mother.


Those are as brothers whose bodies have shared fear
Or shared harm or shared hurt or indignity.
Why are the old soldiers brothers and nearest?


For this: with their minds they go over the sea a little
And find themselves in their youth again as they were in
Soissons and Meaux and at Ypres and those cities:


A French loaf and the girls with their eyelids painted
Bring back to aging and lonely men
Their twentieth year and the metal odor of danger.

 It is this in life which of all things is tenderest——
To remember together with unknown men the days
Common also to them and perils ended:


It is this which makes of many a generation——
A wave of men who having the same years
Have in common the same dead and the changes.


The solitary and unshared experience
Dies of itself like the violations of love
Or lives on as the dead live eerily:


The unshared and single man must cover his
Loneliness as a girl her shame for the way of
Life is neither by one man nor by suffering.


Who are the born brothers in truth? The puddlers
Scorched by the same flame in the same foundries,
Those who have spit on the same boards with the blood in it.í


Ridden the same rivers with green logs,
Fought the police in the parks of the same cities,
Grinned for the same blows, the same flogging,


Veterans out of the same ships, factories,
Expeditions for fame: the founders of continents:
Those that hid in Geneva a time back,


Those that have hidden and hunted and all such——
Fought together, labored together: they carry the
Common look like a card and they pass touching.


Brotherhood! No word said can make you brothers!
Brotherhood only the brave earn and by danger or
Harm or by bearing hurt and by no other.

Brotherhood here in the strange world is the rich and
Rarest giving of life and the most valued,
Not to be had for a word or a week's wishing.



Speech to a Crowd

Tell me, my patient friends, awaiters of messages.
From what other shore, from what stranger,
Whence, was the word to come?  Who was to lesson you?

Listeners under a childís crib in a manger,
Listeners once by the oracles, now by the transoms,
Whom are you waiting for?  Who do you think will explain?

Listeners thousands of years and still no answer——
Writers at night to Miss Lonely-Hearts, awkward spellers,
Open your eyes!  There is only earth and the man!

There is only you.  There is no one else on the telephone:
No one else is on the air to whisper:
No one else but you will push the bell.

No one knows if you donít: neither ships
Nor landing-fields decode the dark between.
You have your eyes and what your eyes see, is.

The earth you see is really the earth you are seeing.
The sun is truly excellent, truly warm,
Women are beautiful as you have seen them——

Their breasts (believe it) like cooing of doves in a portico.
They bear at their breasts tenderness softly.  Look at them!
Look at yourselves.  You are strong.  You are well formed.

Look at the world——the world you never took!
It is really true you may live in the world heedlessly.
Why do you wait to read it in a book then?

Write it yourselves!  Write to yourselves if you need to!
Tell yourselves there is sun and the sun will rise.
Tell yourselves the earth has food to feed you.

Let the dead men say that men must die!
Who better than you can know what death is?
How can a bone or a broken body surmise it?

Let the dead shriek with their whispering breath.
Laugh at them!  Say the murdered gods may wake
But we who work have end of work together.

Tell yourselves the earth is yours to take!

Waiting for messages out of the dark you were poor.
The world was always yours: you would not take it.


Site Index | Home | AS@UVA | 1930's Website
Comments


Navigation