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Nahant: Poetry by the Sea



Sara TeasdaleSARA TEASDALE        (1884 – 1933) was an important early twentieth century American poet. She won the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1918 for her book, Love Songs.  Over the course of her life, her poetry showed her changing views of beauty, love, and death.  She had a sheltered upbringing in St. Louis, later moved to Chicago, and spent most of her adult years living the writer’s life in New York.  There, she gradually grew disillusioned and finally took her own life.  “Nahant” is from her best-selling collection, Flame and Shadow, her first book after winning the Pulitzer Prize. “Nahant” shows the accessibility, musical language, and emotion that are characteristic of Teasdale’s poetry.  The poem evokes the serenity of Nahant amidst the shadow of World War I, and nicely complements Charles Hammond Gibson Jr.’s “The Forty Steps.”





Bowed as an elm under the weight of its beauty,
So earth is bowed, under her weight of splendor,
Molten sea, richness of leaves and the burnished
        Bronze of sea-grasses.

Clefts in the cliff shelter the purple sand-peas
And chicory flowers bluer than the ocean
Flinging its foam high, white fire in sunshine,
        Jewels of water.

Joyous thunder of blown waves on the ledges,
Make me forget war and the dark war-sorrow –
Against the sky a sentry paces the sea-cliff
        Slim in his khaki.


from: Flame and Shadow  (New York: MacMillan & Co.) 1920.