I finished the 1920 poetry book Broken Lights: A Book of Verse by Glenn Hughes, which I mentioned in my last post.
In spending some time with the book, I inspected the library checkout card and was amazed to discover it was first taken out of Syracuse University Library on September 2, 1926. I find it exciting to think that more than 85 years ago someone else was flipping through the same pages and reading the same poems. The last date stamped on the card is June 7, 1932. And another stamp on the first inside page reads, “STORAGE 28 JUL ’65 J F.”
There are several beautiful poems in the collection, but three short works that appear on consecutive pages (56-58), a literary triptych if you will, struck me the most. The first two seem dark at first but both end on a positive note. They also employ an alternating rhyming pattern. Here are the three poems:
God knows what dreary stretches lie
In the vast regions of my heart—
Bleak places where all flowers die,
And birds flee from wind’s keen smart.
But this I know: though desolate
Such of my heart’s dark spaces be,
Fair fields there are, inviolate,
Glowing and warm with love of thee.
“Life—what is life?” I asked the world,
The world did not reply;
Its bitter lip with scorn was curled,
And mocking was its eye.
But then you came, and now I stand
From the grim world apart;
For life was in the soft white hand
You laid upon my heart.
SONG OF SORROW
The songs I made for you are dead,
For the aching of my heart has drowned their melody,
It is the winter of our love,
And the rose leaves that were scattered in the summer
Lie black and scentless on forgotten paths.
Ah, desolate, desolate with nameless yearning
In my heart that was so light in other days,
And somewhere in a garden,
Where a bird is singing in the sunshine
I can see you sitting, weeping,
With your gold hair all about you,
And a beautiful, deep sorrow in your eyes.
(Hughes, Glenn. Broken Lights: A Book of Verse. Seattle: Department of Printing, University of Washington, 1920. Print.)