Three more gems from Broken Lights

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.


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.)



A Jewel in the Stacks

I went to Syracuse University’s Bird Library to pick up two novels I hope to read over the summer: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and The Killing Man by Mickey Spillane. But as is often the case when I am roaming through the aisles on the fifth floor of the library, another book caught my attention. It’s a slim volume of poetry titled Broken Lights: A Book of Verse by Glenn Hughes, published in 1920. I pulled the rust-colored book off the shelf and flipped it open randomly, stopping on page 68, where I found the poem Dakota Night. As I read the poem, the words stirred my imagination, making me feel like I was standing in a knee-high field of grass surrounded by a bowl of stars.


Was ever such a night for stars
Above this silent prairie land,
Where lonely years have left their scars
In rocky buttes that darkly stand
Against the liquid film of night
So richly flecked with golden light!

There is a peace here, native, strong,
That lies upon this rolling waste
As though the gods had labored long
And, wearying, had turned to taste
The joy of dreamless sleep.  No breath
Is heard.  It is a peace like death.

Yet hark!  A murmur on the hill!
The wind among the grasses wakes;
A cricket strums and then is still.
How sweet the music that night makes!
Starlight and quiet once again
On lonely butte and barren plain.

(Hughes, Glenn. Broken Lights: A Book of Verse. Seattle: Department of Printing, University of Washington, 1920. Print.)

I found an online story about Glenn Hughes, or at least I believe it’s the same Glenn Hughes who penned Broken Lights.

And this incident proves why books on paper will always possess more allure to me than e-books. Bound volumes hold tactile power; the way they look, feel and smell invite the reader to explore the space sandwiched between the front and back covers. My literary find also makes me wonder how many other interesting books are just waiting to be discovered on the library stacks.

You can read Broken Lights online for free.