Did I say “every day”? Obviously I meant “every day unless I forget.” Oops! Anyway, this has been one of my very favorite love poems for a long time, by one of my favorite poets. He was a Librarian of Congress, and quite cute:
It’s funny, though–it’s a beautiful, sexy poem, but it’s more about the poet and his poems than the woman, isn’t it? It seems like a lot of love poems are that way. Flattering to receive because a great poet loves you, not because he’s written anything specific to YOU, really. Of course, that’s almost the point of this one. What do you think?
The title is a reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet LV.
“Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments”
by Archibald MacLeish
The praisers of women in their proud and beautiful poems,
Naming the grave mouth and the hair and the eyes,
Boasted those they loved should be forever remembered:
These were lies.
The words sound but the face in the Istrian sun is forgotten.
The poet speaks but to her dead ears no more.
The sleek throat is gone — and the breast that was troubled to listen:
Shadow from door.
Therefore I will not praise your knees nor your fine walking
Telling you men shall remember your name as long
As lips move or breath is spent or the iron of English
Rings from a tongue.
I shall say you were young, and your arms straight, and your mouth scarlet:
I shall say you will die and none will remember you:
Your arms change, and none remember the swish of your garments,
Nor the click of your shoe.
Not with my hand’s strength, not with difficult labor
Springing the obstinate words to the bones of your breast
And the stubborn line to your young stride and the breath to your breathing
And the beat to your haste
Shall I prevail on the hearts of unborn men to remember.
(What is a dead girl but a shadowy ghost
Or a dead man’s voice but a distant and vain affirmation
Like dream words most)
Therefore I will not speak of the undying glory of women.
I will say you were young and straight and your skin fair
And you stood in the door and the sun was a shadow of leaves on your shoulders
And a leaf on your hair —
I will not speak of the famous beauty of dead women:
I will say the shape of a leaf lay once on your hair.
Till the world ends and the eyes are out and the mouths broken
Look! It is there!