Sunday, September 16, 2012

Today's poem by May Sarton

The Work of Happiness

I thought of happiness how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day,
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work,
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours,
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone.
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room,
A shelf of books, a table, and the whitewashed wall -
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done.
The growing tree is green and musical

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life's span in a single place;
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness.
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

May Sarton (1912-1995)
from As Does New Hampshire, 1967


  1. Lovely poem. I read it several times and am struck by her ability to bring out the "soul" of a home in these words. For me it really speaks to all there is to cherish in your home and the history that you create there. I am copying this one down.

    1. Oh, I am so pleased you read it and liked it. It suits your blog, don't you think?!

    2. Yes Nan you are so right. I love it when a home is representative of the people that live there and a reflection of their character, their experiences and lifestyle. So much more interesting than one that is simply decorated according to a trend or a good deal from a home decorating store.

    3. That's why the 'home' magazines are ultimately unfulfilling to look through. The pictures look like nobody lives there. Or all the items are so upscale that they aren't cozy looking to me.

  2. Enjoyed the poem, and I love Sarton's journals, too. She wrote beautifully of the ordinary....

  3. I'm happy you liked it. I have a whole library list of her work I want to read. I've read some over the years, mostly nonfiction, but want to read more.

  4. Oh! That last calm and quieting and reassuring...

  5. I almost got distracted by your apples in the header. Almost. Lord, I love her words. You are so good to bring them for first, second, even third readings. Downsized isn’t just a dwelling. It’s also the luxury of owning books. Bless you, Nan.

    1. Those apples are delicious! And I do love May Sarton's work.

  6. May Sarton loved her house, just as I love mine. I like the line, "...the dear familiar gods of home." Our homes are always such a fine refuge.

    Love the header photo. We just got apples from one of the few remaining apple orchards in the area here in southern New Mexico. Apparently, there used to be lots more but they are too labor intensive and make little money, especially with all the competition of apples coming in from Washington state. Pecans are cheaper to grow here, because so much of the work in the orchard is automated.

    1. I think that's one of the secrets of agriculture - to plant what grows well in the area. I like to think more people are taking it to heart.

  7. What a lovely poem, thank you. I received Swan, by Mary Oliver today, tempted by the taster poem you posted recently. Both M.S and M.O celebrate the everyday in a way that lifts it to holiness.

    1. I knew you'd buy it! And the new one comes out next month. I've preordered it. :<)

  8. Oh, how I have enjoyed catching up with poems by May Sarton and Mary Oliver, recipes and books to look into, and the delicious banner you now post. I can almost smell the sweetness of these apples, Nan. I stopped at an orchard in WI on my way back down from MN and have a half bushel of Cortlands waiting to chomp into - or make some apple crisp.

    1. I'm very interested in varieties in different parts of the country. Are Cortlands the most common/popular out there?

  9. I loved this poem!!
    It is so evocative, and just what I needed to read this morning.
    Thank you SO much!

  10. You have no idea how thrilled I am to find someone else who appreciates MaySarton. She was a brilliant poet and it was her great writing passion and it was wonderful to stumble across a great favorite, while discovering your blog. All-in-all, two marvelous finds! Thank you!


    1. Thanks so much for coming by and leaving a note. I so appreciate your words. I am so fond of her work.


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