Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Barter - Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Despite all of the "loveliness" of this poem's imagery, it's met with an undercurrent of sacrifice and cost.  Life does have loveliness, but it's for sale, and nothing is free.  Your peace may come at the price of years of struggle.  However, it's all worth it, in the opinion of Teasdale, as she exhorts us to, "for a breath of ecstasy, give all you have been, or could be."

The poem is an ardent plea to fight for your happiness, to seize that loveliness life has to offer.  The images in the first two stanza are extremely evocative.  I found myself wistfully remembering the scent of the big pine tree in my old front yard.  "Music like a curve of gold" perfectly captures those wondrous moments in life when something so piercingly beautiful carries you away, you become lost in the beauty of it.  Imagining the eyes of one who loves you, the arms of one who has held you dearly, it's such a wonderful feeling.  We need to remember that these things are not free, but that, as the title suggests, we must barter, and give our all for these precious moments.

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