March 27th, 2008


Chill Dude

Late last night the air turned so cold that I thought the moonlit flowers might crack if touched. Such a chill would surely have brought snow had the thin clouds been capable of precipitation. But their lacy crystals remained aloft, providing a faintly mauve halo for the waning moon. Today I woke to bright sunlight which made me expect a warm day, but the air remained quite cool. When dusk fell this evening, the birds hastened to their nightly shelters as the temperature rapidly dropped again. If this continues, March will go out like frozen lamb.

There's a project to post on-line all the works of George Sterling, probably California's second-best known poet in the early years of the 20th century (the best known was undoubtedly the considerably older Joaquin Miller.) Never very well known outside California, today he's remembered little even here, and even in San Francisco is more apt to be noted as one of the city's curious eccentrics than for his actual work (legend has it that he was occasionally found cavorting by night, nude and drunk, in one or another of the city's public fountains, and that the police would not arrest him but would escort him home.)

He was anything but modern in his style, though late in his career he became an admirer of the decidedly modern work of fellow Californian Robinson Jeffers, and the sheer amount of his output was probably a strain on his talent, but perusing the verses on-line I've found a few that possess more weight than I might have expected, and considerable charm. If he ever comes to be considered a major poet, it will be evidence that American culture has come to a sorry end and is devouring its own entrails, but I'm be willing to keep reading his available work, to find among it such minor gems as this:
A Winter Dawn
Untouched by crimson or by gold,
  Its pure and fleeting marble rose
  Beyond the wall of eastern snows —
Ethereal, Pentelic, cold.

Its fragile towers were high and thin,
  Symbol of beauty passionless,
  Of all inviolate loveliness;
And not of earth the pearl therein—

The pearl too precious to endure,
  Seen where the heavens' ghostly shell
  Holds in its vast and sapphire cell
A nacre infinitely pure.

So the marmorean glory bleak
  Spoke of the snows of Beauty's home;
  Then that blue sea withdrew its foam,
And we that witnessed could not speak.