What Do I Care?

What do I care, in the dreams and the languor
of spring,
That my songs do not show me at all?
For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
I am an answer, they are only a call.

But what do I care, for love will be over so

Let my heart have its say and my mind
stand idly by,
For my mind is proud and strong enough to
be silent,
It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

American poet whose short, personal lyrics are noted for their simplicity and quiet intensity. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 8, 1884. I was amazed to discover that she was born in the same year and city, but seemingly great worlds apart, from Marianne Moore and T. S. Eliot. Refined, poetic, and an advanced artist Miss Teasdale felt most at home in the old tradition of the Victorian poetical style that was slow to leave the midwest and when the poetry renaissance burst upon the scene shortly before the first World War, scholars think that this traditional technique ought to have disqualified her. Yet here is the mystery they say; her reputation spread among poetry lovers who were both critical and aware of the new poetry. She had in fact, like the poet who had most inspired her, Christina Rosetti, a gift that is lyrical and seamlessly natural. It was with this gift that she created an inner landscape that was her own; personal, lucid,and pure; and in the best sense classical.

This particular poem was first published when she was in her late twenties and appeared in Flame and Shadow (1920), the second of three collections it contains openhearted lyrics usually written in quatrain or sonnet form. After rejecting the poet Vachel Lindsay as a suitor, she married St. Louis businessman, Ernst Filsinger, in 1914. Her growth as a poet became evident when she published Love Songs in 1917 and in 1918 it won what was essentially the first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Nine years after Flame and Shadow she divorced Filsinger in 1929 against his wishes.

What Do I Care? by Sara Teasdale is apparently not a well known poem, or even one of her best; but it is a pleasure to read and therefore a valuable thing to have here at E2. Depressed and reclusive, she died January 29, 1933, from an overdose of sleeping pills.


Blair, Bob:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Teasdale, Sara," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

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