An Eternity

    THERE is no dusk to be,
    There is no dawn that was,
    Only there's now, and now,
    And the wind in the grass.

    Days I remember of
    Now in my heart, are now;
    Days that I dream will bloom
    White the peach bough.

    Dying shall never be
    Now in the windy grass;
    Now under shooken leaves
    Death never was.

    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)



An Eternity was first published in Ivory Tower (1917). There are marvelous moments of eternity that just happen and we all know them. This poem calls to mind discussions by Joseph Campbell about death and eternity:

    Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. The problem with heaven is that you will be having such a good time there, you won’t even think of eternity. You’ll just have this unending delight in the beatific vision of God. But the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.
Unfortunately Archibald MacLeish's mature work remains under copyright. You might enjoy his more polished poem You, Andrew Marvell composed along the same lines. It’s better structured with more depth of meaning and interest. An American poet he was born on May 7th in Glencoe,IL educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School. He was among other things a lawyer, social critic, public servant and educator.
    "(T)wo striking things about MaLeish," explains a member of the Poets' Corner Editorial Staff. "The first is that he obviously read a lot and put a lot of what he read into his own verse. You will find echoes of Marvell, Browning, Yeats, Eliot, even Hemingway in his poems. The second is that literature was secondary to his public life. He was librarian of Congress, an assistant Secretary of State, and a co-founder of UNESCO. This puts him in the company of some of the best American poets of this century, including William Carlos Williams (a physician) and Wallace Stevens (lawyer and insurance executive). To many, much of the poetry of this century seems remote and irrelevant. I think that one reason for this is that most poets do not have day-to-day contact with non-academic, non-literary work-a-day reality. "
Known for his originality and technical skill Archibald MaLeish was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. First for his narrative on the conquest of Mexico, Conquistador (1932) and again in 1953 for Collected Poems, 1917-1952. In 1923 MaLeish resigned form his job as an attorney and moved his family to France to concentrate on his writings. It was there that he began friendships with the likes of Ezra Pound, Kay Boyle, and Ernest Hemingway.

He eventually espoused an opposition to the scholastic poetry of those who influenced him most saying that modern poets were duty bound to embrace political and societal issues in the same manner as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton.

A great uncle to actor Bruce Dern, some interesting asides. MaLeish was a supporter of the New Deal and a member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Brain Trust. As librarian of Congress (1934-1944) he wrote many of FDR's speeches. After Eleanor Roosevelt's death it was MacLeish who observed to her harshest critics regarding their complaints of her "bolshevism" and meddling while cruelly mocking her physical appearance, that 'Eleanor has turned out not to be an ugly duckling after all, but rather a Sleeping Beauty of unstinting generosity and grace.' In April 1982 Archibald MacLeish passed away in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sources:

Archibald MacLeish - The Academy of American Poets:
http://www.onlinepoetryclassroom.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=48

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, “MaLeish, Archibald," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Excerpts from conversation's with Michael Toms and Joseph Campbell:
http://www.whidbey.com/parrott/toms.htm

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/maclei01.html#3

CST Approved.

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