For Poetry Friday: Epistle to be Left on Earth

Here's a poem I love that always comes to mind this time of year. I love it for the utter beauty of the pictures the words make...

I am having trouble formating it as the poet intended, so please take a look at it here, because the formating really does matter. But here it is anyway, without the indentations:

Epistle To Be Left In The Earth

by Archibald MacLeish

...It is colder now,
there are many stars,
we are drifting
North by the Great Bear,
the leaves are falling
The water is stone in the scooped rocks,
to southward
Red sun grey air:
the crows are
Slow on their crooked wings,
the jays have left us:
Long since we passed the flares of Orion.
Each man believes in his heart he will die.
Many have written last thoughts and last letters.
None know if our deaths are now or forever:
None know if this wandering earth will be found.

We lie down and the snow covers our garments.
I pray you,
you (if any open this writing)
Make in your mouths the words that were our names.
I will tell you all we have learned,
I will tell you everything:
The earth is round,
there are springs under the orchards,
The loam cuts with a blunt knife,
beware of
Elms in thunder,
the lights in the sky are stars --
We think they do not see,
we think also
The trees do not know nor the leaves of the grasses hear us:
The birds too are ignorant.
Do not listen.
Do not stand at dark in the open windows.
We before you have heard this:
they are voices:
They are not words at all but the wind rising.
Also none among us has seen God
(... We have thought often
the flaws of sun in the late and driving weather
pointed to one tree but it was not so.)
As for the nights I warn you the nights are dangerous:
The wind changes at night and the dreams come.

It is very cold,
there are strange stars near Arcturus,

Voices are crying an unknown name in the sky

And as usual I am left wondering what the dreams and voices out there are, and I tell myself that Macleish is offering a bit of hope at the end of his narrator's denial of anything Beyond.

And as usual I wonder if "we are drifting" nowhere in particular, or if "we are drifting north by the Great Bear" and if it makes a difference. Probably the former, but the later is how I read it first, and it stuck.

NB: I present the poem as punctuated and laid out (well actually I am still working on this part, grrrr. 10 minutes later-- I am giving up--HOW DOES ONE GET BLOGGER TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT ONE REALLY WANTS SPACES EVERYTIME ONE TYPES THE SPACE BAR???? Is there html code for this?) in The New Oxford Book of American Verse --there really is no final period. Which I think makes a difference...

Poetry Friday is being hosted at Susan Writes today--thanks Susan!


  1. To get blogger to accept that you want the spaces, I think you have to use Rich Text when drafting. Otherwise, if you're trying to indent, you have to use HTML codes for that in the HTML page. But I'm not sure of the RichText thing, since I'm an HTML girl.

    I loved your poem, and thought it made an interesting juxtaposition with the one that Jules posted over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

  2. thanks Kelly- is there then a specific html code I should put in?

  3. If you want to indent at the start of the line, you can use one of two codes. The first worked for me, but the coding sometimes showed up depending on what browser folks use. It's the ampersand followed by emsp (for em-space). A smaller indent can be done with ensp (for en-space). You run it together, but if I do it here, it might not turn up, so I've added a space between the symbol and the code: & emsp

    The other way is the ampersand, followed immediately by the pound sign, followed by the numbers 8195. It's & # 8195, only without any spaced in there. It will indent a line reliably.

    And to indent the entire poem, you can use the arrow-shaped brackets (same as for bolding), and then put the word "blockquote" inside them (without the quotes around it).

    I hope one of those works/helps.

  4. Here's a little indenting tip I learned last time I had a similar Blogger rant -- type in some x's and then make them the same color as your background by chosing a different text color. (Which is easy for us because our background is white...might be a little bit more tricky for you.) You can do the same thing to leave spaces between lines. Not as tricky as writing html code, except maybe that's your thing.

  5. Thanks Kelly and Mary Lee!

    I am giving up.

    But I do like the idea of tricking blogger with invisible x's--I will keep that in mind!


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