Edith Wharton's Poems 1 (Alphabetically Arranged)

List of Edith Wharton's Poems (including those not online)

1880-1898 arranged chronologically on this page
  Works by Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
An Edith Wharton Chronology (includes more exact dates of publication)
Edith Wharton's stories with original dates of publication
Aeropagus."Atlantic Monthly 45 (Mar. 1880): 335.
"All Souls." Scribner's Magazine 45 (Jan. 1909): 22-23.
"Artemis to Actaeon." Scribner's Magazine 31 (June 1902): 661-62.
"An Autumn Sunset" Scribner's Magazine 16 (Oct. 1894): 419.
"Battle Sleep." Century Magazine 90 (Sept. 1915): 736.
"Botticelli's Madonna in the Louvre." Scribner's Magazine 9 (Jan. 1891): 74.
"The Bread of Angels." Harper's Magazine 105 (Sept. 1902): 583-85.
"Chartres" Scribner's Magazine 14 (Sept. 1893): 287.
"The Comrade." Atlantic Monthly 106 (Dec. 1910): 785-87. 
"Euryalus."Atlantic Monthly 64 (Dec. 1889): 761.
"Experience." Scribner's Magazine 13 (Jan. 1893): 91.
"A Failure" Atlantic Monthly 45 (April 1880): 464-65.
Happiness" Scribner's Magazine 6 (Dec. 1889): 715.
"Jade" Century Magazine 49 (Jan. 1895): 391.
"The Last Giustianini" Scribner's Magazine 6 (Oct. 1889): 405-06. 
"Life" Scribner's Magazine 15 (June 1894): 739. 
"Life" Atlantic Monthly 102 (Oct. 1908): 501-04. 
"Moonrise Over Tyringham." Century Magazine 76 (July 1908): 356-57.
"Mould and Vase." Atlantic Monthly 88 (Sept. 1901): 343.
"Ogrin the Hermit." Atlantic Monthly 104 (Dec. 1909): 844-48
"The Old Pole Star." Scribner's Magazine 43 (Jan. 1908): 68.
"'On Active Service'; American Expeditionary Force (R. S., August 12, 1918)." Scribner's Magazine 64 (Nov. 1918): 619.
"The One Grief." Scribner's Magazine 24 (July 1898): 90.

"The Parting Day."Atlantic Monthly 45 (Feb. 1880): 194.
"Patience"Atlantic Monthly 45 (April 1880): 548-49.
"Phaedra" Scribner's Magazine 23 (Jan. 1898): 68.
"Pomegranate Seed." Scribner's Magazine 51 (Mar. 1912): p284-91
"The Sonnet."Century Magazine 43 (Nov. 1891): 113.
"Summer Afternoon (Bodiam Castle, Sussex)." Scribner's Magazine 49 (Mar. 1911): 277-78.
"The Tomb of Ilaria Giunigi."Scribner's Magazine 9 (Feb. 1891): 156
"A Torchbearer." Scribner's Magazine 33 (April 1903): 504-05. 
"Two Backgrounds" (LA VIERGE AU DONATEUR. and MONA LISA) Scribner's Magazine 12 (Nov. 1892): 550.
"Uses." Scribner's Magazine 31 (Feb. 1902): 180.
"Vesalius in Zante. (1564)" North American Review 175 (Nov. 1902): 625-31.
"You and You; to the American private in the great war." Scribner's Magazine 65 (Feb. 1919): 152-153.
"Wants"Atlantic Monthly 45 (May 1880): 599.
"With the Tide." Saturday Evening Post 191, 29 Mar. 1919: 8. 

"The Hymn of the Lusitania."New York Herald, 7 May 1915: 1. New icon
"The Great Blue Tent." New York Times, 25 Aug. 1915: 10.

"The Parting Day." Atlantic Monthly 45 (Feb. 1880): 194.


SOME busy hands have brought to light,
And laid beneath my eye,
The dress I wore that afternoon
You came to say good-by.

About it still there seems to cling
Some fragrance unexpressed,
The ghostly odor of the rose
I wore upon my breast;

And, subtler than all flower-scent,
The sacred garment holds
The memory of that parting day
Close hidden in its folds.

The rose is dead, and you are gone,
But to the dress I wore
The rose's smell, the thought of you,
Are wed forevermore.


That day you came to say good-by
(A month ago! It seems a year!)
How calm I was! I met your eye,
And in my own you saw no tear.

You heard me laugh and talk and jest,
And lightly grieve that you should go;
You saw the rose upon my breast,
But not the breaking heart below.

And when you came and took my hand,
It scarcely fluttered in your hold.
Alas, you did not understand!
For you were blind, and I was cold.

And now you cannot see my tears,
And now you cannot hear my cry.
A month ago? Nay, years and years
Have aged my heart since that good-by.

Atlantic Monthly 45 (Mar. 1880): 335.

WHERE suns chase suns in rhythmic dance,
Where seeds are springing from the dust,
Where mind sways mind with spirit-glance,
High court is held, and law is just.

No hill alone, a sovereign bar;
Through space the fiery sparks are whirled
That draw and cling, and shape a star, --
That burn and cool, and form a world

Whose hidden forces hear a voice
That leads them by a perfect plan:
"Obey," it cries, "with steadfast choice,
Law shall complete what law began.

"Refuse, -- behold the broken arc,
The sky of all its stars despoiled;
The new germ smothered in the dark,
The snow-pure soul with sin assoiled."

The voice still saith, "While atoms weave
Both world and soul for utmost joy,
Who sins must suffer, -- no reprieve;
The law that quickens must destroy."

"A Failure." 
Atlantic Monthly 45 (April 1880): 464-65.

( She Speaks.)

I MEANT to be so strong and true!
The world may smile and question, When?
But what I might have been to you
I cannot be to other men.
Just one in twenty to the rest,
And all in all to you alone, --
This was my dream; perchance 'tis best
That this, like other dreams, is flown.

For you I should have been so kind,
So prompt my spirit to control,
To win fresh vigor for my mind,
And purer beauties for my soul;
Beneath your eye I might have grown
To that divine, ideal height,
Which, mating wholly with your own,
Our equal spirits should unite. 

Page 465

To others I am less than naught;
To you I might have been so much,
Could but your calm, discerning thought
Have put my powers to the touch!
Your love had made me doubly fair;
Your wisdom made me thrice as wise,
Lent clearer lustre to my hair,
And read new meanings in my eyes.

Ah, yes, to you I might have been
That happy being, past recall,
The slave, the helpmeet, and the queen, --
All these in one, and one in all.
But that which I had dreamed to do
I learned too late was dreamed in vain,
For what I might have been to you
I cannot be to other men.

Atlantic Monthly 45 (April 1880): 548-49.

PATIENCE and I have traveled hand in hand
So many days that I have grown to trace
The lines of sad, sweet beauty in her face,
And all its veiled depths to understand.

Not beautiful is she to eyes profane;
Silent and unrevealed her holy charms; 

Page 549

But, like a mother's, her serene, strong arms
Uphold my footsteps on the path of pain.

I long to cry, -- her soft voice whispers, "Nay!"
I seek to fly, but she restrains my feet;
In wisdom stern, yet in compassion sweet,
She guides my helpless wanderings, day by day.

O my Beloved, life's golden visions fade,
And one by one life's phantom joys depart;
They leave a sudden darkness in the heart,
And patience fills their empty place instead.

Atlantic Monthly 45 (May 1880): 599.

WE women want to many things;
And first we call for happiness, --
The careless boon the hour brings,
The smile, the song, and the caress.

And when the fancy fades, we cry,
Nay, give us one on whom to spend
Our heart's desire! When Love goes by
With folded wings, we seek a friend.

And then our children come, to prove
Our hearts but slumbered, and can wake;
And when they go, we're fain to love
Some other woman's for their sake.

But when both love and friendship fail,
We cry for duty, work to do;
Some end to gain beyond the pale
Of self, some height to journey to.

And then, before our task is done,
With sudden weariness oppressed,
We leave the shining goal unwon
And only ask for rest.

"The Last Giustianini." 
Scribner's Magazine 6 (Oct. 1889): 405-06. 
By Edith Wharton.

O WIFE, wife, wife! As if the sacred name
Could weary one with saying! Once again
Laying against my brow your lips' soft flame,
Join with me, Sweetest, in love's new refrain,
Since the whole music of my late-found life
Is that we call each other "husband -- wife."

And yet, stand back, and let your cloth of gold
Straighten its sumptuous lines from waist to knee,
And, flowing firmly outward, fold on fold,
Invest your slim young form with majesty
As when, in those calm bridal robes arrayed,
You stood beside me, and I was afraid.

I was afraid -- O sweetness, whiteness, youth,
Best gift of God, I feared you! I, indeed,
For whom all womanhood has been, forsooth,
Summed up in the sole Virgin of the Creed,
I thought that day our Lady's self stood there
And bound herself to me with vow and prayer.

Ah, yes, that day. I sat, remember well,
Half-crook'd above a missal, and laid in
The gold-leaf slowly; silence in my cell;
The picture, Satan tempting Christ to sin
Upon the mount's blue, pointed pinnacle,
The world outspread beneath as fair as hell -- 

Page 406

When suddenly they summoned me. I stood
Abashed before the Abbot, who reclined
Full-bellied in his chair beneath the rood,
And roseate with having lately dined;
And then -- I standing there abashed -- he said:
"The house of Giustiniani all lie dead."

It scarcely seemed to touch me (I had led
A grated life so long) that oversea
My kinsmen in their knighthood should lie dead,
Nor that this sudden death should set me free,
Me, the last Giustiniani -- well, what then?
A monk! -- The Giustiniani had been men.

So when the Abbot said: "The state decrees
That you, the latest scion of the house
Which died in vain for Venice overseas,
Should be exempted from your sacred vows,
And straightway, when you leave this cloistered place,
Take wife, and add new honors to the race,"

I hardly heard him -- would have crept again
To the warped missal -- but he snatched a sword
And girded me, and all the heart of men
Rushed through me, as he laughed and hailed me lord,
And, with my hand upon the hilt, I cried,
"Viva San Marco!" like my kin who died.

But, straightway, when, a new-made knight, I stood
Beneath the bridal arch, and saw you come,
A certain monkish warping of the blood
Ran up and struck the man's heart in me dumb;
I breathed an Ave to our Lady's grace,
And did not dare to look upon your face.

And when we swept the waters side by side,
With timbrelled gladness clashing on the air,
I trembled at your image in the tide,
And warded off the devil with a prayer,
Still seeming in a golden dream to move
Through fiendish labyrinths of forbidden love.

But when they left us, and we stood alone,
I, the last Giustiniani, face to face
With your unvisioned beauty, made my own
In this, the last strange bridal of our race,
And, looking up at last to meet your eyes,
Saw in their depths the star of love arise,

Ah, then the monk's garb shrivelled from my heart,
And left me man to face your womanhood.
Without a prayer to keep our lips apart
I turned about and kissed you where you stood,
And gathering all the gladness of my life
Into a new-found word, I called you "wife!"

Atlantic Monthly 64 (Dec. 1889): 761.

UPWARD we went by fields of asphodel,
Leaving Ortygia's moat-bound walls below;
By orchards, where the wind-flowers' drifted snow
Lay lightly heaped upon the turf's light swell;
By gardens, whence upon the wayside fell
Jasmine and rose in April's overflow;
Till, winding up in Epipolae's wide brow,
We reached at last the lonely citadel.

There, on the ruined rampart climbing high,
We sat and dreamed among the browsing sheep,
Until we heard the trumpet's startled cry
Waking a clang of arms about the keep,
And seaward saw, with rapt foreboding eye,
The sails of Athens whiten on the deep.
Edith Wharton.

Scribner's Magazine 6 (Dec. 1889): 715.
By Edith Wharton.

THIS perfect love can find no words to say.
What words are left, still sacred for our use,
That have not suffered the sad world's abuse,
And figure forth a gladness dimmed and gray?
Let us be silent still, since words convey
But shadowed images, wherein we lose
The fulness of love's light; our lips refuse
The fluent commonplace of yesterday.

Then shall we hear beneath the brooding wing
Of silence what abiding voices sleep,
The primal notes of nature, that outring
Man's little noises, warble he or weep,
The song the morning stars together sing,
The sound of deep that calleth unto deep.

"Botticelli's Madonna in the Louvre." 
Scribner's Magazine 9 (Jan. 1891): 74.

WHAT strange presentiment, O Mother, lies
On thy waste brow and sadly-folded lips,
Forefeeling the Light's terrible eclipse
On Calvary, as if love made thee wise,
And thou couldst read in those dear infant eyes
The sorrow that beneath their smiling sleeps,
And guess what bitter tears a mother weeps
When the cross darkens her unclouded skies?

Sad Lady, if some mother, passing thee,
Should feel a throb of thy foreboding pain,
And think -- "My child at home clings so to me,
With the same smile . . . and yet in vain, in vain,
Since even this Jesus died on Calvary" --
Say to her then: "He also rose again."

"The Tomb of Ilaria Giunigi." 
Scribner's Magazine 9 (Feb. 1891): 156.
By Edith Wharton.

ILARIA, thou that wert so fair and dear
That death would fain disown thee, grief made wise
With prophecy thy husband's widowed eyes
And bade him call the master's art to rear
Thy perfect image on the sculptured bier,
With dreaming lids, hands laid in peaceful guise
Beneath the breast that seems to fall and rise,
And lips that at love's call should answer, "Here!"

First-born of the Renascence, when thy soul
Cast the sweet robing of the flesh aside,
Into these lovelier marble limbs it stole,
Regenerate in art's sunrise clear and wide
As saints who, having kept faith's raiment whole,
Change it above for garments glorified.

"The Sonnet." 
Century Magazine 43 (Nov. 1891): 113.

PURE form, that like some chalice of old time
Contain'st the liquid of the poet's thought
Within thy curving hollow, gem-enwrought
With interwoven traceries of rhyme,
While o'er thy brim the bubbling fancies climb,
What thing am I, that undismayed have sought
To pour my verse with trembling hand untaught
Into a shape so small yet so sublime?
Because perfection haunts the hearts of men,
Because thy sacred chalice gathered up
The wine of Petrarch, Shakspere, Shelley -- then
Receive these tears of failure as they drop
(Sole vintage of my life), since I am fain
To pour them in a consecrated cup.
Edith Wharton.

"Two Backgrounds." 
Scribner's Magazine 12 (Nov. 1892): 550.
By Edith Wharton.


HERE by the ample river's argent sweep,
Bosomed in tilth and vintage to her walls,
A tower-crowned Cybele in armored sleep
The city lies, fat plenty in her halls,
With calm, parochial spires that hold in fee
The friendly gables clustered at their base,
And, equipoised o'er tower and market-place,
The Gothic minster's winged immensity;
And in that narrow burgh, with equal mood,
Two placid hearts, to all life's good resigned,
Might, from the altar to the lych-gate, find
Long years of peace and dreamless plenitude.


Yon strange blue city crowns a scarped steep
No mortal foot hath bloodlessly essayed;
Dreams and illusions beacon from its keep,
But at the gate an Angel bares his blade;
And tales are told of those who thought to gain
At dawn its ramparts; but when evening fell
Far off they saw each fading pinnacle
Lit with wild lightnings from the heaven of pain;
Yet there two souls, whom life's perversities
Had mocked with want in plenty, tears in mirth,
Might meet in dreams, ungarmented of earth,
And drain Joy's awful chalice to the lees.

Scribner's Magazine 13 (Jan. 1893): 91.
By Edith Wharton.


LIKE Crusoe with the bootless gold we stand
Upon the desert verge of death, and say:
"What shall avail the woes of yesterday
To buy to-morrow's wisdom, in the land
Whose currency is strange unto our hand?
In life's small market they have served to pay
Some late-found rapture, could we but delay
Till Time hath matched our means to our demand."

But otherwise Fate wills it, for, behold,
Our gathered strength of individual pain,
When Time's long alchemy hath made it gold,
Dies with us -- hoarded all these years in vain,
Since those that might be heir to it the mould
Renew, and coin themselves new griefs again.


O, Death, we come full-handed to thy gate,
Rich with strange burden of the mingled years,
Gains and renunciations, mirth and tears,
And love's oblivion, and remembering hate,
Nor know we what compulsion laid such freight
Upon our souls -- and shall our hopes and fears
Buy nothing of thee, Death? Behold our wares,
And sell us the one joy for which we wait.
Had we lived longer, life had such for sale,
With the last coin of sorrow purchased cheap,
But now we stand before thy shadowy pale,
And all our longings lie within thy keep --
Death, can it be the years shall naught avail?

"Not so," Death answered, "they shall purchase sleep."

Scribner's Magazine 14 (Sept. 1893): 287.
By Edith Wharton.


IMMENSE, august, like some Titanic bloom,
The mighty choir unfolds its lithic core,
Petalled with panes of azure, gules and or,
Splendidly lambent in the Gothic gloom,
And stamened with keen flamelets that illume
The pale high-altar. On the prayer-worn floor,
By surging worshippers thick-thronged of yore,
A few brown crones, familiars of the tomb,
The stranded driftwood of Faith's ebbing sea --
For these alone the finials fret the skies,
The topmost bosses shake their blossoms free,
While from the triple portals, with grave eyes,
Tranquil, and fixed upon eternity,
The cloud of witnesses still testifies.


The crimson panes like blood-drops stigmatize
The western floor. The aisles are mute and cold.
A rigid fetich in her robe of gold
The Virgin of the Pillar, with blank eyes,
Enthroned beneath her votive canopies,
Gathers a meagre remnant to her fold.
The rest is solitude; the church, grown old,
Stands stark and gray beneath the burning skies.
Wellnigh again its mighty frame-work grows
To be a part of nature's self, withdrawn
>From hot humanity's impatient woes;
The floor is ridged like some rude mountain lawn,
And in the east one giant window shows
The roseate coldness of an Alp at dawn.

Scribner's Magazine 15 (June 1894): 739. 
By Edith Wharton.

LIFE, like a marble block, is given to all,
A blank, inchoate mass of years and days,
Whence one with ardent chisel swift essays
Some shape of strength or symmetry to call;
One shatters it in bits to mend a wall;
One in a craftier hand the chisel lays,
And one, to wake the mirth in Lesbia's gaze,
Carves it apace in toys fantastical.

But least is he who, with enchanted eyes
Filled with high visions of fair shapes to be,
Muses which god he shall immortalize
In the proud Parian's perpetuity,
Till twilight warns him from the punctual skies
That the night cometh wherein none shall see.

"An Autumn Sunset." 
Scribner's Magazine 16 (Oct. 1894): 419. 
By Edith Wharton


The wild black promontories of the coast extend
Their savage silhouettes;
The sun in universal carnage sets,
And, halting higher,
The motionless storm-clouds mass their sullen threats,
Like an advancing mob in sword-points penned,
That, balked, yet stands at bay.
Mid-zenith hangs the fascinated day
In wind-lustrated hollows crystalline,
A wan valkyrie whose wide pinions shine
Across the ensanguined ruins of the fray,
And in her lifted hand swings high o'erhead,
Above the waste of war,
The silver torch-light of the evening star
Wherewith to search the faces of the dead.


Lagooned in gold,
Seem not those jetty promontories rather
The outposts of some ancient land forlorn,
Uncomforted of morn,
Where old oblivions gather,
The melancholy, unconsoling fold
Of all things that go utterly to death
And mix no more, no more
With life's perpetually awakening breath?
Shall Time not ferry me to such a shore,
Over such sailless seas,
To walk with hope's slain importunities
In miserable marriage? Nay, shall not
All things be there forgot,
Save the sea's golden barrier and the black
Closecrouching promontories?
Dead to all shames, forgotten of all glories,
Shall I not wander there, a shadow's shade,
A spectre self-destroyed,
So purged of all remembrance and sucked back
Into the primal void,
That should we on that shore phantasmal meet
I should not know the coming of your feet?

"Jade." Century Magazine 49 (Jan. 1895): 391.

THE patient craftsman of the East who made
His undulant dragons of the veined jade,
And wound their sinuous volutes round the whole
Pellucid green redundance of the bowl,
Chiseled his subtle traceries with the same
Keen stone he wrought them in.
Nor praise, nor blame,
Nor gifts the years relinquish or refuse,
But only a grief commensurate with thy soul,
Shall carve it in a shape for gods to use.
Edith Wharton.

Scribner's Magazine 23 (Jan. 1898): 68. 
By Edith Wharton

NOT that on me the Cyprian fury fell,
Last martyr of my love-ensanguined race;
Not that my children drop the averted face
When my name shames the silence; not that hell
Holds me where nevermore his glance shall dwell
Nightlong between my lids, my pulses race
Through flying pines the tempest of the chase,
Nor my heart rest with him beside the well.

Not that he hates me; not, O baffled gods --
Not that I slew him! -- yet, because your goal
Is always reached, nor your rejoicing rods
Fell ever yet upon insensate clods,
Know, the one pang that makes your triumph whole
Is, that he knows the baseness of my soul.