Monday, August 24, 2015

May Sarton: "The Work of Happiness"

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall––
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life's span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

"The Work of Happiness" by May Sarton. Text as published in Collected Poems: 1930-1993 (W. W. Norton & Company, 1993).

Art credit: "Oak • 1772–1871 • Missouri [USA] • Chronology constructions," photograph of tree rings by Nicholas Benner.

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