Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE STAR, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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THE STAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I am a certain god
Last Line: "and what shall I do?"
Subject(s): Love; Stars


I am a certain god
Who slipped down from a remote height
To a place of pools and stars.
And I sat invisible
Amid a clump of trees
To watch the mad men.

There were cries and groans about me,
And shouts of laughter and curses.
Figures passed by with self-absorbed contempt
Wrinkling in bitter smiles about their lips.
Others hurried on with set eyes
Pursuing something.
Then I said this is the place for mad Frederick --
Mad Frederick will be here.

But everywhere I could see
Figures sitting or standing
By little pools.
Some seemed grown into the soil
And were helpless.
And of these some were asleep.
Others laughed the laughter
That comes from dying men
Trying to face Death.
And others said "I should be content."
And others said "I will fly."
Whereupon sepulchral voices muttered,
As of creatures sitting or hanging head down
From limbs of the trees,
"We will not let you."
And others looked in their pools
And clasped hands and said "Gone -- all gone."
By other pools there were dead bodies,
Some of youth, some of age.
They had given up the fight,
They had drunk poisoned water,
They had searched
Until they fell --
All had gone mad.

Then I, a certain god,
Curious to know
What it is in pools and stars
That drives men and women
Over the earth in this quest,
Waited for mad Frederick
And then I heard his step.

I knew that long ago
He sat by one of these pools
Enraptured of a star's image
And that hands, for his own good,
As they said,
Dumped clay into the pool
And blotted his star.
And I knew that after that
He had said: "They will never spy again
Upon my ecstasy.
They will never see me watching one star.
I will fly by rivers
And by little brooks
And by the edge of lakes
And by little bends of water
Where no wind blows,
And glance at stars as I pass --
They will never spy again
Upon my ecstasy."

And I knew that mad Frederick
In this flight
Through years of restlessness and madness
Was caught by the image of a star
In a mere beyond a meadow,
Down from a hill, under a forest,
And had said:
"No one sees;
Here I can find life
Through vision of eternal things!"
But they had followed him.
They stood on the brow of the hill,
And when they saw him gazing in the water
They rolled a great stone down the hill,
And shattered the star's image.
Then mad Frederick fled with laughter.
It echoed through the wood.
And he said, "I will look for moons.
I will punish them who disturb me,
By worshipping moons."
But when he sought moons
They left him alone.
And he did not want the moons.
And he was alone, and sick from the moons,
And covered as with a white blankness,
Which was the worst madness of all.

And I, a certain god,
Waiting for mad Frederick
To enter this place of pools and stars,
Saw him at last.
With a sigh he looked about upon his fellows
Sitting or standing by their pools.
And some of the pools were covered with scum
And some were glazed as of filth
And some were grown with weeds
And some were congealed as of the north wind
And a few were yet pure
And held the star's image.
And by these some sat and were glad.
Others had lost the vision:
The star was there, but its meaning vanished.
And mad Frederick going here and there
With no purpose
Only curious and interested
As I was, a certain god,
Came by a certain pool
And saw a star.

He shivered.
He clasped his hands.
He sank to his knees.
He touched his lips to the water!

Then voices from the limbs of the trees muttered:
"There he is again."
"He must be driven away."
"The pool is not his."
"He does not belong here."
So as when bats fly in a cave
They swooped from their hidings in the trees
And dashed themselves in the pool.
Then I saw what these flying things were.
But no matter;
They were thoughts evil and envious
And selfish and dull,
But with power to destroy.
And mad Frederick turned away from the pool
And covered his eyes with his arms.
Then a certain god
Of less power than mine
Came and sat beside me and said:

"Why do you allow this to be?
They are all seeking,
Why do you not let them find their heart's delight?
Why do you allow this to be?"
But I did not answer.
The lesser god did not know
That I have no power,
That only the God has the power
And that this must be
In spite of all lesser gods.

And I saw mad Frederick
Arise and ascend to the top of a high hill.
And I saw him find the star
Whose image he had seen in the pool.
Then he knelt and prayed:
"Give me to understand, O star,
Your inner self, your eternal spirit,
That I may have you and not images of you,
So that I may know what has driven me through the world,
And may cure my soul.
For I know you are Eternal Love
And I can never escape you.
And if I cannot escape you
Then I must serve you.
And if I must serve you
It must be to good and not ill --
You have brought me from the forest of pools
And the images of stars,
Here to the hill's top.
Where now do I go?
And what shall I do?"





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