Top 15 Most Popular Poems of Conrad Potter Aiken

These are the top fifteen (15) most popular poems of Conrad Potter Aiken

From Music I Heard to The House Of Dust: Part 01: 03: One, Where The Pale Sea Foamed At The Yellow Sand.

If you want to know his greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.

Keep reading!…

Music I Heard


Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.


Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.


For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

Conrad Potter Aiken

All Lovely Things


All lovely things will have an ending,
All lovely things will fade and die,
And youth, that’s now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by and by.
Fine ladies soon are all forgotten,
And goldenrod is dust when dead,
The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten
And cobwebs tent the brightest head.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!
But time goes on, and will, unheeding,
Though hands will reach, and eyes will yearn,
And the wild days set true hearts bleeding.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, remain!
But goldenrod and daisies wither,
And over them blows autumn rain,
They pass, they pass, and know not whither.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Discordants


I (Bread and Music)


Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.


Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.


II


My heart has become as hard as a city street,
The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron,
All day long and all night long they beat,
They ring like the hooves of time.
My heart has become as drab as a city park,
The grass is worn with the feet of shameless lovers,
A match is struck, there is kissing in the dark,
The moon comes, pale with sleep.
My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices,
They shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places,
And tunes from the hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices
Shoot arrows into my heart.


III


Dead Cleopatra lies in a crystal casket,
Wrapped and spiced by the cunningest of hands.
Around her neck they have put a golden necklace,
Her tatbebs, it is said, are worn with sands.
Dead Cleopatra was once revered in Egypt,
Warm-eyed she was, this princess of the South.
Now she is old and dry and faded,
With black bitumen they have sealed up her mouth.
O sweet clean earth, from whom the green blade cometh!
When we are dead, my best beloved and I,
Close well above us, that we may rest forever,
Sending up grass and blossoms to the sky.


IV


In the noisy street,
Where the sifted sunlight yellows the pallid faces,
Sudden I close my eyes, and on my eyelids
Feel from the far-off sea a cool faint spray,
A breath on my cheek,
From the tumbling breakers and foam, the hard sand shattered,
Gulls in the high wind whistling, flashing waters,
Smoke from the flashing waters blown on rocks;
And I know once more,
O dearly beloved! that all these seas are between us,
Tumult and madness, desolate save for the sea-gulls,
You on the farther shore, and I in this street.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Asphalt


Light your cigarette, then, in this shadow,
And talk to her, your arm engaged with hers.
Heavily over your heads the eaten maple
In the dead air of August strains and stirs.

Her stone-white face, in the lamp-light, turns toward you;
Darkly, with time-dark eyes, she questions you
Whether this universe is what she thinks it,
Simple and passionate and profound and true


Or whether, as with a sound of dim disaster,
A plaintive music brought to a huddled fall,
Some ancient treachery slides through the heart of things
The last star falling, seen from the utmost wall….


And you, what sinister, far, reserves of laughter,
What understandings, remote, perplexed, remain
Unguessed forever by her who is your victim,
Victim, of whom you too are victim again?

….Come! let us dance once more on the ancient asphalt:
Seeing, beneath its strange and recent shape,
The eternal horror of rock, from which, for ever,
We toss our tortured hands, to no escape.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Dancing Adairs

Behold me, in my chiffon, gauze, and tinsel,
Flitting out of the shadow into the spotlight,
And into the shadow again, without a whisper!
Firefly’s my name, I am evanescent.
Firefly’s your name. You are evanescent.
But I follow you as remorselessly as darkness,
And shut you in and enclose you, at last, and always,
Till you are lost, as a voice is lost in silence.
Till I am lost, as a voice is lost in silence. . .
Are you the one who would close so cool about me?
My fire sheds into and through you and beyond you:
How can your fingers hold me? I am elusive.
How can my fingers hold you? You are elusive?
Yes, you are flame, but I surround and love you,
Always extend beyond you, cool, eternal,
To take you into my heart’s great void of silence.
You shut me into your heart’s great void of silence. . .
O sweet and soothing end for a life of whirling!
Now I am still, whose life was mazed with motion.
Now I sink into you, for love of sleep.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Improvisations: Light And Snow: 14


Like an old tree uprooted by the wind
And flung down cruelly
With roots bared to the sun and stars
And limp leaves brought to earth
Torn from its house
So do I seem to myself
When you have left me.

Conrad Potter Aiken

The House Of Dust: Part 02: 11: Snow Falls. The Sky Is Grey, And Sullenly Glares


Snow falls. The sky is grey, and sullenly glares
With purple lights in the canyoned street.
The fiery sign on the dark tower wreathes and flares . . .
The trodden grass in the park is covered with white,
The streets grow silent beneath our feet . . .
The city dreams, it forgets its past to-night.


And one, from his high bright window looking down
Over the enchanted whiteness of the town,
Seeing through whirls of white the vague grey towers,
Desires like this to forget what will not pass,
The littered papers, the dust, the tarnished grass,
Grey death, stale ugliness, and sodden hours.
Deep in his heart old bells are beaten again,
Slurred bells of grief and pain,
Dull echoes of hideous times and poisonous places.
He desires to drown in a cold white peace of snow.
He desires to forget a million faces . . .


In one room breathes a woman who dies of hunger.
The clock ticks slowly and stops. And no one winds it.
In one room fade grey violets in a vase.
Snow flakes faintly hiss and melt on the window.
In one room, minute by minute, the flutist plays
The lamplit page of music, the tireless scales.
His hands are trembling, his short breath fails.


In one room, silently, lover looks upon lover,
And thinks the air is fire.
The drunkard swears and touches the harlot’s heartstrings
With the sudden hand of desire.

And one goes late in the streets, and thinks of murder;
And one lies staring, and thinks of death.
And one, who has suffered, clenches her hands despairing,
And holds her breath . . .


Who are all these, who flow in the veins of the city,
Coil and revolve and dream,
Vanish or gleam?
Some mount up to the brain and flower in fire.
Some are destroyed; some die; some slowly stream.


And the new are born who desire to destroy the old;
And fires are kindled and quenched; and dreams are broken,
And walls flung down . . .
And the slow night whirls in snow over towers of dreamers,
And whiteness hushes the town.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Chiarascuro: Rose


He
Fill your bowl with roses: the bowl, too, have of crystal.
Sit at the western window. Take the sun
Between your hands like a ball of flaming crystal,
Poise it to let it fall, but hold it still,
And meditate on the beauty of your existence;
The beauty of this, that you exist at all.


She
The sun goes down, but without lamentation.
I close my eyes, and the stream of my sensation
In this, at least, grows clear to me:
Beauty is a word that has no meaning.
Beauty is naught to me.


He
The last blurred raindrops fall from the half-clear sky,
Eddying lightly, rose-tinged, in the windless wake of the sun.
The swallow ascending against cold waves of cloud
Seems winging upward over huge bleak stairs of stone.
The raindrop finds its way to the heart of the leaf-bud.
But no word finds its way to the heart of you.


She
This also is clear in the stream of my sensation:
That I am content, for the moment, Let me be.
How light the new grass looks with the rain-dust on it!
But heart is a word that has no meaning,
Heart means nothing to me.


He
To the end of the world I pass and back again
In flights of the mind; yet always find you here,
Remote, pale, unattached . . . O Circe-too-clear-eyed,
Watching amused your fawning tiger-thoughts,
Your wolves, your grotesque apes, relent, relent!
Be less wary for once: it is the evening.

She
But if I close my eyes what howlings greet me!
Do not persuade. Be tranquil. Here is flesh
With all its demons. Take it, sate yourself.
But leave my thoughts to me.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Morning Song Of Senlin


It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.


It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea. . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me. . .


It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.


It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains. . .


It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor. . .


. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know. . .


Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Improvisations: Light And Snow: 15


The music of the morning is red and warm;
Snow lies against the walls;
And on the sloping roof in the yellow sunlight
Pigeons huddle against the wind.
The music of evening is attenuated and thin
The moon seen through a wave by a mermaid;
The crying of a violin.
Far down there, far down where the river turns to the west,
The delicate lights begin to twinkle
On the dusky arches of the bridge:
In the green sky a long cloud,
A smouldering wave of smoky crimson,
Breaks in the freezing wind: and above it, unabashed,
Remote, untouched, fierly palpitant,
Sings the first star.

Conrad Potter Aiken

The Cornet

When she came out, that white little Russian dancer,
With her bright hair, and her eyes, so young, so young,
He suddenly lost his leader, and all the players,
And only heard an immortal music sung,
Of dryads flashing in the green woods of April,
On cobwebs trembing over the deep, wet grass:
Fleeing their shadows with laughter, with hands uplifted,
Through the whirled sinister sun he saw them pass,
Lovely immortals gone, yet existing somewhere,
Still somewhere laughing in woods of immortal green,
Young he had lived among fires, or dreamed of living,
Lovers in youth once seen, or dreamed he had seen. . .
And watched her knees flash up, and her young hands beckon,
And the hair that streamed behind, and the taunting eyes.
He felt this place dissolving in living darkness,
And through the darkness he felt his childhood rise.
Soft, and shining, and sweet, hands filled with petals. . .
And watching her dance, he was grateful to forget
The fiddlers, leaning and drawing their bows together,
And the tired fingers on the stops of his cornet.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Improvisations: Light And Snow: 09


This girl gave her heart to me,
And this, and this.
This one looked at me as if she loved me,
And silently walked away.
This one I saw once and loved, and never saw her again.
Shall I count them for you upon my fingers?
Or like a priest solemnly sliding beads?
Or pretend they are roses, pale pink, yellow, and white,
And arrange them for you in a wide bowl
To be set in sunlight?
See how nicely it sounds as I count them for you
‘This girl gave her heart to me
And this, and this, . . . !
And nevertheless, my heart breaks when I think of them,
When I think their names,
And how, like leaves, they have changed and blown
And will lie, at last, forgotten,
Under the snow.

Conrad Potter Aiken

The House Of Dust: Part 02: 04: Nightmare


‘Draw three cards, and I will tell your future . . .
Draw three cards, and lay them down,
Rest your palms upon them, stare at the crystal,
And think of time . . . My father was a clown,
My mother was a gypsy out of Egypt;
And she was gotten with child in a strange way;
And I was born in a cold eclipse of the moon,
With the future in my eyes as clear as day.’


I sit before the gold-embroidered curtain
And think her face is like a wrinkled desert.
The crystal burns in lamplight beneath my eyes.
A dragon slowly coils on the scaly curtain.
Upon a scarlet cloth a white skull lies.


‘Your hand is on the hand that holds three lilies.
You will live long, love many times.
I see a dark girl here who once betrayed you.
I see a shadow of secret crimes.


‘There was a man who came intent to kill you,
And hid behind a door and waited for you;
There was a woman who smiled at you and lied.
There was a golden girl who loved you, begged you,
Crawled after you, and died.


‘There is a ghost of murder in your blood,
Coming or past, I know not which.
And here is danger, a woman with sea-green eyes,
And white-skinned as a witch . . .’


The words hiss into me, like raindrops falling
On sleepy fire . . . She smiles a meaning smile.
Suspicion eats my brain; I ask a question;
Something is creeping at me, something vile;


And suddenly on the wall behind her head
I see a monstrous shadow strike and spread,
The lamp puffs out, a great blow crashes down.
I plunge through the curtain, run through dark to the street,
And hear swift steps retreat . . .


The shades are drawn, the door is locked behind me.
Behind the door I hear a hammer sounding.
I walk in a cloud of wonder; I am glad.
I mingle among the crowds; my heart is pounding;
You do not guess the adventure I have had! . . .


Yet you, too, all have had your dark adventures,
Your sudden adventures, or strange, or sweet . . .
My peril goes out from me, is blown among you.
We loiter, dreaming together, along the street.

Conrad Potter Aiken

The House Of Dust: Part 02: 01: The Round Red Sun Heaves Darkly Out Of The Sea


The round red sun heaves darkly out of the sea.
The walls and towers are warmed and gleam.
Sounds go drowsily up from streets and wharves.
The city stirs like one that is half in dream.


And the mist flows up by dazzling walls and windows,
Where one by one we wake and rise.
We gaze at the pale grey lustrous sea a moment,
We rub the darkness from our eyes,

And face our thousand devious secret mornings . . .
And do not see how the pale mist, slowly ascending,
Shaped by the sun, shines like a white-robed dreamer
Compassionate over our towers bending.


There, like one who gazes into a crystal,
He broods upon our city with sombre eyes;
He sees our secret fears vaguely unfolding,
Sees cloudy symbols shape to rise.


Each gleaming point of light is like a seed
Dilating swiftly to coiling fires.
Each cloud becomes a rapidly dimming face,
Each hurrying face records its strange desires.


We descend our separate stairs toward the day,
Merge in the somnolent mass that fills the street,
Lift our eyes to the soft blue space of sky,
And walk by the well-known walls with accustomed feet.

Conrad Potter Aiken

The House Of Dust: Part 01: 03: One, Where The Pale Sea Foamed At The Yellow Sand


One, where the pale sea foamed at the yellow sand,
With wave upon slowly shattering wave,
Turned to the city of towers as evening fell;
And slowly walked by the darkening road toward it;
And saw how the towers darkened against the sky;
And across the distance heard the toll of a bell.


Along the darkening road he hurried alone,
With his eyes cast down,
And thought how the streets were hoarse with a tide of people,
With clamor of voices, and numberless faces . . .
And it seemed to him, of a sudden, that he would drown
Here in the quiet of evening air,
These empty and voiceless places . . .
And he hurried towards the city, to enter there.


Along the darkening road, between tall trees
That made a sinister whisper, loudly he walked.
Behind him, sea-gulls dipped over long grey seas.
Before him, numberless lovers smiled and talked.
And death was observed with sudden cries,
And birth with laughter and pain.
And the trees grew taller and blacker against the skies
And night came down again.

Conrad Potter Aiken

Really, this collection is incredible. Compared to other poetry collections, this collection tackled psychological themes. Doubtless, D. H. Lawrence (David Herbert Richards) received Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. He was United States Poet Laureate from 1950 to 1952.

I was already expecting that―Music I Heard would be on top. I’ve read this poem before, and it marked my mind, and of course, I also love music.

What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of Conrad Potter Aiken?

Do you still want to add another of his poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉

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