Muriel Rukeyser: Ten Elegy. Elegy in Joy

Rukeyser was one of those poets whose fierce opposition to war and her progressive social politics was always articulated in a vision of "the love that gives us ourselves." In that way, she avoided the blood-lust of so much anti-war and anti-capitalist verse of the time.  Poet, Philip Metres


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Ten Elegy.  Elegy in Joy (an excerpt)

Now green, now burning.  I make a way for peace.
After the river and long beyond my lake,
among these fields of people, on these illuminated
hills, gold, burnt gold, spilled gold, and shadowed blue,
the light of enormous flame, the flowing, light of the sea,
where all the nights and lights are reconciled.
The sea at last, where all the waters lead.
And all the wars to this peace.

For the sea does not lie like the death you imagine;
this sea is the real sea, here it is.  This is the living.  this peace is the face of the world,
a fierce angel who in one lifetime lives
fighting a lifetime, dying as we all die,
becoming forever, the continual god.

Years of our time, this heart!  The binding of the alone,
bells of all loneliness binding our lands and our music,
branches full of motion each opening its own flower,
lands of songs, each speaking in his own voice.
Praise in every grace
among the old same war.

Years of betrayal, million death breeding its weaknesses
and hope, buried more deep more black than dream.
Every elegy is the present: freedom eating our hearts,
death and explosion, and the world unbegun
Now burning and unbegun, I sing earth with its war,
and God the future, and the wish of man.

Though you die, your war lives: the years fought it,
fusing a deal world straight.

We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer,
or the look, the lake in the eye that knows,
for the despair that flows down in widest rivers,
cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace,
all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves.

The word of nourishment passes through the women,
soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children:
saying in time of war What shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.

This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.
Years over wars and an imagining of peace. Or the expiation journey
toward peace which is many wishes flaming together,
fierce pure life, the many-living home.
Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all
new techniques for the healing of the wound,
and the unknown world. One life, or the faring stars.

This poem, in its entirety, is from Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems, published by New Directions.