May Sarton--American



May Sarton


Born in Belgium in 1912, she moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was three.  Upon her death in 1995, Sarton had written 53 books.  Though she might be most known for her novels and journals, she published 17 books of poetry.  She also created two children’s books, a play and a number of screenplays.  Her first volume of poetry, Encounter, was published 1937, when she was studying acting.  Remarkably, her Journal of a Solitude, has never gone out of print since it was published in 1973.  Sarton left instructions upon her death that her estate should provide scholarships for poets and historians of science (in her honor of her father).  The fund is administered under the auspices of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which she was a member.


This lazy prince of tennis balls and lutes,

Marvelous redhead who could eat and have his cake,

Collector of hot jazz, Japanese prints, rare books,

The charming winner who takes all for the game’s sake,

Is now disciplined, changed, and wrung into a man.

For war’s sake, in six months, this can be done.


Now he is groomed and cared for like a fighting cock,

His blood enriched, his athlete’s nerve refined

In crucibles of tension to be electric under shock,

His intellect composed for action and designed

To map a bomber’s passage to Berlin by stars,

Precision’s instrument that neither doubts nor fears.


This can be done in six months.  Take a marvelous boy

And knead him into manhood for destruction’s joy.

This can be done in six months, but we never tried

Until we needed the lute player’s sweet lifeblood.

O the composed mind and the electric nerve

Were never trained like this to build, to love, to serve.


Look at him now and swear by every bomb he will release,

This shall be done.  This shall be better done in peace!