Biography of Sara Teasdale
Teasdale in 1910
(1884-08-08)August 8, 1884
Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||January 29, 1933(1933-01-29) (aged 48)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Notable works||Flame and Shadow|
Sara Teasdale (August 8, 1884 – January 29, 1933) was an American lyric poet. She was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri, and used the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger after her marriage in 1914.
Photograph of Sara Teasdale as a young girl
Teasdale was born on August 8, 1884. She had poor health for much of her childhood, so she was home schooled until age 9. It was at age 10 that she was well enough to begin school. She started at Mary Institute in 1898, but switched to Hosmer Hall in 1899, graduating in 1903. The Teasdale family lived at 3668 Lindell Blvd. and then 38 Kingsbury Place in St. Louis, Missouri. Both homes were designed by Sara's mother. The house on Kingsbury Place had a private suite for Sara on the second floor. Guests entered through a separate entrance and were admitted by appointment. This suite is where Sara worked, slept, and often dined alone.
From 1904 to 1907, Teasdale was a member of The Potters, led by Lillie Rose Ernst, a group of female artists in their late teens and early twenties who published, from 1904 to 1907, The Potter's Wheel, a monthly artistic and literary magazine in St. Louis.
Teasdale's first poem was published in William Marion Reedy's Reedy's Mirror, a local newspaper, in 1907. Her first collection of poems, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, was published that same year.
Sara Teasdale, 1907 Missouri History Museum Photograph and Print Collection. Portraits n38637
Teasdale's second collection, Helen of Troy and Other Poems, was published in 1911. It was well received by critics, who praised its lyrical mastery and romantic subject matter.
From 1911 to 1914 Teasdale was courted by several men, including the poet Vachel Lindsay, who was truly in love with her but did not feel that he could provide enough money or stability to keep her satisfied. She chose to marry Ernst Filsinger, a longtime admirer of her poetry, on December 19, 1914.
Teasdale's third poetry collection, Rivers to the Sea, was published in 1915. It was and is a bestseller, being reprinted several times. In 1916 she and Filsinger moved to New York City, where they lived in an Upper West Side apartment on Central Park West.
In 1918 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1917 poetry collection Love Songs. It was "made possible by a special grant from The Poetry Society"; however, the sponsoring organization now lists it as the earliest Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (inaugurated 1922).
Filsinger's constant business travel caused Teasdale much loneliness. In 1929, she moved interstate for three months, thereby satisfying the criteria to gain a divorce. She did not wish to inform Filsinger, only doing so at her lawyers' insistence as the divorce was going through. Filsinger was shocked. After the divorce she moved only two blocks from her old home on Central Park West. She rekindled her friendship with Vachel Lindsay, who was now married with children.
In 1933, she died by suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills. Lindsay had died by suicide two years earlier. She is interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
Teasdale's suicide and "I Shall Not Care"
A common urban legend surrounds Teasdale's suicide. The poem "I Shall Not Care" was speculated to be her suicide note because of its depressing undertone. The legend claims that her poem "I Shall Not Care" (which features themes of abandonment, bitterness, and contemplation of death) was penned as a suicide note to a former lover. However, the poem was actually first published in her 1915 collection Rivers to the Sea, a full 18 years before her suicide:
I Shall Not Care
WHEN I am dead and over me bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.
I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
When rain bends down the bough,
And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
Than you are now.
Legacy and influence
Sara Teasdale, Sarony photo, Notable women of St. Louis, 1914
- The poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" from her 1920 collection Flame and Shadow inspired and is featured in a famous short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury.
- Teasdale is the favorite poet of Arlington LeGrande, the main character of Jacquelyn Mitchard's novel The Most Wanted.
- Teasdale's poems "Only in Sleep" and "Stars" were set as choral pieces by Ēriks Ešenvalds, a Latvian composer, for Musica Baltica. "Stars" has become widely known for its use of crystal glasses for a soothing sound of the 'stars'.
- In 1967 Tom Rapp and the group Pearls Before Swine recorded a musical rendition of "I Shall Not Care" on their first album One Nation Underground.
- In 1994, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
- In 2007, the composer Z. Randall Stroope composed an SSATBB choral work based on Teasdale's poem "I am Not Yours".
- In 2008, "There Will Come Soft Rains" was included in Fallout 3 alongside Ray Bradbury's short story of the same name. The poem is recited by a robot who has survived the nuclear apocalypse.
- In 2010, Teasdale's works were for the first time published in Italy, translated by Silvio Raffo.
- In 2011, composer Susan Labarr published an SATB choral arrangement of Teasdale's poem Grace Before Sleep.
- In 2011, the composer Joseph Phibbs chose poems by Teasdale for his song-cycle From Shore to Shore, and the song Pierrot, and in 2013-14 he returned to her texts for his six Moon Songs. He has also acknowledged her influence in his orchestral work Rivers to the Sea.
- In 2015, eleven poems of Teasdale's Flame and Shadow collection were put to music by the band Scarecrow.
- In 2015, Daniel Elder arranged a piece titled Fresh and Fearless, based on Teasdale's poem May Night. It was commissioned for, and premiered by, The University of Akron Concert Choir.
- In 2016, an SATB choral setting of Teasdale's poem Alchemy composed by Robert Anthony LaRose was premiered by the Choir of the College of William and Mary.
- In 1928 and 1931, respectively, Teasdale's poems "May Night" and "Dusk in June" were set to music by composer Marion Rogers Hickman.
- In 2017, four poems of Teasdale's, "I have sown my Love so Wide", "Winter Night", "A Minuet of Mozart's", "Life has Lovliness to Sell" were set to music as piano songs by Barbara Arens in her "All Beautiful & Splendid Things" (Teasdale quote) published by Editions Musica Ferrum
- In 2018 rock group Höffmänn released "Lucid Dreaming", a song about loneliness, disappointment and bitterness, with lyrics based on Sara Teasdale's poems
- Composer Garth Baxter has set a number of Sara Teasdale poems to music. The poems There will come soft rains, Inn of earth and February Twilight are included in the song cycle for voice and guitar From the Heart: Three American Women, Volume I, Three From Sara, Columbia Music, 1992 Her poems Let it be you and Let it be forgotten are included in the song cycle Four Views of Love. The cycle for children’s choir, also available for adult choir, Songs of Life use the poems A Chart of a Small Sea, The House of Dreams and A Prayer. The Long Hill was written for Soprano and PianoThe song Nights Without Sleep uses the poems Nights without sleep and A Little While The Recording ASK THE MOON, music for voice and piano by Garth Baxter, 2018, Navona Records, includes Nights Without Sleep, and Four Views of Love (Let it be you and Let it be forgotten). The recording Katherine Keem Sings Songs and Arias by Garth Baxter, 2014, Centaur Records, includes From the Heart: Three American Women (Three From Sara—There will come soft rains, Inn of earth and February Twilight), and The Long Hill.
- Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907)
- Helen of Troy and Other Poems (1911)
- Rivers to the Sea (1915)
- Love Songs (1917)
- Flame and Shadow (1920)
- Dark of the Moon (1926)
- Stars To-night (1930)
- Strange Victory (1933)
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