The Morning Song of Senlin

The following poem was introduced to me by Sylvia Plath herself. I read her journals a few months ago, and she weeps while reading this. Aiken doesn’t make me weep, but he definitely points out the beauty in the routine of the morning.

I was just thinking last night about how in our last apartment, all we could hear was the busy road outside. We love the one we are living in now because we are surrounded by trees…they are bare right now, but they are still filled with birds. No more road noise, which is lovely. Our porch is much smaller, but we still have a place to sit outside and enjoy the quiet, and we have a lot of windows to open. All in all, it’s a very peaceful place to enjoy the morning song.

 

The 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 father learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die
And I myself upon 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 chirps 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, 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 cloud 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 around with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, and 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 the 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 sound, 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 Aiken

 

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