Nocturne, by Archibald MacLeish

The earth, still heavy and warm with afternoon,
Dazed by the moon:

The earth, tormented with the moon’s light,
Wandering in the night:

La, La, The moon is a lovely thing to see-
The moon is an agony.

Full moon, moon rise, the old old pain
Of brightness in dilated eyes,

The ache of still
Elbows leaning on the narrow sill,

Of motionless cold hands upon the wet
Marble of the parapet,

Of open eyelids of a child behind
The crooked glimmer of the windown blind,

Of sliding faint remindful squares
Across the lamplight of the rocking chairs:

Why do we stand so late
Stiff fingers on the moonlit gate?

Why do we stand
To watch so long the fall of moonlight on the sand?

What is it we cannot recall?

Tormented by the moon’s light
The earth turns maundering through the night.

Big Thumb. Beach. Moon and Decaying Bird, Salvador Dali, 1928:


6 thoughts on “Nocturne

  1. Jennifer says:

    Paintings, music and poetry – there’s such variety on Museworthy 🙂
    The Dali image could have been painted yesterday – intriguing!
    Hope you are warmer in NYC than we are here …

    • artmodel says:


      We are cold and wet here, but I suppose it could be worse.

      So glad you enjoy the offerings of Museworthy. Readers seem to really like the poetry posts 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!


  2. fredh1 says:

    I love what you share, Claudia. The MacLeish poem is sharp and austere, and the Dali painting is uncharacteristically restrained – a wonderful piece. And they complement each other perfectly!

    • artmodel says:


      I’m not surprised you like the Dali. I love it. It just works so well. And I agree that it compliments the MacLeish poem nicely. Thanks for pointing that out 🙂


  3. Bill says:

    That combination is a very nice treat — I totally agree with both of the previous comments.
    For me, the moon is kind of the ultimate female symbol — for me, that would partially explain MacLeish’s fascination. It’s a little like walking through the cosmetics section of Macy’s or looking at a Victoria’s Secret store window — on a more sublime level, of course — but everything seems so foreign and exotic — even though you realize that it’s all really quite natural. I wonder if women see the same moon (and moonlight) as men do.

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