Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Edgar Lee Masters > Text of Altar

A poem by Edgar Lee Masters

The Altar

Title:     The Altar
Author: Edgar Lee Masters [More Titles by Masters]

My heart is an altar whereon
Many sacrificial fires have been kindled
In praise of spring and Aphrodite.

My heart is an altar of chalcedony,
Crowned with a tablet of bronze,
Blacked with smoke, scarred with fire,
And scented with the aromatic bitterness
Of dead incense.

Albeit let us murmur a little Doric prayer
Over the ashes which lie scattered around the altar;
For the April rain has wept over them,
And from them the crocus smelts its Roman gold.

What though there are remnants here
Of faded coronals,
And bits of silver string
Torn from forgotten harps?
Perfect amid the ashes sleeps a cup of amethyst.
Let us take it and pour the sea from it,
And while the savor of dead lips is washed away,
Let us lift our hands to this sky of hyacinth.
Let us light the altar newly, for lo! it is spring.

Bring from the re-kindled woodland
Flames of columbine, jewel-weed and trumpet-creeper,
There where the woodman burns the fallen tree,
And scented smoke arises
On azure wings between the branches,
Budding with adolescent life.
With these let us light the altar,
That a scarlet flame may lean
Against the silver sea.

For thou art fire also,
And air, and water, and the resurgent earth,
For thou art woman, thou art love.
Thou art April of the Arcadian moon,
Thou art the swift sun racing through snowy clouds,
Thou art the creative silence of flowering valleys.
Thy face is the apple tree in bloom;
Thine eyes the glimpses of green water
When the tree's blossoms shake
As soft winds fan them.
Thy hair is flame blown against the sea's mist--
Thou art spring.

The fire on the altar burns brightly,
And the sea sparkles in the sun.
Let us murmur a Doric prayer
For the gift of love,
For the gift of life,
Oh Life! Oh Love! We lift our hands to thee!

[The end]
Edgar Lee Masters's poem: Altar