Poetry Corner

Nocturne

By Carl Sadakichi Hartmann

Upon the silent sea-swept land

  The dreams of night fall soft and gray,

    The waves fade on the jeweled sand

      Like some lost hope of yesterday.

The dreams of night fall soft and gray

  Upon the summer-colored seas,

    Like some lost hope of yesterday,

      The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze.

Upon the summer-colored seas

  Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,

    The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze

      Lost in the monotone of night.

Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,

  They come and slowly drift away,

    Lost in the monotone of night,

      Like visions of a summer-day.

They shift and slowly drift away

  Like lovers’ lays that wax and wane,

    The visions of a summer-day

      Whose dreams we ne’er will dream again.

Like lovers’ lays wax and wane

  The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,

    Like dreams we ne’er will dream again;

      The sea-mews follow on their trail.

The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,

  As they drift to the dim unknown,

    The sea-mews follow on their trail

      In quest of some dreamland zone.

In quest of some far dreamland zone,

  Of some far silent sea-swept land,

    They are lost in the dim unknown,

      Where waves fade on jeweled sand

        And dreams of night fall soft and gray,

          Like some lost hope of yesterday.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this poem: “Nocturne” appeared in Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (Self-published, 1904).

About this poet: Carl Sadakichi Hartmann was born in 1867 on a tiny island in the Japanese Bay of Nagasaki, the son of a German businessman and a Japanese mother. Raised in Germany, he arrived in the United States in 1882 and became an American citizen in 1894. As a poet, he was deeply influenced both by orientalist literature and by the Symbolists, artists reacting against naturalism and realism by seeking to represent absolute truths symbolically through language and metaphorical images. He was also a playwright, art critic, author and among the first to introduce Western readers to Japanese forms such as the haiku and tanka. He died on November 22, 1944.

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