Loved Then, Loved Now: Penseroso

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) I discovered in an estate sale of a cousin. She won the book as a high school English prize around a century ago. This poem I memorized, the fourth of fifth, I memorized after Edna St. Vincent Millay, some Macbeth and I Think Mice are Rather Nice.


Soulless is all humanity to me 
To-night. My keenest longing is to be 
Alone, alone with God’s grey earth that seems 
Pulse of my pulse and consort of my dreams. 

To-night my soul desires no fellowship, 
Or fellow-being; crave I but to slip 
Thro’ space on space, till flesh no more can bind, 

And I may quit for aye my fellow kind. 

Let me but feel athwart my cheek the lash 
Of whipping wind, but hear the torrent dash 
Adown the mountain steep, ’twere more my choice 
Than touch of human hand, than human voice. 

Let me but wander on the shore night-stilled, 
Drinking its darkness till my soul is filled; 

The breathing of the salt sea on my hair, 
My outstretched hands but grasping empty air. 

Let me but feel the pulse of Nature’s soul 
Athrob on mine, let seas and thunders roll 
O’er night and me; sands whirl; winds, waters beat; 
For God’s grey earth has no cheap counterfeit. 

Pauline Johnson

There is something painful and panging about the solitude of night, the size of the universe more palpable and larger than the pettiness of humans. I can again become a teen full of angst and hope.