Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern American Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry.  1919.
 
James Oppenheim. 1882–
 
94. Tasting the Earth
 
IN a dark hour, tasting the Earth. 
  
As I lay on my couch in the muffled night, and the rain lashed my window, 
And my forsaken heart would give me no rest, no pause and no peace, 
Though I turned my face far from the wailing of my bereavement.... 
Then I said: I will eat of this sorrow to its last shred,         5
I will take it unto me utterly, 
I will see if I be not strong enough to contain it.... 
What do I fear? Discomfort? 
How can it hurt me, this bitterness? 
  
The miracle, then!  10
Turning toward it, and giving up to it, 
I found it deeper than my own self.... 
O dark great mother-globe so close beneath me... 
It was she with her inexhaustible grief, 
Ages of blood-drenched jungles, and the smoking of craters, and the roar of tempests,  15
And moan of the forsaken seas, 
It was she with the hills beginning to walk in the shapes of the dark-hearted animals, 
It was she risen, dashing away tears and praying to dumb skies, in the pomp-crumbling tragedy of man... 
It was she, container of all griefs, and the buried dust of broken hearts, 
  
Cry of the christs and the lovers and the child-stripped mothers,  20
And ambition gone down to defeat, and the battle overborne, 
And the dreams that have no waking.... 
  
My heart became her ancient heart: 
On the food of the strong I fed, on dark strange life itself: 
Wisdom-giving and sombre with the unremitting love of ages....  25
  
There was dank soil in my mouth, 
And bitter sea on my lips, 
In a dark hour, tasting the Earth. 
 
 
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