Get Your Premium Membership

Conrad Aiken Poems

A collection of select Conrad Aiken famous poems that were written by Conrad Aiken or written about the poet by other famous poets. PoetrySoup is a comprehensive educational resource of the greatest poems and poets on history.

Don't forget to view our Conrad Aiken home page with links to biographical information, articles, and more poems that may not be listed here.

See also:

by Aiken, Conrad
 Fanfare of northwest wind, a bluejay wind
announces autumn, and the equinox
rolls back blue bays to a far afternoon.
Somewhere beyond the Gorge Li Po is gone,
looking for friendship or an old love's sleeve
or writing letters to his children, lost,
and to his children's children, and to us.
What was his light? of lamp or moon or sun?
Say that it changed, for better...Read More



by Aiken, Conrad
 All lovely things will have an ending, 
All lovely things will fade and die, 
And youth, that's now so bravely spending, 
Will beg a penny by and by.

Fine ladies soon are all forgotten, 
And goldenrod is dust when dead, 
The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten 
And cobwebs tent the brightest head.

Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!—
But time...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Beloved, let us once more praise the rain. 
Let us discover some new alphabet, 
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves, 
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf, 
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone, 
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,—
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion, 
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
In the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive, 
The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves, 
In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices, 
I suddenly face you, 
  
Your dark eyes return for a space from her who is with you, 
They shine into mine with a sunlit desire, 
They say an 'I love...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 I. (Bread and Music)

Music I heard with you was more than music, 
And bread I broke with you was more than bread; 
Now that I am without you, all is desolate; 
All that was once so beautiful is dead. 

Your hands once touched this table and this silver, 
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass. 
These things...Read More



by Aiken, Conrad
 I

The girl in the room beneath 
Before going to bed 
Strums on a mandolin 
The three simple tunes she knows. 
How inadequate they are to tell how her heart feels! 
When she has finished them several times 
She thrums the strings aimlessly with her finger-nails 
And smiles, and thinks happily of many things.

II

I stood for a long while before...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 from Senlin: A Biography 


It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning 
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew, 
I arise, I face the sunrise, 
And do the things my fathers learned to do. 
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops 
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die, 
And I myself on...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 I. 

Moonlight silvers the tops of trees,
Moonlight whitens the lilac shadowed wall
And through the evening fall,
Clearly, as if through enchanted seas,
Footsteps passing, an infinite distance away,
In another world and another day.
Moonlight turns the purple lilacs blue,
Moonlight leaves the fountain hoar and old,
And the boughs of elms grow green and cold,
Our footsteps echo on gleaming stones,
The leaves are stirred to...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 1

Senlin sat before us and we heard him. 
He smoked his pipe before us and we saw him. 
Was he small, with reddish hair, 
Did he light his pipe with a meditative stare 
And a twinkling flame reflected in blue eyes? 
'I am alone': said Senlin; 'in a forest of leaves 
The single leaf that creeps and falls. 
The...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 1

I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened, 
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind. 
Summon me loudly, and you'll hear slow footsteps 
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind. 
You'll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway; 
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane, 
You'll see me with...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 THE HOUSE OF DUST
A Symphony

BY
CONRAD AIKEN

To Jessie

NOTE

. . . Parts of this poem have been printed in "The North American
Review, Others, Poetry, Youth, Coterie, The Yale Review". . . . I am
indebted to Lafcadio Hearn for the episode called "The Screen Maiden"
in Part II.


 This text comes from the source available at 
 Project Gutenberg, originally prepared by Judy...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Over the darkened city, the city of towers,
The city of a thousand gates,
Over the gleaming terraced roofs, the huddled towers,
Over a somnolent whisper of loves and hates,
The slow wind flows, drearily streams and falls,
With a mournful sound down rain-dark walls.
On one side purples the lustrous dusk of the sea,
And dreams in white at the city's feet;
On one side sleep...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 As evening falls,
And the yellow lights leap one by one
Along high walls;
And along black streets that glisten as if with rain,
The muted city seems
Like one in a restless sleep, who lies and dreams
Of vague desires, and memories, and half-forgotten pain . . .
Along dark veins, like lights the quick dreams run,
Flash, are extinguished, flash again,
To mingle and glow at...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 The lamplit page is turned, the dream forgotten;
The music changes tone, you wake, remember
Deep worlds you lived before,—deep worlds hereafter
Of leaf on falling leaf, music on music,
Rain and sorrow and wind and dust and laughter.

Helen was late and Miriam came too soon.
Joseph was dead, his wife and children starving.
Elaine was married and soon to have a child.
You dreamed last...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Of what she said to me that night—no matter.
The strange thing came next day.
My brain was full of music—something she played me—;
I couldn't remember it all, but phrases of it
Wreathed and wreathed among faint memories,
Seeking for something, trying to tell me something,
Urging to restlessness: verging on grief.
I tried to play the tune, from memory,—
But memory failed: the chords and...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 From time to time, lifting his eyes, he sees
The soft blue starlight through the one small window,
The moon above black trees, and clouds, and Venus,—
And turns to write . . . The clock, behind ticks softly.

It is so long, indeed, since I have written,—
Two years, almost, your last is turning yellow,—
That these first words I write seem cold and...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Now, when the moon slid under the cloud
And the cold clear dark of starlight fell,
He heard in his blood the well-known bell
Tolling slowly in heaves of sound,
Slowly beating, slowly beating,
Shaking its pulse on the stagnant air:
Sometimes it swung completely round,
Horribly gasping as if for breath;
Falling down with an anguished cry . . .
Now the red bat, he mused, will...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Well, as you say, we live for small horizons:
We move in crowds, we flow and talk together,
Seeing so many eyes and hands and faces,
So many mouths, and all with secret meanings,—
Yet know so little of them; only seeing
The small bright circle of our consciousness,
Beyond which lies the dark. Some few we know—
Or think we know. . . Once, on...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 As evening falls,
The walls grow luminous and warm, the walls
Tremble and glow with the lives within them moving,
Moving like music, secret and rich and warm.
How shall we live to-night, where shall we turn?
To what new light or darkness yearn?
A thousand winding stairs lead down before us;
And one by one in myriads we descend
By lamplit flowered walls, long balustrades,
Through half-lit...Read More

by Aiken, Conrad
 Through that window—all else being extinct
Except itself and me—I saw the struggle
Of darkness against darkness. Within the room
It turned and turned, dived downward. Then I saw
How order might—if chaos wished—become:
And saw the darkness crush upon itself,
Contracting powerfully; it was as if
It killed itself, slowly: and with much pain.
Pain. The scene was pain, and nothing but pain.
What else, when chaos...Read More