Mark Van Doren (1894-1972)

Short biography at

Republished with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc., from Mark Van Doren: 100 Poems by Mark Van Doren, copyright 1967; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.

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He Loves Me

That God should love me is more wonderful
Than that I so imperfectly love him.
My reason is mortality, and dim
Senses; his--oh, insupportable--
Is that he sees me. Even when I pull
Dark thoughts about my head, each vein and limb
Delights him, though remembrance in him, grim
With my worst crimes, should prove me horrible.

And he has terrors that he can release.
But when he looks he loves me; which is why
I wonder; and my wonder must increase
Till more of it shall slay me. Yet I live,
I live; and he has never ceased to give
This glance at me that sweetens the whole sky.

After Long Drought

After long drought, commotion in the sky;
After dead silence, thunder. Then it comes,
The rain. It slashes leaves, and doubly drums
On tin and shingle; beats and bends awry
The flower heads; puddles dust, and with a sigh
Like love sinks into grasses, where it hums
As bees did once, among chrysanthemums
And asters when the summer thought to die.

The whole world dreamed of this, and has it now.
Nor was the waking easy. The dull root
Is jealous of its death; the sleepy brow
Smiles in its slumber; and a heart can fear
The very flood it longed for, roaring near.
The spirit best remembers being mute.

Born Brothers

Equality is absolute or no.
Nothing between can stand. We are the sons
Of the same sire, or madness breaks and runs
Through the rude world. Ridiculous our woe
If single pity does not love it. So
Our separate fathers love us. No man shuns
His poorest child's embrace. We are the sons
Of such, or ground and sky are soon to go.

Nor do born brothers judge, as good or ill,
Their being. Each consents and is the same,
Or suddenly sweet winds turn into flame
And floods are on us--fire, earth, water, air
All hideously parted, as his will
Withdraws, no longer fatherly and there.

The Deepest Dream

The deepest dream is of mad governors,
Down, down we feel it, till the very crust
Of the world cracks, and where there was no dust,
Atoms of ruin rise. Confusion stirs,
And fear; and all our thoughts--dark scavengers--
Feed on the center's refuse. Hope is thrust
Like wind away, and love sinks into lust
For merest safety, meanest of levelers.

And then we wake. Or do we? Sleep endures
More than the morning can, when shadows lie
Sharper than mountains, and the cleft is real
Between us and our kings. What sun assures
Our courage, and what evening by and by
Descends to rest us, and perhaps to heal?