Ancestral

By Archibald MacLeish 1892–1982 Archibald MacLeish
The star dissolved in evening—the one star   
The silently
                   and night O soon now, soon   
And still the light now
                                    and still now the large   
Relinquishing
                     and through the pools of blue   
Still, still the swallows
                                       and a wind now
                                                            and the tree   
Gathering darkness:
                              I was small. I lay   
Beside my mother on the grass, and sleep   
Came—

          slow hooves and dripping with the dark   
The velvet muzzles, the white feet that move   
In a dream water
                        and O soon now soon
Sleep and the night.

                              And I was not afraid.   
Her hand lay over mine. Her fingers knew   
Darkness,—and sleep—the silent lands, the far   
Far off of morning where I should awake.

Archibald MacLeish, “Ancestral” from Collected Poems 1917-1982. Copyright © 1985 by The Estate of Archibald MacLeish. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Collected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1952)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Archibald MacLeish 1892–1982

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Stars, Planets, Heavens, Youth, Living, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Archibald  MacLeish

Biography

A poet, playwright, lawyer, and statesman, Archibald MacLeish's roots were firmly planted in both the new and the old worlds. His father, the son of a poor shopkeeper in Glasgow, Scotland, was born in 1837—the year of Victoria's coronation as Queen of England—and ran away first to London and then, at the age of eighteen, to Chicago. His mother was a Hillard, a family that, as Dialogues of Archibald MacLeish and Mark Van Doren . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Stars, Planets, Heavens, Youth, Living, Nature

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.