Dirge at the Edge of Woods

By Léonie Adams 1899–1988 Leonie Adams
Gold shed upon suckling gold,   
The time of the bole blackens,
Of the dark mounted through dapple,   
While in the sealed apple   
The seed cradled toward cold.   
A gold on gold spent,
Put by from an elm in its years   
Now its gilded of days,
Over turf’s dishevelment;
Where all which is green sickens,   
All the fresh shall be sere.   
All which is green sickens,   
And it is but for a time
Those embered veinings blaze   
A year’s delirium;
Or neared of other space,   
Unportioned azure shall close   
One of more, and which is,   
One which goes.
Let the little pupils that will,   
Of vision, gaze for salt
To whet their gazing, wit   
In one weather is high
From burrow and lair, by   
Nether providences’ default   
An all’s accrued.
And apposite, beyond
Such primer beholdings, has   
Its long accounting known

The beetle’s morsel thus
Was rich, and the slug’s bed on   
The oak’s generations, deep   
Over the lark’s bones.
In slough of Edens fast
Wit in one weather shall stand,   
While millennia nibble at   
The sensual apple
Toppled it net,
Plenty in the palm of the hand,   
And the fallen not fallen, not lost   
From out its certitude—
For our unbeggaring
Has been gross. Few and late   
To cherish an immoderate   
Wish, hope’s calculus,   
Love’s hope; few to miss,   
From natural tally thrust,   
In the lime-girdled space   
Of choice, where alone   
Man can abandon what   
Is only his own;
And in cold and tarrying   
Their rearisers sleep:

While to the granite cheek   
Light’s purples bring
Infinite their ministering,   
And past our finial
And ragged crests, to keep
Time’s ambient stood,
Propose horizons from
Their shadowy quarries; while,   
In an unwandered wood,
Or under the indifferent foot,   
Is let fall, let fall a fruit,   
Through eternal leisures down,   
For but time’s unravelling.

Léonie Adams, “Dirge at the Edge of Woods” from Poems: A Selection (New York: The Noonday Press, 1959). Used by permission of Judith Farr, Literary Executrix of the Estate of Léonie Adams.

Source: Poems: A Selection (1959)

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

Poet Léonie Adams 1899–1988

Subjects Nature, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Landscapes & Pastorals


An educator, consultant, editor, and poet, Leonie Adams was best known for her lyric poetry reminiscent of both the Romantic and Metaphysical periods. Her poetry won her several awards, including the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Bollingen Prize. She served in editorial capacities for both Wilson Publishing and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City during the 1920s and later taught . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Landscapes & Pastorals

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.