The Room

By Conrad Aiken 1889–1973 Conrad Aiken
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 draws all forces inward
To shape a single leaf? . . .

                                  For the leaf came,
Alone and shining in the empty room;
After a while the twig shot downward from it;
And from the twig a bough; and then the trunk,
Massive and coarse; and last the one black root.
The black root cracked the walls. Boughs burst the window:
The great tree took possession.

                                   Tree of trees!
Remember (when time comes) how chaos died
To shape the shining leaf. Then turn, have courage,
Wrap arms and roots together, be convulsed
With grief, and bring back chaos out of shape.
I will be watching then as I watch now.
I will praise darkness now, but then the leaf.

“The Room” from Selected Poems by Conrad Aiken.  Copyright © 1925, 1952 by Conrad Aiken.  Oxford University Press.  Used by permission of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.

Source: Selected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1925)

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Poet Conrad Aiken 1889–1973

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Nature, Trees & Flowers, War & Conflict

 Conrad  Aiken

Biography

Although he received the most prestigious of literary awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1930 for Selected Poems and a National Book Award in 1954 for Collected Poems, along with the critical acclaim of some of the most respected writers and critics of his time, Conrad Aiken never became a truly popular poet. This fact puzzled his admirers and, indeed, Aiken himself, who never lost his self-confidence and who always denied . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers, War & Conflict

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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