She is as keen as any star
Upon a winter night;
And never weariness, despair,
Bodily ill or childish fear
Can put out undiminished light
Now in its ninetieth year.
If loneliness sometimes at dusk
May wander in her range,
“I put my mind to work, some task,”
She says with passion, “but why ask?
It’s intellect can make the change.
I think myself out of the past.”
The grandchildren of those she taught
Warm hands at the same fire
Of ardor, and concern, and thought
Her students learned when they were caught
Between their fire and her fire
(Learned it upon a classic lyre).
It is great music feeds her mind,
Now she must listen, sharing:
And one might travel far to find
Listener as keen, alive, and kind:
She suffers still the shafts of caring,
And never speaks of going blind.
Call all this easy if you dare –
The joyful pride and bitterness.
I say this life is rare and dear.
We shall not see its like for less
Than what her fiery heart still pays,
So praise, so prize this ninetieth year!
- "Two Birthdays - II (for Edith Morse Johnson at ninety)"
in The Silence Now: New and Uncollected Earlier Poems by May Sarton