Sara Teasdale's Life And Accomplishments Essay

2344 words - 9 pages

The work of Sara Teasdale captured the hearts of many Americans through her lyrical simplicity and delicate craftsmanship on the major themes of love, beauty, and death. Her poetry was often quoted, parodied, and set to music by the public. They awarded her the Columbia University Society Prize and the Poetry Society of America Prize in 1918 for her poem collection title Love Songs. However, her major success as a lyrical poet proved true when her work continued to sell posthumously. Throughout Teasdale’s lyrical poetry, she depends heavily on metaphors and personification, simple diction, and romantic imagery to produce a melancholy tone and to gain a sympathetic response from her reader on the impossible feat of satisfying the contrasting needs of her Puritan and Pagan ways of life.
Sara Teasdale was the daughter of the puritan, Midwestern Victorian couple: Mary Elizabeth Willard and John Warren Teasdale. Her father, John, was a prosperous St. Louis wholesaler; while her mother, Mary, “strove for perfect middle-class rectitude” (Drake). Teasdale’s parents constantly fretted over her, due to her frailty and constant chronic illness. Willard and Teasdale sheltered, protected, and educated their daughter in the best private schools. This closeness with her parents greatly influenced Teasdale’s priorities and “left her almost obsessed with propriety and dependent both emotionally and financially on her domineering mother and father, whom she idolized” (Lipscomb). Throughout her life, Sara Teasdale sought out a marriage like her parents’ – one that was socially acceptable and economically secure. However, the conservatism and conventional puritan child had hidden pagan instincts. This side of Teasdale had “an ecstatic love of beauty” and longed for an “all consuming passionate romance,” qualities that were subject to disapproval by religious parents (Drake). These tendencies gave birth to Teasdale’s poetry and led her on the path to becoming a successful lyrical poet (becoming a successful female poet went against conventional standards), but challenged her need for security and stability in her career. Her poetry reveals the inner turmoil in uniting these two sides through her romantic experiences.
With her parents’ stable and long-term relationship as an example, Teasdale sought out a man who was able to meet her financial needs and surpass her expectations for romance. The first recipient of her affections was John Myers O’Hara, a poet who wrote adaptations of Sappho. Elizabeth Lipscomb describes their courtship: “For three years they conducted a flirtation on paper, but when they finally met it became clear that . . . he was only ‘playing at love.’” Sara Teasdale many tries at love after ended similarly – with Teasdale falling quickly and the other partner giving little encouragement. She met John Hall Wheelock, “with whom she professed herself ‘deep in love’ after reading two of his books of poetry and corresponding with him” (Lipscomb)....

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