Enough

William Drake: On "Enough"

Sara, who found the poems of The Lyric Year mostly without merit, made the discovery of a new poet, in early December 1912, that sent her reeling with excitement. “I am perfectly wild over John Hall Wheelock’s “The Human Fantasy,’” she wrote Jessie [Rittenhouse]. “You must read it. The poems are good separately, but they gain vastly by their cumulative effect, and I am sure you would agree with me that nothing finer in the line of a love story in a sequence of poems has been done since George Meredith’s ‘Modern Love.’ The book is the best thing done by an American in years. I am telling everybody about it, and am sure that you will find endless pleasure in its spontaneity, its vigor and its healthy passion. . .I wrote a note to him last night--I do hope that he won’t dislike me for it.” As Wheelock recalled, her letter hailed him “as one of the world’s greatest poets. She was coming up to New York, she said, and would like to look me up.”

Wheelock, a son of a Long Island physician and for three years a doctoral student in Germany, was then working as a clerk in Scribner’s Book Store, associated with the firm where he was later to become a distinguished editor. Sara’s letter, coming as it did from a well-known poet and filled with enthusiasm, buoyed him up considerably. “She was like the answer to a poet’s dream,” he recalled, because of her generous and intelligent praise of what she liked. He quickly replied, “I confess it sent a thrill through me to see your name at the end. It is a name which already has a certain glamour--definitely represents a beautiful fact. Perhaps your words especially pleased me coming from one whom I associate with a very finished perfection.”

Sara’s adoration of his work spread like a halo around him personally as well, and she immediately began to picture herself in love with him, as she had a tendency to do with every new interesting man. Within a week after receiving Wheelock’s first letter, she wrote to her friend Orrick Johns, with whom she had been sharing her excitement:

I’ve just got up, after having spend most of the night in a mixed worship of poetry and J.H.W., to find a letter from him. May the gods be praised! Tho’ I could never forgive him if he stooped to love me even in the remotest sense (the chances of my ever having to do any forgiving are small!) Here is evidence of my madness:

            I have not seen my lover’s face,

            And I have never heard his voice;

            But I have seen his naked soul,

            And I rejoice.

 

            It is enough for me by day

            To walk the same bright earth with him,

            Enough by night that over us

            The same great roof of stars is dim.

The second stanza, slightly revised, and a third in the same vein were published the following July in Smart Set under the titled “Enough.” But she dropped the first stanza, which was about her relationship with Wheelock at the time of the writing and would doubtless have been puzzling to a reader.

 

Sara Teasdale: Woman and Poet. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979. 100-101.