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Vachel Lindsay’s suicide in December 1931 brought [Teasdale] to the edge of emotional collapse, perhaps because it shocked her with the reality of what had long lain in her own mind. She never recovered her balance. But in the last two anxiety-ridden years of her life she began to write lyrics again and produced some of her most perfectly achieved and moving work, as if the imminence of certain death gave her the sense of peace and assurance she had so long been looking for. She returned from a trip to England in September 1932 critically ill with pneumonia and hoping she might die. She recovered. But in the early morning hours of January 29, 1933, she drew a bath, swallowed the handful of sleeping pills she had been hoarding, and lay down in the warm water where her body was found a few days later.

Oh to let go, without a cry or call

That can be heard by any above ground,

she had written in the sonnet “Wisdom” in 1931,

            It is all one, the coming or the going,

            If I have kept the last essential me.

            If that is safe, then I am safe indeed,

            It is my citadel, my church, my home,

            My mother and my child, my constant friend;

            It is my music…

Over the years she had survived by keeping opposing forces in balance rather than choosing sides; for whichever won, “When the end has come, / I shall be the defeated one.” She left her husband but tried to gain a child; pushed herself to define, in her own right, the “essential me” but gave herself to the waiting void. Her final transaction was paradoxical, a full payment that was yet another act of defiance.


Mirror of the Heart: Poems of Sara Teasdale. Ed. William Drake. New York: Macmillan, 1984. xliii-xlv.