Poem-a-Day - "Nocturne" by Sadakichi Hartmann

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May 14, 2022 

Nocturne

Sadakichi Hartmann

Upon the silent sea-swept land
     The dreams of night fall soft and gray,
          The waves fade on the jeweled sand
               Like some lost hope of yesterday.

The dreams of night fall soft and gray
     Upon the summer-colored seas,
          Like some lost hope of yesterday,
               The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze.

Upon the summer-colored seas
     Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,
          The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze
               Lost in the monotone of night.

Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,
     They come and slowly drift away,
          Lost in the monotone of night,
               Like visions of a summer-day.

They shift and slowly drift away
     Like lovers’ lays that wax and wane,
          The visions of a summer-day
               Whose dreams we ne’er will dream again.

Like lovers’ lays wax and wane
     The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,
          Like dreams we ne’er will dream again;
               The sea-mews follow on their trail.

The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,
     As they drift to the dim unknown,
          The sea-mews follow on their trail
               In quest of some dreamland zone.

In quest of some far dreamland zone,
     Of some far silent sea-swept land,
          They are lost in the dim unknown,
               Where waves fade on jeweled sand
                    And dreams of night fall soft and gray,
                         Like some lost hope of yesterday.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“Nocturne” appeared in Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (Self-published, 1904).

Carl Sadakichi Hartmann, born on November 8, 1867 in Nagasaki, was a poet, playwright, and art critic. Among the first to introduce Western readers to Japanese forms such as the haiku and tanka, he was the author of many books, including My Rubaiyat (Self-published) and Tanka and Haikai: Japanese Rhythms (Self-published, 1916). He died on November 22, 1944.

Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems
(Self-published, 1904)

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“It’s a Long Way” by William Stanley Braithwaite
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Thanks to Brandy Nālani McDougall, author of The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Pa‘Akai (Kuleana ‘Oiwi Press, 2008), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Listen to a Q&A about McDougall’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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