The Pale Impromptu: Samuel Greenberg poems

American second wave modernist Greenberg was born in 1893 and died in 1917

The first publication of Samuel Greenberg's poetry was Poems from the Greenberg manuscripts: a selection from the work of Samuel B. Greenberg, ed. James Laughlin (New Directions, 1939). Laughlin carefully transcribed from Greenberg's  notebooks the best – as he put it – of Greenberg's poems. He also including a holograph reproduction of "Conduct." Laughlin called Greenberg's work "pure poetry":"The poetry of Greenberg is not great poetry, and it is not even important minor poetry ... and yet ... poetry it is, pure poetry, to the extent equal to few other writers."

In a 2010 issue of Larry's Fagin's Sal Mimeo no. 9, there was a selection of poems by Greenberg. Fagin explains: "I had collected some of the Greenberg poems in the past, having run across the New Directions [1947] annual, Spearhead, in an U.S. military library in Frankfurt in 1954. Laughlin kept the original spellings and forms. Like many, I was disappointed in the Holt edition and generally avoided it." Spearhead contains an almost exact republication of Poems from the Greenberg manuscripts, from nine years ealier. I include here the poems published by Fagin, following Laughlin's versions, that are not already on the web at the Greenberg site.

I have had to approximate the shape of "Ruins of Prince Qulachrim" for this HTML version. And I have redone "The Pale Impromptu" based on the manuscript, which is provided befow, thanks to Marvin Taylor at NYU's Fales Collection.

The key source for Greenberg's poems is Michael's Smith extradorianry site LOGOPOEIA; you can read the poem in a web browser or in pdf reading copies.

For my full introduction to Greenberg see "Samuel Greenberg and Grammatic Truth" at Sybil and at my "web log" here.

Thanks to Michael Carr for his work on the Samuel Greenberg and his advise on these postings.

 Nurse brings me medicine! Medicine! Medicine?
          For me? God, 20 years old!
Medicine!? I’ll leave it to thee!
          The truth is a draught!
          Fondly fought
          to agree!

 She left me. the tinkling glasses
          lent me her distance!
The Hurried call I’ll disdain for ever!
          She shook the pulse
          Like Samson the vaults
          Well!—I never!

 I’m still proud! yes proud!
           Though charity is aiding me!
            This future painter
             does not hinder
What is going on—or shall be!


Ruins of Prince Qulachrim    

DRAMA PERSONA                                Synopsis
Qulachrim The Prince                           
The night in a cave – Benfeld, Shay – Szatleo. Shay
Faston The Poet & Soothsayer                sings at the calm night – Benfeld speak of the Ruins
Talven – a faithful winekeeper                on the Hill. They talk on Taking Possession of it.
Hindo Valet Dalkurz                              Dalkurz and the Prince in comes Faston who speaks
Surleton – Lute & Strang Player             of the Beauty of grace and pulsation – Kalbone’s
The dreamer – Kalbone                          Fantasie is placed before the princes desposal. Terfed
Terfed – The Thespian (acter)                  and Talven at the Ruins. They see the waste of Perfect
Pauly – Coach Driver                              Labor pon an admirale mount. The Shepard Surleton
Benfeld    The Haunts of                         with his lute neath an ugly Bark of Foliage. Surelton 
Shay        The Ruined Castle                    meets Terfed and Talven. tells that some one duells at       
Szatleo                                                    night in the lower cellars of the ruins. – Pauly and
dancers: inheriters – Officers                   the town maids of Sunday. Dalkurz is sent to
the castle. news of the reck by the tempestous Heavens a week ago – Prince arrives – He go mongst
the broken rock to seek for the lost safe – Build tents for night camping – the light in the cellar –
Kalbone Dreamts a Horrible scorching eterity. The Poet Faston  begs them not to venture forth.
Perhaps bandits enfest the ruins – second days search. Dalkurz the Brave is sent to reconioter. The
loss of the papers of confiscation – Terfed meets Benfeld – the Shay overhears them talk – that the
prince is camping not far from her – the warning of play – The Haunt of the cellars, Surleton’s fright.
Qulachrim and his lovers – Inheriters to the prince – a great loss – Pauly Drives the Prince about the
town, – talven – Terfed – Dalkurz – Kalbone’s Scheme to trap the ghosts – The scare crow – Kalbone
ventures to entrap him with a net – Terfed acts well his scare crow part – Surleton well with his lute.
the capture of Shay and Szatleo – the Bonds and paper of the prince restored – departure – end –

The “East River’s” Charm

Is this the river “East,” I heard

Where the ferrys, tugs and sailboats stirred

And the reaching warves from the inner land

Out stretched, like the harmless receiving hand


And the silvery tinge, that sparkles aloud

Like brilliant white demons, which a tide has towed

From the rays of the morning Sun

Which it doth ceaselessly Shine upon


But look! at the depth of the dripling tide

That dripples, reripples Like locusts astride

As the Boat turns upon the silvery spread

It leaves strange – a shadow dead


And the very charms from the reflective river

And from the stacks of the flowting Boat

There seemeth the quality ne’er to dissever

Life the ruffles from the Mystified smoke


                                                        SBG, 1913 Nov. 25,


The Street Lamp and the Eyelid


Close near my eyelid,
   The golden threads were damp,
That moved like a fairy cobweb
   Beneath the orbly chant 

Gradation was it woven,
   At it ruse from the puzzle-box,
To the highest place was proven,
As the lid would shut and relax 

Below and above
   A godly stride
Like stalks in a fairy dream
While lightning in the sky did hide
That shimmering tearful gleam 

I closed mine eyes, the struggling heart,
   That held like the clouded sun
While my hands grew cold, a tear did part
   From the soul that glanced thereon.

SBG 1914


Where sweepest thou, this earth Jehovah!
Like a windmill turnest thou a mortal’s schemes—
And the winds that flure the renew a gust
That lies sunken in Thy Palm, it seems. 

Thy Palm? a stricken creature I am
The truth I fain, would but a gurgle be
And all the truest brakers of space
Assume the Like, E’re dividedly. 

O! that ever burning seasoned warmth
It seems like an opening—of they careful retuirns
And behind it hide this divide announce
A web of hues guard they turns 

And Thy shadow that doth repose a nature
That giveth brightness to the Spirit, pure
Love! The only youthful stain
That shall ever rein 

O what a cheat is love, love invisible
Which doth float and disappears like a puff,
And the earth a growth for an age,
Will at last drop like a star aloof. 

My thought shall be as wide as this,
My love still wider seem
The eminence of this daily Charm
Shall clomb above—eternal Bliss.

S.B.G. 1913-14


            The Pale Impromptu


Silver mourned gray. Slepted the greenlight
               Pale neath coil of rock and clay
Stirred the tasted belt, such flower sighed tears
               Kept lewd powers away - by
 Northern soprano
          The Easthern lute
                The forgotten pallete
                      Strains ramBle
                            Pellucid quest
                                 times chant
                                       Hearts brow
                                              Pale heat
                                                     Fusive bleat
Thus of eye.  lived low beyond colours earned retreat
But dared not show - a vampires rath
                             Can you forget this wreap
Hidden winds perspired foul - as
   a palmed rose
      The well shade
         Urgent fears
            Eyes jealousy
               painted mirth
                  royal flesh
                     candle salve
                        consumed moon
and here, the ash tray was Blown


Blue turned white, gave the earth
                        a coating balzomized sooth
Though naked light shealds the trail of love
                       The fold metal granite doth move
In - Waves of skin
        Shapes of tale
               tined staines
                    Graceing clumps
                         Slime pigments
                               Lurid farrows
                                    Nulling marrow

Shallows cloak
   Marble sponge
Therein I but tarry, as the yoke of Helium tinge
Unmatched, foriegn, alien to the shrine of beauties cringe
Leaness will but crave         
          Water waves
             torque blocks
                Skulls of saints
                   patience absent
                      Yellow dreams
                         Sensive Stirs
                            Silent hills
                               precious death
His wooB? hath yet night its breath 


Clover sank to iron heat, stole the
                      lilies of pale mat gold
The hearse in ghosts, where black
          jet black - driven in Frail - By
Solitudes wish
    Phantom oriet
       Grey life
             Fouls deviation
                   Spiritual songs
                        pearls from tissue
                             traits rejuvenation
                                    Stale plants
                                          dim accuracy
There sat the minstrel, bent in leagues of Frozen charm
Though lightly, fettered, as perfect calm Thawing melancholy
       Early psalms
           river Rhodes
               tale of lamps
                    Satyres burial
                          Paradise sHrine
                                 Noble realms
                                     Mirror’s envil
                                             Clover’s muse
O soul!  enlivened from dire perfume, 

                                               S.B.G. 1915



Thanks to the Fales collection of New York University, who has given me permission, I am able to post the holograph of this poem. Go to "view image" to see full size.