Sara Teasdale's "To E"

Updated on August 18, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Sara Teasdale


Introduction and Text of "To E"

Sara Teasdale's "To E" offer a unique portrait of a memory the speaker is sharing. In this memory, the speaker offers beautiful images that spark her desire to share an even more important thought. The speaker wishes to offer a tribute to a beloved soul whom she cherishes. His importance for her also rests in his ability to assist her in evoking those lovely, unforgettable images.

The rime scheme of the octave is ABBACDDC, and the rime scheme of the sestet is EFFGEG. The Petrarchan sonnet may have various rime schemes. As in the traditional Petrarchan sonnet, Teasdale's "To E" fulfills different duties in the octave and the sestet. The octave traditionally sets up a problem that the sestet solves. In the Teasdale sonnet, the octave offers a catalogue of beautiful things that the speaker's memory holds and treasures, but the sestet then dramatizes how these memories fade when the memory of this special soul comes into view.

The sonnet is similar to a Petrarchan sonnet, with an octave that portrays those many things of beauty that she has experienced; then, the sestet turns to the one subject that not only provides her musing with beauty but also offers her peace and comfort. Because this sonnet is somewhat innovative, it might also be classified as an American (Innovative) sonnet. But it does function very closely to the traditional Petrarchan sonnet style.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

To E

I have remembered beauty in the night,
Against black silences I waked to see
A shower of sunlight over Italy
And green Ravello dreaming on her height;
I have remembered music in the dark,
The clean swift brightness of a fugue of Bach's,
And running water singing on the rocks
When once in English woods I heard a lark.

But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you—
You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best,
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you I am at rest.

A reading of "To E"

The Octave

The octave begins, "I have remembered beauty in the night," and this memory motivates her to remember "black silences I waked to see" light shining brightly over Italy. The speaker is remembering the Italian village of Ravello, which leads her musing to what she has heard: music at nighttime, Bach's fugue, water running over the rocks. She then adds that once upon a time she heard a lark singing in an English woodThe speaker then portrays the many beautiful things she has both seen and heard as she has traveled in Italy and England. These memories are important to her; therefore, she cloaks them in rime and a pleasing meter.

The Sestet

As important as these memories are, the speaker finds that the most important aspect of those memories is that they remind her of her loved one. The beauty of all the things portrayed in the octave pales when she compares them to the beauty evoked by the "soul" to whom she is dedicating his sonnet, "To E" (Presumably, her husband Ernst Filsinger.)

The beautiful things described in the octave are natural phenomena, the "black silences" of night," the "shower of sunlight over Italy," and "water singing on the rocks," and the English lark, but there is also man-made beauty, such as the city of Ravello and the music of Bach. But the beauty portrayed in the sestet is simply a human soul about whom the reminiscing speaker asserts, "You are the rarest soul I ever knew." And this soul is rare because of his own love of beauty, which the speaker admires as "knightliest and best."

The final two lines of the sestet dramatize the speaker's thoughts through the simile, "as waves that seek the shore." The speaker's thoughts search out this fellow soul, this lover of beauty on their own, as naturally as the ocean waves that constantly run to the ocean's shore. But unlike the waves that continuously crash against the shore, when the speaker's thoughts flow over this rare soul, she finds tranquility: "And when I think of you, I am at rest."

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)