"Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
When I came home again from far-off places,
How many times I saw my western city
Dream by her river."
Sara Teasdale wrote only one poem specifically about St. Louis. Like many another writer, she was not comfortable in the city of her birth. When she died in 1933, she had lived away from St. Louis for nearly 20 years. Even her early poems, written when she was a student here and when she was a member of that talented group of young St. Louis women called The Potters, even these poems recount or evoke places other than this western city dreaming by the river.
But a poet's perceptions can give us a story that transcends her circumstances – and our own:
"Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
Gray, high-flung bridges."
Whether we are poets or historians trying to make sense of the world and our place in it, the picture that Sara Teasdale gave us nearly a hundred years ago is a part of the St. Louis story as surely as the stories we tell at the Missouri History Museum.
"Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
Across the levee."
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Bob Archibald is the President of the Missouri Historical Society