Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Glass Harmonica

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

The late Theodore Enslin of Milbridge was one of Maine?s most distinguished poets. Shortly before his death last November, he wrote that today?s poem was influenced by Benjamin Franklin?s glass harmonica. According to experts, the beautiful music of this instrument is in a range that makes the brain uncertain about where the sound comes from. And so, perhaps, this story of a traveler whose route into the snow is difficult to follow, and can?t be found on any map.

The Glass Harmonica by Theodore Enslin

It snowed in far country
                             north and
beyond the trees.
As I went through the mirror
                                   my breath froze
clouding it,
          and they saw me no longer
in the villages of spring.
                                I walked alone
across level plains,
                        and my tracks disappeared
in the snow which went with me.
A wind rose
              playing on harpstrings
and reeds.
          There was nothing there, and my fingers
touched ice.
           A music
                              a music
                                                            an echo of music?
sound not a sound
                     in the quiet north country?
the snow.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1958 by Theodore Enslin. Reprinted from Then and Now, National Poetry Foundation Press, 1999, by permission of Theodore Enslin. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.