Florence Ripley Mastin
Biography of Florence Ripley Mastin
Florence Ripley Mastin was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Piermont, New York. She earned a BA from Barnard College and spent many years teaching English at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. Mastin was a popular teacher, and her student Bernard Malamud described her classes as “unusually exciting.” Her collections of poetry include Green Leaves (1918), Cables of Cobweb (1935), Over the Tappan Zee (1962), and Flowers: A Birthday Book (1964). Her work was regularly published in journals such as Poetry and national periodicals such as the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune, among others. The New York State Commission on Historic Observances chose Mastin’s poem “Freedom’s Dream” for its Hudson-Champlain Celebration in 1959; the poem was also awarded the Freedom Foundation Medal. Mastin retired from teaching in 1952 and returned to Piermont, where she died in 1968.
Florence Ripley Mastin Poems
From The Telephone
Out of the dark cup Your voice broke like a flower. It trembled, swaying on its taut stem.
The gray path glided before me Through cool, green shadows; Little leaves hung in the soft air Like drowsy moths; A group of dark trees, gravely conferring, Made me conscious of the gaucherie of sound; Farther on, a slim lilac Drew me down to her on the warm grass. "How sweet is peace!" My serene heart said. Then, suddenly, in a curve of the road, Red tulips! A bright battalion, swaying, They marched with fluttering flags, And gay fifes playing! A swift flame leapt in my heart; I burned with passion; I was tainted with cruelty; I wanted to march in the wind, To tear the silence with gay music, And to slash the sober green Until it sobbed and bled. The tulips have found me out.
Night fell one year ago, like this. He had been writing steadily. Among these dusky walls of books, How bright he looked, intense as flame! Suddenly he paused, The firelight in his hair, And said, "The time has come to go." I took his hand; We watched the logs burn out; The apple boughs fingered the window; Down the cool, spring night A slim, white moon leaned to the hill. To-night the trees are budded white, And the same pale moon slips through the dusk. O little buds, tap-tapping on the pane, O white moon, I wonder if he sleeps in woods Where there are leaves? Or if he lies in some black trench, His hands, his kind hands, kindling flame that kills? Or if, or if … He is here now, to bid me last good-night?
Moth Moon, a-flutter in the lilac tree, With pollen of the white stars on thy wings, Oh! would I shared thy flight, thy fantasy, The aimless beauty of thy brightenings! A worker, wed to Purpose and Things, Earth-worn I turn from Day's sufficiency. One lethéd hour that duty never brings, Oh! one dim hour to drift, Moth Moon, with thee!
At the Movies
They swing across the screen in brave array, Long British columns grinding the dark grass. Twelve months ago they marched into the grey Of battle; yet again behold them pass! One lifts his dusty cap; his hair is bright; I meet his eyes, eager and young and bold. The picture quivers into ghostly white; Then I remember, and my heart grows cold!
Moth Moon, a-flutter in the lilac tree,
With pollen of the white stars on thy wings,
Oh! would I shared thy flight, thy fantasy,
The aimless beauty of thy brightenings!
A worker, wed to Purpose and Things,
Earth-worn I turn from Day's sufficiency.
One lethéd hour that duty never brings,
Oh! one dim hour to drift, Moth Moon, with thee!