A Page of Verse

dedicated to Ruth Herschberger 


Ruth Herschberger was born in 1917 in Philipse Manor, New York, and grew up in Chicago. Later she made her home in New York.She attended the University of Chicago and Black Mountain College. She published two books of poems, Nature & Love Poems (Eakins Press, 1969) and A Way of Happening (1948), and a book of prose: Adam's Rib (1948) from which the extract in our article on Language was taken.She received a Hopwood Award for Poetry, the Midland Authors Award for Poetry, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, a Rockefeller grant, and a Bollingen grant for translations of Vladimir Mayakovsky.


Here are her two best known poems, both of which appeared in Nature and Love Poems.

  The Huron

I swam the Huron of love, and am not ashamed,
It was many saw me do it, scoffing, scoffing,
They said it was foolish, winter and all,
But I dove in, greaselike, and swam,
And came up where Erie verges.
I would say for the expenditure of love,
And the atrophy of longing, there is no cure
So swift, so sleek, so fine, so draining
As a swim through the Huron in the wintertime.
 So If You Love Me


So if you love me you will tolerant
Be of the nature that is with me sent.
  I cannot be a different thing although
  For your sake, to win you, I would grow 
       Wings and shed thorns,
       Be weed, or newly born,
    Anything so to please you,
    But I'm myself and cannot ease you.

Come kindly to me then, forgiveness use, 
Do not heap on my patent-wrongs abuse,
  For your sake I'd be different but am not, 
  For your sake I'd have other needs forgot,
       But I am one
       And they are of the sum
    Of me, and will not set me free
    From my desires, which still follow me.

Oh choose, and choose me wholly, so we be 
All of imperfectness, but summary.
  Be sum, no fraction, though a fraction may 
  Marvelous wonder easily convey,
       Yet it's but part
       And may not be the heart,
    The whole is all of us, if we use not 
All strata, love's geology's forgot.