James Montgomery, (born Nov. 4, 1771, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scot.--died April 30, 1854, Sheffield, Yorkshire, Eng.), Scottish poet and journalist best remembered for his hymns and versified renderings of the Psalms, which are among the finest in English, uniting fervour and insight in simple verse. The son of a Moravian minister, Montgomery was first a shop assistant, then a journalist. He wrote some 22 books of verse. In 1835, through the agency of Sir Robert Peel, then prime minister, he was given a pension...
Joanna Baillie, (born Sept. 11, 1762, Hamilton, Lanark, Scot.--died Feb. 23, 1851, Hampstead, London), poet and prolific dramatist whose plays, mainly in verse, were highly praised at a period when serious drama was in decline. Her Plays on the Passions, 3 vol. (1798-1812), brought her fame but have long been forgotten. She is remembered, rather, as the friend of her countryman Sir Walter Scott and for a handful of lyrics in Fugitive Verses (1790), her first published work, that catch the authentic note of Lowland Scots folk song...
Stephen Phillips, (born July 28, 1864, Summertown, Oxfordshire, England--died December 9, 1915, Deal, Kent), English actor and poet who was briefly successful as a playwright.Phillips was educated at Trinity College School, Stratford-upon-Avon, and at King's School, Peterborough. In 1885 he joined an acting company founded by Frank Benson, his cousin. Phillips's first collection of poetry, Poems (1897), was followed by several verse dramas, including Herod (1901), Ulysses (1902), and Nero (1906). Phillips was compared to Shakespeare for Paolo and Francesca (1900), but his reputation..
Alfred Noyes, (born Sept. 16, 1880, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, Eng.--died June 28, 1958, Isle of Wight), English poet, a traditionalist remembered chiefly for his lyrical verse.Noyes' first volume of poems, The Loom of Years (1902), published while he was still at the University of Oxford, was followed by others that showed patriotic fervour and a love for the sea. He taught modern English literature at Princeton University in the United States from 1914 to 1923. Of Noyes's later works, the most notable is the epic trilogy The Torch-Bearers (1922-30), which took as its theme the progress..
John Drinkwater, (born June 1, 1882, Leytonstone, Essex, Eng.--died March 25, 1937, London), English poet, playwright, and critic, remembered as a typical man of letters of the Georgian age of the 1910s and 1920s. He was a successful promoter of repertory theatre in England and the author of popular chronicle dramas. In 1907 he became manager and producer for the Pilgrim Players, which developed into the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company. He published several volumes of verse (including The Collected Poems, 2 vol., 1923); critical studies (William Morris, 1912; Swinburne, 1913; and..
Henry Van Dyke, (born November 10, 1852, Germantown, Pennsylvania, U.S.--died April 10, 1933, Princeton, New Jersey), U.S. short-story writer, poet, and essayist popular in the early decades of the 20th century.Educated at Princeton, Van Dyke graduated from its theological seminary in 1877 and became a Presbyterian minister. His early works, "The Story of the Other Wise Man" (1896) and "The First Christmas Tree" (1897), were first read aloud to his congregation in New York as sermons. These quickly brought him recognition. Other stories and anecdotal tales were gathered at regular intervals..
Robinson Jeffers, (born Jan. 10, 1887, Pittsburgh--died Jan. 20, 1962, Carmel, Calif., U.S.), one of the most controversial U.S. poets of the 20th century, for whom all things except his pantheistically conceived God are transient, and human life is viewed as a frantic, often contemptible struggle within a net of passions.Educated in English literature, medicine, and forestry, Jeffers inherited money that allowed him to write his poetry. His third book, Tamar and Other Poems (1924), which brought him immediate fame, revealed the unique style and eccentric ideas developed in such later..
Jacques Delille, byname Abbe Delille, (born June 22, 1738, Aigueperse, France--died May 1, 1813, Paris), poet and classicist who enjoyed an impressive reputation in his day as the "French Virgil."Aided by scholarships, Delille was a brilliant student and taught Latin poetry at the College de France. His reputation was established with a verse translation of Virgil's Georgics (1770). Delille entered the French Academy at 36, translating the Aeneid in 1804 and Milton's Paradise Lost in 1805.His own rather artificial poetry (Les Jardins, 1782; Les Trois Regnes de la nature, 1809) is dedicated..
Thomas Campbell, (born July 27, 1777, Glasgow, Scot.--died June 15, 1844, Boulogne, France), Scottish poet, remembered chiefly for his sentimental and martial lyrics; he was also one of the initiators of a plan to found what became the University of London.Campbell went to Mull, an island of the Inner Hebrides, as a tutor in 1795 and two years later settled in Edinburgh to study law. In 1799 he wrote The Pleasures of Hope, a traditional 18th-century survey in heroic couplets of human affairs. It went through four editions within a year.He also produced several stirring patriotic war songs--"Ye..
Edward Young, (baptized July 3, 1683, Upham, Hampshire, Eng.--died April 5, 1765, Welwyn, Hertfordshire), English poet, dramatist, and literary critic, author of The Complaint: or, Night Thoughts (1742-45), a long, didactic poem on death. The poem was inspired by the successive deaths of his stepdaughter, in 1736; her husband, in 1740; and Young's wife, in 1741. The poem is a blank-verse dramatic monologue of nearly 10,000 lines, divided into nine parts, or "Nights." It was enormously popular.As a dramatist, Young lacked a theatrical sense, and his plays are rarely performed. Of them, The..
Letitia Elizabeth Landon, also called L.E.L., (born Aug. 14, 1802, London, Eng.--died Oct. 15, 1838, Gold Coast Colony [now Ghana]), English poet and novelist who, at a time when women were conventionally restricted in their themes, wrote of passionate love. She is remembered for her high-spirited social life and mysterious death and for verse that reveals her lively intelligence and emotional intensity.Landon's first volume of verse came out in 1821; it and the eight collections that followed were extremely popular, and she was in great demand as a contributor to magazines and giftbooks,..
James Hogg, (baptized Dec. 9, 1770, Ettrick, Selkirkshire, Scot.--died Nov. 21, 1835, Altrive, Yarrow, Selkirkshire), Scottish poet, known as the "Ettrick Shepherd," who enjoyed a vogue during the ballad revival that accompanied the Romantic movement.Hogg spent most of his youth and early manhood as a shepherd and was almost entirely self-educated. His talent was discovered early by Sir Walter Scott, to whom he supplied material for Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Before publishing The Queen's Wake (1813), a book of poems concerning Mary Stuart, Hogg went in 1810 to Edinburgh,..
Bliss Carman, in full William Bliss Carman, (born April 15, 1861, Fredericton, New Brunswick [Canada]--died June 8, 1929, New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.), Canadian regional poet of the Maritime Provinces and the New England region of the United States who is remembered chiefly for poignant love poems and one or two rhapsodies in celebration of nature.Educated at Fredericton Collegiate and at the University of New Brunswick, in Fredericton, Carman also attended lectures at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh and at Harvard.In 1890 he went to New York City, and for two decades he earned..
Yunus Emre, (born c. 1238, Turkey--died c. 1320, Turkey), poet and mystic who exercised a powerful influence on Turkish literature.Though legend obscures the facts of his life, he is known to have been a Sufi (Islamic mystic) who sat for 40 years at the feet of his master, Tapduk Emre. Yunus Emre was well versed in mystical philosophy, especially that of the 13th-century poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi. Like Rumi, Yunus Emre became a leading representative of mysticism in Anatolia but on a more popular level; he was venerated as a saint after his death.His poems, which are devoted mainly to..
Alfred Austin, (born May 30, 1835, Leeds, Yorkshire, Eng.--died June 2, 1913, Ashford, Kent), English poet and journalist who succeeded Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as poet laureate.After a devoutly Roman Catholic upbringing and a brief career as a lawyer, Austin inherited money and published a lively and well-received satirical poem, The Season (1861). As his religious faith declined into agnosticism (a process described in his verse autobiography, The Door of Humility ), his interest in politics grew. In 1866 he began to write for the Tory Standard and in 1883 became the founding editor..
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, (born Nov. 11, 1836, Portsmouth, N.H., U.S.--died March 19, 1907, Boston), poet, short-story writer, and editor whose use of the surprise ending influenced the development of the short story. He drew upon his childhood experiences in New Hampshire in his popular classic The Story of a Bad Boy (1870).Aldrich left school at 13 to work as a merchant's clerk in New York City and soon began to contribute to various newspapers and magazines. After publication of his first book of verse, The Bells (1855), he became junior literary critic on the New York Evening Mirror and later..
Joyce Kilmer, (born Dec. 6, 1886, New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.--died July 30, 1918, near Seringes, Fr.), American poet known chiefly for his 12-line verse entitled "Trees."He was educated at Rutgers and Columbia universities. His first volume of verse, Summer of Love (1911), showed the influence of William Butler Yeats and the Irish poets. After his conversion to Catholicism, Kilmer attempted to model his poetry upon that of Coventry Patmore and the 17th-century Metaphysical poets. His most famous poem, "Trees," appeared in Poetry magazine in 1913. Its immediate and continued popularity..
William Henry Davies, (born July 3, 1871, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales--died Sept. 26, 1940, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, Eng.), English poet whose lyrics have a force and simplicity uncharacteristic of the poetry of most of his Georgian contemporaries.After serving as apprentice to a picture framer, Davies tramped through the United States, crossed the Atlantic many times on cattle boats, lost a foot while trying to jump a train headed for the Klondike region in Canada, became a peddler and street singer in England, and, after several years of this wandering life, published his first..
Lascelles Abercrombie, (born Jan. 9, 1881, Ashton upon Mersey, Cheshire, Eng.--died Oct. 27, 1938, London), poet and critic who was associated with Georgian poetry.He was educated at Malvern College, Worcestershire, and Owens College, Manchester, after which he became a journalist and began to write poetry. His first book, Interludes and Poems (1908), was followed by Mary and the Bramble (1910), a dramatic poem--Deborah--and Emblems of Love (1912), and the prose work Speculative Dialogues (1913). All were marked by lyric power, lucidity, love of natural beauty, and mysticism.After..
Robert Bridges, in full Robert Seymour Bridges, (born October 23, 1844, Walmer, Kent, England--died April 21, 1930, Boar's Hill, Oxford), English poet noted for his technical mastery of prosody and for his sponsorship of the poetry of his friend Gerard Manley Hopkins.Born of a prosperous landed family, Bridges went to Eton College and then to Oxford, where he met Hopkins. His edition of Hopkins' poetry that appeared in 1916 rescued it from obscurity.From 1869 until 1882 Bridges worked as a medical student and physician in London hospitals. In 1884 he married Mary Monica Waterhouse, and he spent..
James Whitcomb Riley, (born Oct. 7, 1849, Greenfield, Ind., U.S.--died July 22, 1916, Indianapolis, Ind.), poet remembered for nostalgic dialect verse and often called "the poet of the common people."Riley's boyhood experience as an itinerant sign painter, entertainer, and assistant to patent-medicine vendors gave him the opportunity to compose songs and dramatic skits, to gain skill as an actor, and to come into intimate touch with the rural populace of Indiana. His reputation was gained first by a series of poems in Hoosier dialect ostensibly written by a farmer, Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone,..
Edwin Markham, original name Charles Edward Anson Markham, (born April 23, 1852, Oregon City, Ore., U.S.--died March 7, 1940, New York City), American poet and lecturer, best-known for his poem of social protest, "The Man with the Hoe."The youngest son of pioneer parents, Markham grew up on an isolated valley ranch in the Suisun hills in central California. After graduation from college, he became first a teacher and then a school administrator. In 1899 he gained national fame with the publication in the San Francisco Examiner of "The Man with the Hoe." Inspired by Jean-Francois Millet's painting,..
William Shenstone, (born Nov. 18, 1714, Leasowes, Halesowen, Shropshire, Eng.--died Feb. 11, 1763, Leasowes), a representative 18th-century English "man of taste." As a poet, amateur landscape gardener, and collector, he influenced the trend away from Neoclassical formality in the direction of greater naturalness and simplicity.From 1745, in response to the current vogue for the ferme ornee ("ornamental farm"; i.e., one that was as picturesque as it was profitable), he devoted his chief energies to beautifying his estate, the Leasowes, by "landscape gardening," a term he was the first..
Arna Bontemps, in full Arna Wendell Bontemps, (born October 13, 1902, Alexandria, Louisiana, U.S.--died June 4, 1973, Nashville, Tennessee), American writer who depicted the lives and struggles of black Americans.After graduating from Pacific Union College, Angwin, California, in 1923, Bontemps taught in New York and elsewhere. His poetry began to appear in the influential black magazines Opportunity and Crisis in the mid-1920s. His first novel, God Sends Sunday (1931), about a jockey who was good with horses but inadequate with people, is considered the final work of the Harlem Renaissance...
Eugene Field, (born September 2, 1850, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.--died November 4, 1895, Chicago, Illinois), American poet and journalist, best known, to his disgust, as the "poet of childhood."Field attended several colleges but took no degree; at the University of Missouri he was known less as a student than as a prankster. After his marriage in 1873, Field did editorial work for a variety of newspapers, including the Denver Tribune. From his Tribune column, "Odds and Ends," he gathered comic paragraphs to form his first book, The Tribune Primer (1882), journalistic joking in the tradition..
Henry Timrod, (born December 8, 1828, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.--died October 6, 1867, Columbia, South Carolina.), American poet who was called "the laureate of the Confederacy."Timrod was the son of a bookbinder. He attended Franklin College (later the University of Georgia), Athens, for two years and for a short period of time read law in Charleston. For a number of years he worked as a tutor, and in 1860 a collection of his poems was published. In his best-known essay, "Literature in the South" (1859), he criticized the lack of respect accorded Southern writers in both the North and..
Walter de la Mare, in full Walter John de la Mare, (born April 25, 1873, Charlton, Kent, England--died June 22, 1956, Twickenham, Middlesex), British poet and novelist with an unusual power to evoke the ghostly, evanescent moments in life.De la Mare was educated at St. Paul's Cathedral Choir School in London, and from 1890 to 1908 he worked in the London office of the Anglo-American Oil Company. From 1902, however, when his poetry collection Songs of Childhood appeared under the pseudonym Walter Ramal, he devoted himself increasingly to writing. His first novel, Henry Brocken, was published..
Angelus Silesius, original name Johannes Scheffler, (born December 1624, Breslau, Silesia [now Wroclaw, Poland]--died July 9, 1677, Breslau), religious poet remembered primarily as the author of Der cherubinischer Wandersmann (1674; "The Cherubic Wanderer"), a major work of Roman Catholic mysticism.The son of a Lutheran Polish nobleman, Scheffler was court physician to the duke of Oels in his native Silesia when his readings in the mystics, especially Jakob Bohme, and in the Church Fathers led him to the Roman Catholic Church, into which he was received in 1653. After six years as physician..
James Stephens, (born Feb. 9, 1880, Dublin--died Dec. 26, 1950, London), Irish poet and storyteller whose pantheistic philosophy is revealed in his fairy tales set in the Dublin slums of his childhood and in his compassionate poems about animals.Stephens was working as a solicitor's clerk and educating himself when he met the Irish poet AE (George William Russell), who encouraged him and helped him publish Insurrections, his first book of poetry, in 1909. His first novel, The Charwoman's Daughter, appeared in 1911 in The Irish Review, which he had helped found that year. It was his next book,..
Coventry Patmore, in full Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore, (born July 23, 1823, Woodford, Essex, England--died November 26, 1896, Lymington, Hampshire), English poet and essayist whose best poetry is in The Unknown Eros, and Other Odes, containing mystical odes of divine love and of married love, which he saw as a reflection of Christ's love for the soul.After his father fled to France to escape his creditors, Patmore obtained a position in the library of the British Museum, London, and worked there for 19 years. He published a vast novel in verse, telling the story of two marriages, beginning..
Charlotte Smith, nee Turner, (born May 4, 1749, London, Eng.--died Oct. 28, 1806, Tilford, near Farnham, Surrey), English novelist and poet, highly praised by the novelist Sir Walter Scott. Her poetic attitude toward nature was reminiscent of William Cowper's in celebrating the "ordinary" pleasures of the English countryside. Her radical attitudes toward conventional morality (the novel Desmond tells of the innocent love of a man for a married woman) and political ideas of class equality (inspired by the French Revolution) gained her notoriety, but her work belongs essentially with that..
Alice Meynell, in full Alice Christiana Gertrude Meynell, nee Thompson, (born October 11, 1847, Barnes, near London, England--died November 27, 1922, London), English poet and essayist.Much of Meynell's childhood was spent in Italy, and about 1868 she converted to Roman Catholicism, which was strongly reflected in her writing. Encouraged by Alfred Tennyson and Coventry Patmore, she published her first volume of poems, Preludes, in 1875. She subsequently published Poems (1893) and Later Poems (1902); Last Poems (1923) was published posthumously.One sonnet, "My Heart Shall Be Thy Garden,"..
Francis Thompson, (born Dec. 18, 1859, Preston, Lancashire, Eng.--died Nov. 13, 1907, London), English poet of the 1890s, whose most famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven," describes the pursuit of the human soul by God.Thompson was educated in the Roman Catholic faith at Ushaw College, a seminary in the north of England. He studied medicine at Manchester, but not conscientiously, and began to take opium; he then went to London, where from 1885 to 1888 he lived in destitution. In 1888 the publication of two of his poems in Wilfrid Meynell's periodical, Merry England, aroused the admiration of Robert..
Irving Layton, original name Irving Peter Lazarovitch, (born March 12, 1912, Tirgu Neamt, Romania--died January 4, 2006, Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Romanian-born poet, who treated the Jewish Canadian experience with rebellious vigour.Layton's family immigrated to Canada in 1913. He attended Macdonald College (B.Sc., 1939) and McGill University (M.A., 1946). After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, he worked as a teacher and lecturer in Montreal from 1945 to 1960 and later was professor of literature (1970-78) at York University in Toronto.Layton's poems,..
Francis Quarles, (baptized May 8, 1592, Romford, Essex, England--died September 8, 1644, London), religious poet remembered for his Emblemes, the most notable emblem book in English.The son of a minor court official, Quarles was educated at the University of Cambridge and at Lincoln's Inn, London. The wealth of Quarles's family at first allowed him to live a leisured and studious life, but in the late 1620s he served as secretary to Archbishop James Ussher in Ireland. In 1640 Quarles became chronologer to London, virtually abandoning poetry to employ his pen more lucratively. He died in relative..
Samuel Rogers, (born July 30, 1763, Stoke Newington, near London--died Dec. 18, 1855, London), English poet, best remembered as a witty conversationalist and as a friend of greater poets.Rogers attained eminence with the publication of his popular discursive poem The Pleasures of Memory (1792). On his father's death (1793) he inherited a banking firm, and for the next half century he maintained an influential position as a leading figure in London society and as a generous host to brilliant company. His acquisition of paintings and objets d'art made his home a centre for anyone ambitious to..
John Masefield, (born June 1, 1878, Ledbury, Herefordshire, Eng.--died May 12, 1967, near Abingdon, Berkshire), poet, best known for his poems of the sea, Salt-Water Ballads (1902, including "Sea Fever" and "Cargoes"), and for his long narrative poems, such as The Everlasting Mercy (1911), which shocked literary orthodoxy with its phrases of a colloquial coarseness hitherto unknown in 20th-century English verse.Educated at King's School, Warwick, Masefield was apprenticed aboard a windjammer that sailed around Cape Horn. He left the sea after that voyage and spent several years living..
Khalil Gibran, Gibran also spelled Jibran, Khalil also spelled Kahlil, Arabic name in full Jubran Khalil Jubran, (born January 6, 1883, Bsharri, Lebanon--died April 10, 1931, New York, New York, U.S.), Lebanese American philosophical essayist, novelist, poet, and artist.Having received his primary education in Beirut, Gibran immigrated with his parents to Boston in 1895. He returned to Lebanon in 1898 and studied in Beirut, where he excelled in the Arabic language. On his return to Boston in 1903, he published his first literary essays; in 1907 he met Mary Haskell, who was to be his benefactor..
Austin Dobson, in full Henry Austin Dobson, (born Jan. 18, 1840, Plymouth, Devonshire, Eng.--died Sept. 2, 1921, London), English poet, critic, and biographer whose love and knowledge of the 18th century lent a graceful elegance to his poetry and inspired his critical studies.Educated in Strasbourg, France, Dobson became in 1856 a civil servant at the British Board of Trade, where he remained until his retirement in 1901. He began to publish poetry in magazines in 1864, and in the 1870s he played an important part in the revival of intricate medieval French verse forms (the triolet, the rondeau,..
Edmond Rostand, (born April 1, 1868, Marseille, France--died Dec. 2, 1918, Paris), French dramatist of the period just before World War I whose plays provide a final, very belated example of Romantic drama in France.Rostand's name is indissolubly linked with that of his most popular and enduring play, Cyrano de Bergerac. First performed in Paris in 1897, with the famous actor Constant Coquelin playing the lead, Cyrano made a great impression in France and all over Europe and the United States. The plot revolves around the emotional problems of Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that..
Rupert Brooke, (born Aug. 3, 1887, Rugby, Warwickshire, Eng.--died April 23, 1915, Skyros, Greece), English poet, a wellborn, gifted, handsome youth whose early death in World War I contributed to his idealized image in the interwar period. His best-known work is the sonnet sequence 1914.At school at Rugby, where his father was a master, Brooke distinguished himself as a cricket and football (soccer) player as well as a scholar. At King's College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1906, he was prominent in the Fabian (Socialist) Society and attracted innumerable friends. He studied in..
Christoph Martin Wieland, (born September 5, 1733, Oberholzheim, near Biberach [Germany]--died January 20, 1813, Weimar, Saxe-Weimar), poet and man of letters of the German Rococo period whose work spans the major trends of his age, from rationalism and the Enlightenment to classicism and pre-Romanticism.Wieland was the son of a Pietist parson, and his early writings from the 1750s were sanctimonious and strongly devotional. During the 1760s, however, he discovered another, more sensual aspect of his nature and moved toward a more worldly, rationalistic philosophy. Although some of..
John Cleveland, (born June 16, 1613, Loughborough, Leicestershire, Eng.--died April 29, 1658, London), English poet, the most popular of his time, and then and in later times the most commonly abused Metaphysical poet.Educated at Cambridge, Cleveland became a fellow there before joining the Royalist army at Oxford in 1643. In 1645-46 he was judge advocate with the garrison at Newark until it surrendered to the Parliamentary forces, after which he lived with friends. When Charles I put himself in the hands of the Scots' army and they turned him over to the Parliamentary forces, Cleveland excoriated..
Paul Eluard, pseudonym of Eugene Grindel, (born Dec. 14, 1895, Saint-Denis, Paris, Fr.--died Nov. 18, 1952, Charenton-le-Pont), French poet, one of the founders of the Surrealist movement and one of the important lyrical poets of the 20th century.In 1919 Eluard made the acquaintance of the Surrealist poets Andre Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon, with whom he remained in close association until 1938. Experiments with new verbal techniques, theories on the relation between dream and reality, and the free expression of thought processes produced Capitale de la douleur (1926;..
Aime Cesaire, in full Aime-Fernand-David Cesaire, (born June 26, 1913, Basse-Pointe, Mart.--died April 17, 2008, Fort-de-France), Martinican poet, playwright, and politician, who was cofounder with Leopold Sedar Senghor of Negritude, an influential movement to restore the cultural identity of black Africans.Together with Senghor and others involved in the Negritude movement, Cesaire was educated in Paris. In the early 1940s he returned to Martinique and engaged in political action supporting the decolonization of the French colonies of Africa. In 1945 he became mayor of Fort-de-France,..
William Drummond, (born Dec. 13, 1585, Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, Scot.--died Dec. 4, 1649, Hawthornden), first notable poet in Scotland to write deliberately in English. He also was the first to use the canzone, a medieval Italian or Provencal metrical form, in English verse.Drummond studied at Edinburgh and spent a few years in France, ostensibly studying law at Bourges and Paris. On the death of his father, first laird of Hawthornden, in 1610, he settled down on his Hawthornden estate, leaving law for literature and devoting himself to the life of a cultured and rather detached man of means...
Robert Pinsky, (born Oct. 20, 1940, Long Branch, N.J., U.S.), American poet and critic whose poems searched for the significance underlying everyday acts. He was the first poet laureate consultant in poetry to be appointed for three consecutive one-year terms, beginning in 1997.A graduate of Rutgers (B.A., 1962) and Stanford (Ph.D., 1966) universities, Pinsky taught at Wellesley College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Boston University.The title poem of Pinsky's first collection, Sadness and Happiness (1975), comments on the poet's own life. His long poem An Explanation..
Richard Lovelace, (born 1618--died 1657, London), English poet, soldier, and Royalist whose graceful lyrics and dashing career made him the prototype of the perfect Cavalier.Lovelace was probably born in the Netherlands, where his father was in military service. He was educated at Charterhouse and Oxford, and at age 16 or possibly a little later he wrote The Scholars, a comedy acted at Whitefriars, of which the prologue and epilogue survive. He took part in the expeditions to Scotland (1639-40) at the time of the rebellions against Charles I. During this period he is said to have written a tragedy,..
Charles Churchill, (born February 1731, London, Eng.--died Nov. 4, 1764, Boulogne, France), English poet noted for his lampoons and polemical satires written in heroic couplets.Churchill was educated at Westminster School. Although he was delayed in taking orders by an early and imprudent marriage, he was ordained in 1756 and, in 1758, on his father's death, succeeded him as curate of a Westminster parish. In 1761 or 1762 he became friends with the champion of liberty of the press, John Wilkes, and his collaboration with Wilkes thereafter earned him an honourable place in the history of parliamentary..
Hugh MacDiarmid, pseudonym of Christopher Murray Grieve, (born Aug. 11, 1892, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scot.--died Sept. 9, 1978, Edinburgh), preeminent Scottish poet of the first half of the 20th century and leader of the Scottish literary renaissance.The son of a postman, MacDiarmid was educated at Langholm Academy and the University of Edinburgh. After serving in World War I he became a journalist in Montrose, Angus, where he edited three issues of the first postwar Scottish verse anthology, Northern Numbers (1921-23). In 1922 he founded the monthly Scottish Chapbook, in which he advocated..
Arthur Symons, in full Arthur William Symons, (born Feb. 28, 1865, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Eng.--died Jan. 22, 1945, Wittersham, Kent), poet and critic, the first English champion of the French Symbolist poets.Symons's schooling was irregular, but, determined to be a writer, he soon found a place in the London literary journalism of the 1890s. He joined the Rhymers' Club (a group of poets including William Butler Yeats and Ernest Dowson), contributed to The Yellow Book, and became editor of a new magazine, The Savoy (1896), with Aubrey Beardsley as art editor. Symons was well versed..
Ben Okri, (born March 15, 1959, Minna, Nigeria), Nigerian novelist, short-story writer, and poet who used magic realism to convey the social and political chaos in the country of his birth.Okri attended Urhobo College in Warri, Nigeria, and the University of Essex in Colchester, England. His first novels, Flowers and Shadows (1980) and The Landscapes Within (1981), employ surrealistic images to depict the corruption and lunacy of a politically scarred country. Two volumes of short stories, Incidents at the Shrine (1986) and Stars of the New Curfew (1988), portray the essential link in Nigerian..
Stephen Vincent Benet, (born July 22, 1898, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.--died March 13, 1943, New York, New York), American poet, novelist, and writer of short stories, best known for John Brown's Body, a long narrative poem on the American Civil War.Born into a military family with literary inclinations, Benet was reared on army posts. His father read poetry aloud to Stephen, an older brother, William Rose, and a sister, Laura, all of whom became writers. Stephen published his first book at age 17. Civilian service during World War I interrupted his education at Yale University. He received..
Arthur Hugh Clough, (born Jan. 1, 1819, Liverpool--died Nov. 13, 1861, Florence), poet whose work reflects the perplexity and religious doubt of mid-19th century England. He was a friend of Matthew Arnold and the subject of Arnold's commemorative elegy "Thyrsis."While at Oxford, Clough had intended to become a clergyman, but his increasing religious skepticism caused him to leave the university. He became head of University Hall, London, in 1849, and in 1852, at the invitation of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he spent several months lecturing in Massachusetts. He later worked as a government education..
James Beattie, (born November 5, 1735, Laurencekirk, Kincardine, Scotland--died August 18, 1803, Aberdeen), Scottish poet and essayist, whose once-popular poem The Minstrel was one of the earliest works of the Romantic movement.Beattie was a farmer's son. He graduated from Marischal College, Aberdeen, and became professor of moral philosophy there. At the age of 25, he published Original Poems and Translations (1760), which already showed a Romantic attitude toward nature. With his Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism (1770), a vigorous..
Yehuda Amichai, (born May 3, 1924, Wurzburg, Germany--died September 22, 2000, Jerusalem, Israel), Israeli writer who is best known for his poetry.Amichai and his Orthodox Jewish family immigrated to Palestine in 1936. During World War II he served in the British army, but he later fought the British as a guerrilla prior to the formation of Israel; he also was involved in the Arab-Israeli conflicts of 1956 and 1973. Amichai attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and taught for several years at secondary schools.Amichai's poetry reflects his total commitment to the state of Israel, and..
Countee Cullen, in full Countee Porter Cullen, (born May 30, 1903, Louisville, Kentucky?, U.S.--died January 9, 1946, New York, New York), American poet, one of the finest of the Harlem Renaissance.Reared by a woman who was probably his paternal grandmother, Countee at age 15 was unofficially adopted by the Reverend F.A. Cullen, minister of Salem M.E. Church, one of Harlem's largest congregations. He won a citywide poetry contest as a schoolboy and saw his winning stanzas widely reprinted. At New York University (B.A., 1925) he won the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa...
Vachel Lindsay, in full Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, (born Nov. 10, 1879, Springfield, Ill., U.S.--died Dec. 5, 1931, Springfield), American poet who--in an attempt to revive poetry as an oral art form of the common people--wrote and read to audiences compositions with powerful rhythms that had an immediate appeal.After three years at Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio, Lindsay left in 1900 to study art in Chicago and New York City. He supported himself in part by lecturing for the YMCA and the Anti-Saloon League. Having begun to write poetry, he wandered for several summers throughout the country reciting..
Jacques Prevert, (born Feb. 4, 1900, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.--died April 11, 1977, Omonville-la-Petite), French poet who composed ballads of social hope and sentimental love; he also ranked among the foremost of screenwriters, especially during the 1930s and '40s.From 1925 to 1929 Prevert was associated with the Surrealists Robert Desnos, Yves Tanguy, Louis Aragon, and Andre Breton and renewed, in their style, the ancient tradition of oral poetry that led him to a highly popular form of "song poems," which were collected in Paroles (1945; "Words"). Many were put to music by Josef Kosma and..
James Weldon Johnson, (born June 17, 1871, Jacksonville, Fla., U.S.--died June 26, 1938, Wiscasset, Maine), poet, diplomat, and anthologist of black culture.Trained in music and other subjects by his mother, a schoolteacher, Johnson graduated from Atlanta University with A.B. (1894) and M.A. (1904) degrees and later studied at Columbia University. For several years he was principal of the black high school in Jacksonville, Fla. He read law at the same time, was admitted to the Florida bar in 1897, and began practicing there. During this period, he and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954),..
George Chapman, (born 1559?, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Eng.--died May 12, 1634, London), English poet and dramatist, whose translation of Homer long remained the standard English version.Chapman attended the University of Oxford but took no degree. By 1585 he was working in London for the wealthy commoner Sir Ralph Sadler and probably traveled to the Low Countries at this time. His first work was The Shadow of Night . . . Two Poeticall Hymnes (1593), followed in 1595 by Ovids Banquet of Sence. Both philosophize on the value of an ordered life. His poem in praise of Sir Walter Raleigh, De Guiana,..
Nikki Giovanni, byname of Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., (born June 7, 1943, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.), American poet whose writings ranged from calls for black power to poems for children and intimate personal statements.Giovanni grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Knoxville, Tennessee, and in 1960 she entered Nashville's Fisk University. By 1967, when she received a B.A., she was firmly committed to the civil rights movement and the concept of black power. In her first three collections of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgement (1968), and Re: Creation (1970), her content..
Anne Sexton, original name Anne Harvey, (born November 9, 1928, Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.--died October 4, 1974, Weston, Massachusetts), American poet whose work is noted for its confessional intensity.Anne Harvey attended Garland Junior College for a year before her marriage in 1948 to Alfred M. Sexton II. She studied with the poet Robert Lowell at Boston University and also worked as a model and a librarian. Although she had written some poetry in childhood, it was not until the later 1950s that she began to write seriously. Her poems, which showed Lowell's influence, appeared in Harper's,..
John Betjeman, in full Sir John Betjeman, (born August 28, 1906, London, England--died May 19, 1984, Trebetherick, Cornwall), British poet known for his nostalgia for the near past, his exact sense of place, and his precise rendering of social nuance, which made him widely read in England at a time when much of what he wrote about was rapidly vanishing. The poet, in near-Tennysonian rhythms, satirized lightly the promoters of empty and often destructive "progress" and the foibles of his own comfortable class. As an authority on English architecture and topography, he did much to popularize..
Marianne Moore, in full Marianne Craig Moore, (born November 15, 1887, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.--died February 5, 1972, New York, New York), American poet whose work distilled moral and intellectual insights from the close and accurate observation of objective detail.Moore graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1909 as a biology major and then studied commercial subjects and taught them at the U.S. Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her first published work appeared in 1915 in the Egoist and in Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine. After 1919, living in Brooklyn, New York,..
Max Jacob, (born July 12, 1876, Quimper, Fr.--died March 5, 1944, Drancy), French poet who played a decisive role in the new directions of modern poetry during the early part of the 20th century. His writing was the product of a complex amalgam of Jewish, Breton, Parisian, and Roman Catholic elements.Jacob departed his native Brittany in 1894 to go to Paris, where he lived in extreme poverty but eventually became an important figure in Montmartre during the formative period of Cubism. He was a friend of the Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris and of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Jacob..
Thomas Moore, (born May 28, 1779, Dublin, Ire.--died Feb. 25, 1852, Wiltshire, Eng.), Irish poet, satirist, composer, and political propagandist. He was a close friend of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.The son of a Roman Catholic wine merchant, Moore graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1799 and then studied law in London. His major poetic work, Irish Melodies (1807-34), earned him an income of GBP500 annually for a quarter of a century. It contained such titles as "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Oft in the Stilly Night." The Melodies, a group of 130 poems set to the music of Moore and of..
Rita Dove, in full Rita Frances Dove, (born August 28, 1952, Akron, Ohio, U.S.), American poet, writer, and teacher who was the first African American to serve as poet laureate of the United States (1993-95).Dove was ranked one of the top hundred high-school students in the country in 1970, and she was named a Presidential Scholar. She graduated summa cum laude from Miami University in Ohio in 1973 and studied subsequently at Tubingen University in Germany. She studied creative writing at the University of Iowa (M.F.A., 1977) and published the first of several chapbooks of her poetry in 1977...
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Gabriela Mistral, pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, (born April 7, 1889, Vicuna, Chile--died January 10, 1957, Hempstead, New York, U.S.), Chilean poet, who in 1945 became the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.Of Spanish, Basque, and Indian descent, Mistral grew up in a village of northern Chile and became a schoolteacher at age 15, advancing later to the rank of college professor. Throughout her life she combined writing with a career as an educator, cultural minister, and diplomat; her diplomatic assignments included posts in Madrid, Lisbon, Genoa, and Nice.Her..
Edward FitzGerald, (born March 31, 1809, Bredfield, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.--died June 14, 1883, Merton, Norfolk), English writer, best known for his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which, though it is a very free adaptation and selection from the Persian poet's verses, stands on its own as a classic of English literature. It is one of the most frequently quoted of lyric poems, and many of its phrases, such as "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou" and "The moving finger writes," passed into common currency.FitzGerald was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he formed a lifelong..
John Ashbery, in full John Lawrence Ashbery, (born July 28, 1927, Rochester, New York, U.S.--died September 3, 2017, Hudson, New York), American poet noted for the elegance, originality, and obscurity of his poetry.Ashbery graduated from Harvard University in 1949 and received a master's degree from Columbia University in 1951. After working as a copywriter in New York City (1951-55), he lived in Paris until 1965, contributing art criticism to the Paris edition of the New York Herald-Tribune and to the American periodical Art News. Returning to New York, he served as executive editor of Art..
Emma Lazarus, (born July 22, 1849, New York, N.Y., U.S.--died Nov. 19, 1887, New York City), American poet and essayist best known for her sonnet "The New Colossus," written to the Statue of Liberty.Born into a cultured family of Sephardic (Spanish Jewish) stock, Lazarus learned languages and the classics at an early age. She early displayed a talent for poetry, and her first book, Poems and Translations (1867), was praised by Ralph Waldo Emerson. She dedicated her next book, Admetus and Other Poems (1871), to him. These and subsequent volumes--the prose Alide: An Episode of Goethe's Life (1874),..
Sidney Lanier, (born Feb. 3, 1842, Macon, Ga., U.S.--died Sept. 7, 1881, Lynn, N.C.), American musician and poet whose verse often suggests the rhythms and thematic development of music.Lanier was reared by devoutly religious parents in the traditions of the Old South. As a child he wrote verses and was especially fond of music. After graduation in 1860 from Oglethorpe College (now University), Atlanta, Ga., he served in the Civil War until his capture and subsequent imprisonment at Point Lookout, Md., where he contracted tuberculosis. In 1867 he married Mary Day, also of Macon; and in the same..
Wislawa Szymborska, (born July 2, 1923, Bnin [now part of Kornik], Poland--died February 1, 2012, Krakow), Polish poet whose intelligent and empathic explorations of philosophical, moral, and ethical issues won her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.Szymborska's father was the steward on a count's family estate. When she was eight, the family moved to Krakow, and she attended high school there. Between 1945 and 1948 she studied literature and sociology at Krakow's Jagiellonian University. Her first published poem, "Szukam slowa" ("I Seek the Word"), appeared in a Krakow newspaper..
Nelly Sachs, in full Nelly Leonie Sachs, (born Dec. 10, 1891, Berlin, Ger.--died May 12, 1970, Stockholm, Swed.), German poet and dramatist who became a poignant spokesperson for the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews. When, with Shmuel Yosef Agnon, she was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize for Literature, she observed that Agnon represented Israel whereas "I represent the tragedy of the Jewish people."The daughter of a prosperous manufacturer, Sachs grew up in the fashionable Tiergarten section of Berlin and began writing verse at age 17. Romantic and conventional, her poems of the 1920s appeared..
Thomas Hood, (born May 23, 1799, London--died May 3, 1845, London), English poet, journalist, and humorist whose humanitarian verses, such as "The Song of the Shirt" (1843), served as models for a whole school of social-protest poets, not only in Britain and the United States but in Germany and Russia, where he was widely translated. He also is notable as a writer of comic verse, having originated several durable forms for that genre.The son of a London bookseller, Hood became a "sort of sub-editor" of the London Magazine (1821-23) during its heyday, when its circle of brilliant contributors..
Joachim du Bellay, (born c. 1522, Lire, Fr.--died Jan. 1, 1560, Paris), French poet, leader with Pierre de Ronsard of the literary group known as La Pleiade. Du Bellay is the author of the Pleiade's manifesto, La Defense et illustration de la langue francaise (The Defence & Illustration of the French Language).Du Bellay was born into a noble family of the Loire River valley, and he studied law and the humanities in Poitiers and Paris. He published The Defence & Illustration of the French Language in 1549. In it he asserted that French is capable of producing a modern literature equal in quality..
Edgar Lee Masters, (born Aug. 23, 1868, Garnett, Kan., U.S.--died March 5, 1950, Philadelphia, Pa.), American poet and novelist, best known as the author of Spoon River Anthology (1915).Masters grew up on his grandfather's farm near New Salem, Ill., studied in his father's law office, and attended Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., for one year. He was admitted to the bar in 1891 and developed a successful law practice in Chicago.A volume of his verses appeared in 1898, followed by Maximilian, a drama in blank verse (1902), The New Star Chamber and Other Essays (1904), Blood of the Prophets (1905),..
Gwendolyn Brooks, in full Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, (born June 7, 1917, Topeka, Kan., U.S.--died Dec. 3, 2000, Chicago, Ill.), American poet whose works deal with the everyday life of urban blacks. She was the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize (1950), and in 1968 she was named the poet laureate of Illinois.Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in Chicago in 1936. Her early verses appeared in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper written primarily for that city's African American community. Her first published collection, A Street in Bronzeville (1945), reveals her..
Lucille Clifton, original name Thelma Lucille Sayles, (born June 27, 1936, Depew, New York, U.S.--died February 13, 2010, Baltimore, Maryland), American poet whose works examine family life, racism, and gender.Born of a family that was descended from slaves, she attended Howard University from 1953 to 1955 and graduated from Fredonia State Teachers College (now State University of New York College at Fredonia) in 1955. Three years later she married Fred James Clifton, and in 1969 her first book, a collection of poetry titled Good Times, was published.Clifton worked in state and federal..
Audre Lorde, in full Audre Geraldine Lorde, also called Gamba Adisa or Rey Domini, (born February 18, 1934, New York, New York, U.S.--died November 17, 1992, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands), American poet, essayist, and autobiographer known for her passionate writings on lesbian feminism and racial issues.The daughter of Grenadan parents, Lorde attended Hunter College and received a B.A. in 1959 and a master's degree in library science in 1961. She married in 1962 and wrote poetry while working as a librarian at Town School in New York; she also taught English at Hunter College. In 1968 her first..
Joel Barlow, (born March 24, 1754, Redding, Connecticut [U.S.]--died December 24, 1812, Zarnowiec, Poland), public official, poet, and author of the mock-heroic poem The Hasty Pudding.A graduate of Yale, he was a chaplain for three years in the Revolutionary Army. In July 1784 he established at Hartford, Connecticut, a weekly paper, the American Mercury. In 1786 he was admitted to the bar. Along with John Trumbull and Timothy Dwight, he was a member of the group of young writers, known as the Connecticut, or Hartford, Wits, whose patriotism led them to attempt to create a national literature...
Shel Silverstein, in full Sheldon Allan Silverstein, (born September 25, 1930, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.--died May 10, 1999, Key West, Florida), American cartoonist, children's author, poet, songwriter, and playwright best known for his light verse and quirky cartoons.In the 1950s Silverstein drew for the military magazine Stars and Stripes while serving in Japan and Korea, and he also contributed to Playboy. He created the adult book of drawings Now Here's My Plan: A Book of Futilities (1960) before turning to works for children. His first efforts, written under the name Uncle Shelby, included..
Allen Tate, in full John Orley Allen Tate, (born November 19, 1899, Winchester, Kentucky, U.S.--died February 9, 1979, Nashville, Tennessee), American poet, teacher, novelist, and a leading exponent of the New Criticism. In both his criticism and his poetry, he emphasized the writer's need for a tradition to adhere to; he found his tradition in the culture of the conservative, agrarian South and, later, in Roman Catholicism, to which he converted in 1950.In 1918 Tate entered Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he helped found The Fugitive (1922-25), a magazine for a group..
Carl Sandburg, (born Jan. 6, 1878, Galesburg, Ill., U.S.--died July 22, 1967, Flat Rock, N.C.), American poet, historian, novelist, and folklorist.From the age of 11, Sandburg worked in various occupations--as a barbershop porter, a milk truck driver, a brickyard hand, and a harvester in the Kansas wheat fields. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he enlisted in the 6th Illinois Infantry. These early years he later described in his autobiography Always the Young Strangers (1953).From 1910 to 1912 he acted as an organizer for the Social Democratic Party and secretary to the mayor..
Mark Akenside, (born Nov. 9, 1721, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, Eng.--died June 23, 1770, London), poet and physician, best known for his poem The Pleasures of Imagination, an eclectic philosophical essay that takes as its starting point papers on the same subject written by Joseph Addison for The Spectator. Written in blank verse derived from Milton's, it was modelled (as its preface states) on the Roman poets Virgil (the Georgics) and Horace (the Epistles). A debt to Virgil is certainly apparent in the way in which Akenside invests an essentially unpoetic subject--the abstractions..
John Berryman, (born Oct. 25, 1914, McAlester, Okla., U.S.--died Jan. 7, 1972, Minneapolis, Minn.), U.S. poet whose importance was assured by the publication in 1956 of the long poem Homage to Mistress Bradstreet.Berryman was brought up a strict Roman Catholic in the small Oklahoma town of Anadarko, moving at 10 with his family to Tampa, Fla. When the boy was 12, his father killed himself. Berryman attended a private school in Connecticut and graduated from Columbia University, where he was influenced by his teacher, the poet Mark Van Doren. After study at the University of Cambridge in 1938,..
Philip Levine, (born January 10, 1928, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.--died February 14, 2015, Fresno, California), American poet of urban working-class life.Levine was of Russian Jewish descent. He studied at Wayne University (now Wayne State University), Detroit (B.A., 1950; M.A., 1955), and the University of Iowa (M.F.A., 1957). He worked at a series of industrial jobs before he began teaching literature and creative writing at California State University, Fresno (1958-92). In addition, he was poet in residence at a number of colleges and universities.In his poetry Levine attempted to..
William Cullen Bryant, (born Nov. 3, 1794, Cummington, Mass., U.S.--died June 12, 1878, New York City), poet of nature, best remembered for "Thanatopsis," and editor for 50 years of the New York Evening Post.A descendant of early Puritan immigrants, Bryant at 16 entered the sophomore class of Williams College. Because of finances and in hopes of attending Yale, he withdrew without graduating. Unable to enter Yale, he studied law under private guidance at Worthington and at Bridgewater and at 21 was admitted to the bar. He spent nearly 10 years in Plainfield and at Great Barrington as an attorney,..
William Ernest Henley, (born Aug. 23, 1849, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, Eng.--died July 11, 1903, Woking, near London), British poet, critic, and editor who in his journals introduced the early work of many of the great English writers of the 1890s.Son of a Gloucester bookseller and a pupil of the poet T.E. Brown, Henley contracted a tubercular disease that later necessitated the amputation of one foot. His other leg was saved only through the skill and radical new methods of the surgeon Joseph Lister, whom he sought out in Edinburgh. Forced to stay in an infirmary in Edinburgh for 20 months..
Natasha Trethewey, (born April 26, 1966, Gulfport, Mississippi, U.S.), American poet and teacher who served as poet laureate consultant in poetry (2012-14). Her subjects were chiefly history (both her family's and that of the American South), race, and memory.Trethewey was born in the Deep South to an African American mother and a white father on the centennial of Confederate Memorial Day. Interracial marriage was still against the law in Mississippi when she was born. Her mother, a social worker, and her father, a Canadian poet and teacher, divorced when she was six. Her mother married again..
Ernest Dowson, in full Ernest Christopher Dowson, (born Aug. 2, 1867, Lee, Kent, Eng.--died Feb. 23, 1900, Lewisham, London), one of the most gifted of the circle of English poets of the 1890s known as the Decadents.In 1886 Dowson entered Queen's College, Oxford, but left in 1888 to spend six years working at his father's dry dock in the Limehouse district of London. Dowson became an active member of the Rhymers' Club, a group of writers that included William Butler Yeats and Arthur Symons. In 1891 he met the woman who would inspire some of his best poetry, Adelaide Foltinowicz, whose parents kept..
Menander, (born c. 342--died c. 292 bce), Athenian dramatist whom ancient critics considered the supreme poet of Greek New Comedy--i.e., the last flowering of Athenian stage comedy. During his life, his success was limited; although he wrote more than 100 plays, he won only eight victories at Athenian dramatic festivals.Comedy had by his time abandoned public affairs and was concentrating instead on fictitious characters from ordinary life; the role of the chorus was generally confined to the performance of interludes between acts. Actors' masks were retained but were elaborated to provide..
Hafez, also spelled Hafiz, in full Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafiz, (born 1325/26, Shiraz, Iran--died 1389/90, Shiraz), one of the finest lyric poets of Persia.Hafez received a classical religious education, lectured on Qur?anic and other theological subjects ("Hafez" designates one who has learned the Qur?an by heart), and wrote commentaries on religious classics. As a court poet, he enjoyed the patronage of several rulers of Shiraz.About 1368-69 Hafez fell out of favour at the court and did not regain his position until 20 years later, just before his death. In his poetry there are many echoes..
Nicolas Boileau, in full Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, (born November 1, 1636, Paris, France--died March 13, 1711, Paris), poet and leading literary critic in his day, known for his influence in upholding Classical standards in both French and English literature.He was the son of a government official who had started life as a clerk. Boileau made good progress at the College d'Harcourt and was encouraged to take up literary work by his brother Gilles Boileau, who was already established as a man of letters.He began by writing satires (c. 1658), attacking well-known public figures, which he read..
Czeslaw Milosz, (born June 30, 1911, Seteniai, Lithuania, Russian Empire [now in Lithuania]--died August 14, 2004, Krakow, Poland), Polish American author, translator, critic, and diplomat who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.The son of a civil engineer, Milosz completed his university studies in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), which belonged to Poland between the two World Wars. His first book of verse, Poemat o czasie zastyglym (1933; "Poem of Frozen Time"), expressed catastrophic fears of an impending war and worldwide disaster. During the Nazi occupation he moved..
William Collins, (born Dec. 25, 1721, Chichester, Sussex, Eng.--died June 12, 1759, Chichester), pre-Romantic English poet whose lyrical odes adhered to Neoclassical forms but were Romantic in theme and feeling. Though his literary career was brief and his output slender, he is considered one of the finest English lyric poets of the 18th century.He was educated at Winchester College, where he formed one of the most stable and fruitful relationships of his unstable life: his friendship with the poet and critic Joseph Warton. When only 17, under the influence of Pope's Pastorals, he composed..
Francois de Malherbe, (born 1555, in or near Caen, Fr.--died Oct. 16, 1628, Paris), French poet who described himself as un excellent arrangeur de syllabes and theoretician whose insistence upon strict form, restraint, and purity of diction prepared the way for French Classicism.Malherbe received a Protestant education at Caen and Paris and later at the universities of Basel (1571) and Heidelberg (1573) but was shortly converted to a lukewarm Catholicism.In 1577 he went to Provence as secretary to the governor, Henri d'Angouleme. His first published poem was Les Larmes de Saint Pierre (1587;..
Novalis, pseudonym of Friedrich Leopold, Freiherr von (baron of) Hardenberg, (born May 2, 1772, Oberwiederstedt, Prussian Saxony [Germany]--died March 25, 1801, Weissenfels, Saxony [Germany]), early German Romantic poet and theorist who greatly influenced later Romantic thought.Novalis was born into a family of Protestant Lower Saxon nobility and took his pseudonym from "de Novali," a name his family had formerly used. He studied law at the University of Jena (1790), where he became acquainted with Friedrich von Schiller, and then at Leipzig, where he formed a friendship with Friedrich..
Ted Hughes, byname of Edward J. Hughes, (born August 17, 1930, Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, England--died October 28, 1998, London), English poet whose most characteristic verse is without sentimentality, emphasizing the cunning and savagery of animal life in harsh, sometimes disjunctive lines.At Pembroke College, Cambridge, he found folklore and anthropology of particular interest, a concern that was reflected in a number of his poems. In 1956 he married the American poet Sylvia Plath. The couple moved to the United States in 1957, the year that his first volume of verse, The Hawk in the Rain,..
Juan Goytisolo, (born January 5, 1931, Barcelona, Spain--died June 4, 2017, Marrakech, Morocco), Spanish novelist, short-story writer, and essayist whose early Neorealist work evolved into avant-garde fiction using structuralist and formalist techniques.A young child when his mother was killed during the Spanish Civil War, Goytisolo grew up hating the fascist dictatorship and the country's conservative religious values. From 1948 to 1952 he attended the universities of Barcelona and Madrid. From the late 1950s he lived in self-imposed exile in Paris and later in Marrakech, Morocco.His..
Edwin Arlington Robinson, (born Dec. 22, 1869, Head Tide, Maine, U.S.--died April 6, 1935, New York, N.Y.), American poet who is best known for his short dramatic poems concerning the people in a small New England village, Tilbury Town, very much like the Gardiner, Maine, in which he grew up.After his family suffered financial reverses, Robinson cut short his attendance at Harvard University (1891-93) and returned to Gardiner to stay with his family, whose fortunes were disintegrating. The lives of both his brothers ended in failure and early death, and Robinson's poetry is much concerned..
Seamus Heaney, in full Seamus Justin Heaney, (born April 13, 1939, near Castledawson, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland--died August 30, 2013, Dublin, Ireland), Irish poet whose work is notable for its evocation of Irish rural life and events in Irish history as well as for its allusions to Irish myth. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.After graduating from Queen's University, Belfast (B.A., 1961), Heaney taught secondary school for a year and then lectured in colleges and universities in Belfast and Dublin. He became a member of the Field Day Theatre Company in 1980, soon..
John Clare, (born July 13, 1793, Helpston, near Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England--died May 20, 1864, Northampton, Northamptonshire), English peasant poet of the Romantic school.Clare was the son of a labourer and began work on local farms at the age of seven. Though he had limited access to books, his poetic gift, which revealed itself early, was nourished by his parents' store of folk ballads. Clare was an energetic autodidact, and his first verses were much influenced by the Scottish poet James Thomson. Early disappointment in love--for Mary Joyce, the daughter of a prosperous..
Wallace Stevens, (born Oct. 2, 1879, Reading, Pa., U.S.--died Aug. 2, 1955, Hartford, Conn.), American poet whose work explores the interaction of reality and what man can make of reality in his mind. It was not until late in life that Stevens was read at all widely or recognized as a major poet by more than a few.Stevens attended Harvard for three years, worked briefly for the New York Herald Tribune, and then won a degree (1904) at the New York Law School and practiced law in New York City. His first published poems, aside from college verse, appeared in 1914 in Poetry, and thereafter he was a frequent..
Thomas Middleton, (born April? 1580, London, Eng.--died July 4, 1627, Newington Butts, Surrey), late-Elizabethan dramatist who drew people as he saw them, with comic gusto or searching irony.By 1600 Middleton had spent two years at Oxford and had published three books of verse. He learned to write plays by collaborating with Thomas Dekker, John Webster, and others for the producer Philip Henslowe.A popular playwright, he was often commissioned to write and produce lord mayor's pageants and other civic entertainments, and in 1620 he was appointed city chronologer. His chief stage success..
Adelbert von Chamisso, original name Louis-Charles-Adelaide Chamisso de Boncourt, (born Jan. 30, 1781, Chateau de Boncourt, Champagne, France--died Aug. 21, 1838, Berlin, Prussia [Germany]), German-language lyricist best remembered for the Faust-like fairy tale Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814; Peter Schlemihl's Remarkable Story).When he was nine, Chamisso's family escaped the terrors of the French Revolution by taking refuge in Berlin. After abandoning his native French language for German, Chamisso published his first works in the Berliner Musenalmanach, which..
Edith Sitwell, in full Dame Edith Sitwell, (born September 7, 1887, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England--died December 9, 1964, London), English poet who first gained fame for her stylistic artifices but who emerged during World War II as a poet of emotional depth and profoundly human concerns. She was equally famed for her formidable personality, Elizabethan dress, and eccentric opinions.A member of a distinguished literary family, she was the daughter of Sir George Sitwell and the sister of Sir Osbert and Sir Sacheverell Sitwell. Her first book, The Mother and Other Poems, appeared in 1915...
Mark Van Doren, (born June 13, 1894, Hope, Illinois, U.S.--died December 10, 1972, Torrington, Connecticut), American poet, writer, and eminent teacher. He upheld the writing of verse in traditional forms throughout a lengthy period of experiment in poetry. As a teacher at Columbia University for 39 years (1920-59), he exercised a profound influence on generations of students.Van Doren was the son of a country doctor. He was reared on the family farm in eastern Illinois and in the town of Urbana. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Carl, he attended Columbia University and became..
Juan Ramon Jimenez, (born Dec. 24, 1881, Moguer, Spain--died May 29, 1958, San Juan, P.R.), Spanish poet awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956.After studying briefly at the University of Salamanca, Jimenez went to Madrid (1900) at the invitation of the poet Ruben Dario. His first two volumes of poetry, Almas de violeta ("Souls of Violet") and Ninfeas ("Waterlilies"), came out that same year. The two books, printed in violet and green, respectively, so embarrassed Jimenez in his later years by their excessive sentiment that he destroyed every copy he could find. A man of frail constitution,..
Amiri Baraka, also called Imamu Amiri Baraka, original name Everett Leroy Jones, called Leroy Jones, Leroy later changed to LeRoi, (born October 7, 1934, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.--died January 9, 2014, Newark), American poet and playwright who published provocative works that assiduously presented the experiences and suppressed anger of black Americans in a white-dominated society.After graduating from Howard University (B.A., 1953), Jones served in the U.S. Air Force but was dishonourably discharged after three years because he was suspected (wrongly at that time) of having communist..
Allen Ginsberg, (born June 3, 1926, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.--died April 5, 1997, New York, New York), American poet whose epic poem Howl (1956) is considered to be one of the most significant products of the Beat movement.Ginsberg grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, where his father, Louis Ginsberg, himself a poet, taught English. Allen Ginsberg's mother, whom he mourned in his long poem Kaddish (1961), was confined for years in a mental hospital. Ginsberg was influenced in his work by the poet William Carlos Williams, particularly toward the use of natural speech rhythms and direct observations..
John Jay Chapman, (born March 2, 1862, New York, New York, U.S.--died November 4, 1933, Poughkeepsie, New York), American poet, dramatist, and critic who attacked the get-rich-quick morality of the post-Civil War "Gilded Age" in political action and in his writings. Ancestors on both sides of his family had distinguished themselves in antislavery and other causes, and he sought to continue that tradition among the upper middle classes, whose integrity he felt had been eroded by the upsurge of big business.Chapman's father was a Wall Street executive who was for a time president of the New York..
Leigh Hunt, in full James Henry Leigh Hunt, (born October 19, 1784, Southgate, Middlesex, England--died August 28, 1859, Putney, London), English essayist, critic, journalist, and poet, who was an editor of influential journals in an age when the periodical was at the height of its power. He was also a friend and supporter of the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. Hunt's poems, of which "Abou Ben Adhem" and his rondeau "Jenny Kissed Me" (both first published in 1838) are probably the best known, reflect his knowledge of French and Italian versification. His defense of Keats's work in the..
Robert Herrick, (baptized August 24, 1591, London, England--died October 1674, Dean Prior, Devonshire), English cleric and poet, the most original of the "sons of Ben [Jonson]," who revived the spirit of the ancient classic lyric. He is best remembered for the line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," and he is counted among the Cavalier poets.As a boy, Herrick was apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, a prosperous and influential goldsmith. In 1613 he went to the University of Cambridge, graduating in 1617. He took his M.A. in 1620 and was ordained in 1623. He then lived for a time in London,..
Joy Harjo, (born May 9, 1951, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.), American poet, writer, academic, musician, and Native American activist whose poems featured Indian symbolism, imagery, history, and ideas set within a universal context. Her poetry also dealt with social and personal issues, notably feminism, and with music, particularly jazz.An enrolled member of the Creek tribe, Harjo was the daughter of a Creek father and a Cherokee-French mother. She was a graduate of the Universities of New Mexico (B.A., 1976) and Iowa (M.F.A., 1978). She later taught at several American colleges and universities,..
George Crabbe, (born December 24, 1754, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England--died February 3, 1832, Trowbridge, Wiltshire), English writer of poems and verse tales memorable for their realistic details of everyday life.Crabbe grew up in the then-impoverished seacoast village of Aldeburgh, where his father was collector of salt duties, and he was apprenticed to a surgeon at 14. Hating his mean surroundings and unsuccessful occupation, he abandoned both in 1780 and went to London. In 1781 he wrote a desperate letter of appeal to Edmund Burke, who read Crabbe's writings and persuaded James Dodsley..
Billy Collins, in full William James Collins, (born March 22, 1941, New York, New York, U.S.), American poet whose uncommonly accessible verse--characterized by plain language, gentle humour, and an alert appreciation for the mundane--made him one of the most popular poets in the United States.Collins grew up mainly in Queens, New York. He wrote his first poem at age 12 and later joined his high-school literary magazine. In 1963 Collins received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, and he went on to earn a doctorate in Romantic poetry from the University of California,..
Eugenio Montale, (born October 12, 1896, Genoa, Italy--died September 12, 1981, Milan), Italian poet, prose writer, editor, and translator who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.As a young man, Montale trained as an opera singer. He was drafted to serve in World War I, and, when the war was over, he resumed his music studies. Increasingly he became involved in literary activity. He was cofounder in 1922 of Primo tempo ("First Time"), a literary journal; worked for the publisher Bemporad (1927-28); served as director of the Gabinetto Vieusseux Library in Florence (1929-38); was a freelance..
Diane Ackerman, nee Diane Fink, (born October 7, 1948, Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.), American writer whose works often reflect her interest in natural science.Ackerman was educated at Pennsylvania State University (B.A., 1970) and Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. (M.F.A., 1973; M.A., 1976; Ph.D., 1978). From 1980 to 1983 she taught English at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and from 1984 to 1986 she directed the writers' program and was writer in residence at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. She later was a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine (1988-94).Ackerman's..
George Herbert, (born April 3, 1593, Montgomery Castle, Wales--died March 1, 1633, Bemerton, Wiltshire, Eng.), English religious poet, a major metaphysical poet, notable for the purity and effectiveness of his choice of words.A younger brother of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, a notable secular metaphysical poet, George in 1610 sent his mother for New Year's two sonnets on the theme that the love of God is a fitter subject for verse than the love of woman, a foreshadowing of his poetic and vocational bent.Educated at home, at Westminster School, and at Trinity College, Cambridge,..
Du Fu, Wade-Giles romanization Tu Fu, also called Du Gongbu or Du Shaoling, courtesy name (zi) Zimei, (born 712, Gongxian, Henan province, China--died 770, on a riverboat between Danzhou [now Changsha] and Yueyang, Hunan province), Chinese poet, considered by many literary critics to be the greatest of all time.Born into a scholarly family, Du Fu received a traditional Confucian education but failed in the imperial examinations of 735. As a result, he spent much of his youth traveling. During his travels he won renown as a poet and met other poets of the period, including the great Li Bai. After..
Edmund Waller, (born March 3, 1606, Coleshill, Hertfordshire, Eng.--died Oct. 21, 1687, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire), English poet whose adoption of smooth, regular versification prepared the way for the heroic couplet's emergence by the end of the century as the dominant form of poetic expression. His importance was fully recognized by his age. "Mr. Waller reformed our numbers," said John Dryden, who, with Alexander Pope, followed him and raised the couplet to its most concentrated form.Waller was educated at Eton College and the University of Cambridge and entered Parliament while..
Derek Walcott, in full Derek Alton Walcott, (born January 23, 1930, Castries, Saint Lucia--died March 17, 2017, Cap Estate), West Indian poet and playwright noted for works that explore the Caribbean cultural experience. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.Walcott was educated at St. Mary's College in Saint Lucia and at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He began writing poetry at an early age, taught at schools in Saint Lucia and Grenada, and contributed articles and reviews to periodicals in Trinidad and Jamaica. Productions of his plays began in Saint Lucia in 1950,..
Ludwig Tieck, (born May 31, 1773, Berlin, Prussia [Germany]--died April 28, 1853, Berlin), versatile and prolific writer and critic of the early Romantic movement in Germany. He was a born storyteller, and his best work has the quality of a Marchen (fairy tale) that appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect.The son of a craftsman, Tieck was educated at the Berlin gymnasium (1782-92) and at the universities of Halle, Gottingen, and Erlangen (1792-94). Through friendship with W.H. Wackenroder, he began to realize his talent; together, they studied William Shakespeare, Elizabethan..
Christina Rossetti, in full Christina Georgina Rossetti, pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, (born Dec. 5, 1830, London, Eng.--died Dec. 29, 1894, London), one of the most important of English women poets both in range and quality. She excelled in works of fantasy, in poems for children, and in religious poetry.Christina was the youngest child of Gabriele Rossetti and was the sister of the painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1847 her grandfather, Gaetano Polidori, printed on his private press a volume of her Verses, in which signs of poetic talent are already visible. In 1850, under the pseudonym..
Giacomo Leopardi, (born June 29, 1798, Recanati, Papal States--died June 14, 1837, Naples), Italian poet, scholar, and philosopher whose outstanding scholarly and philosophical works and superb lyric poetry place him among the great writers of the 19th century.A precocious, congenitally deformed child of noble but apparently insensitive parents, Giacomo quickly exhausted the resources of his tutors. At the age of 16 he independently had mastered Greek, Latin, and several modern languages, had translated many classical works, and had written two tragedies, many Italian poems, and..
Anacreon, (born c. 582 bce, Teos, Ionia [now Sigacik, Turkey]--died c. 485), ancient Greek lyric poet who wrote in the Ionic dialect. Only fragments of his verse have survived. The edition of Anacreon's poetry known to later generations was probably prepared in Alexandria by Aristarchus in the 2nd century bce and divided into 9 or 10 books on the basis of metrical criteria.Anacreon was born in one of the 12 cities that formed the Ionian League, established to forestall Persian invasion. After Teos was conquered by the Persians in 546 bce, he immigrated to the newly founded city of Abdera, on the..
John Greenleaf Whittier, (born December 17, 1807, near Haverhill, Massachusetts, U.S.--died September 7, 1892, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire), American poet and abolitionist who, in the latter part of his life, shared with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the distinction of being a household name in both England and the United States.Born on a farm into a Quaker family, Whittier had only a limited formal education. He became an avid reader of British poetry, however, and was especially influenced by the Scot Robert Burns, whose lyrical treatment of everyday rural life reinforced his own inclination..
Thomas Gray, (born Dec. 26, 1716, London--died July 30, 1771, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.), English poet whose "An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard" is one of the best known of English lyric poems. Although his literary output was slight, he was the dominant poetic figure in the mid-18th century and a precursor of the Romantic movement.Born into a prosperous but unhappy home, Gray was the sole survivor of 12 children of a harsh and violent father and a long-suffering mother, who operated a millinery business to educate him. A delicate and studious boy, he was sent to Eton in 1725 at the..
John Gay, (born June 30, 1685, Barnstaple, Devon, Eng.--died Dec. 4, 1732, London), English poet and dramatist, chiefly remembered as the author of The Beggar's Opera, a work distinguished by good-humoured satire and technical assurance.A member of an ancient but impoverished Devonshire family, Gay was educated at the free grammar school in Barnstaple. He was apprenticed to a silk mercer in London but was released early from his indentures and, after a further short period in Devonshire, returned to London, where he lived most of his life. Among his early literary friends were Aaron Hill and..
Sappho, also spelled (in the Aeolic dialect spoken by the poet) Psappho, (born c. 610, Lesbos [Greece]--died c. 570 bce), Greek lyric poet greatly admired in all ages for the beauty of her writing style. She ranks with Archilochus and Alcaeus, among Greek poets, for her ability to impress readers with a lively sense of her personality. Her language contains elements from Aeolic vernacular speech and Aeolic poetic tradition, with traces of epic vocabulary familiar to readers of Homer. Her phrasing is concise, direct, and picturesque. She has the ability to stand aloof and judge critically her..
Maya Angelou, original name Marguerite Annie Johnson, (born April 4, 1928, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.--died May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, North Carolina), American poet, memoirist, and actress whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.Although born in St. Louis, Angelou spent much of her childhood in the care of her paternal grandmother in rural Stamps, Arkansas. When she was not yet eight years old, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend and told of it, after which he was murdered; the traumatic sequence of events left her almost..
Sylvia Plath, pseudonym Victoria Lucas, (born October 27, 1932, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.--died February 11, 1963, London, England), American poet whose best-known works, such as the poems "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus" and the novel The Bell Jar, starkly express a sense of alienation and self-destruction closely tied to her personal experiences and, by extension, the situation of women in mid-20th-century America.Plath published her first poem at age eight. She entered and won many literary contests, and, while still in high school, she sold her first poem to The Christian Science Monitor..
Tahar Ben Jelloun, (born December 1, 1944, Fes, Morocco), Moroccan-French novelist, poet, and essayist who wrote expressively about Moroccan culture, the immigrant experience, human rights, and sexual identity.While studying philosophy at Muhammad V University in Rabat, Ben Jelloun began to write poems for the politically charged journal Souffles. After publishing his first collection of poetry, Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971; "Men Under the Shroud of Silence"), he moved to France. There he continued to write poems, collected in Cicatrices du soleil (1972; "Scars of the Sun"),..
Ruben Dario, pseudonym of Felix Ruben Garcia Sarmiento, (born January 18, 1867, Metapa, Nicaragua--died February 6, 1916, Leon), influential Nicaraguan poet, journalist, and diplomat. As a leader of the Spanish American literary movement known as Modernismo, which flourished at the end of the 19th century, he revivified and modernized poetry in Spanish on both sides of the Atlantic through his experiments with rhythm, metre, and imagery. Dario developed a highly original poetic style that founded a tradition.Life and workPrecocious and prolific, from the age of 14 he signed the name Ruben..
Ferdowsi, also spelled Firdawsi, Firdusi, or Firdousi, pseudonym of Abu al-Qasem Mansur, (born c. 935, near Tus, Iran--died c. 1020-26, Tus), Persian poet, author of the Shah-nameh ("Book of Kings"), the Persian national epic, to which he gave a final and enduring form, although he based his poem mainly on an earlier prose version.Ferdowsi was born in a village on the outskirts of the ancient city of Tus. In the course of the centuries, many legends have been woven around the poet's name, but very little is known about the real facts of his life. The only reliable source is given by Nezami-ye ?Aruzi,..
Robert Southey, (born Aug. 12, 1774, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Eng.--died March 21, 1843, Keswick, Cumberland), English poet and writer of miscellaneous prose who is chiefly remembered for his association with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, both of whom were leaders of the early Romantic movement.The son of a linen draper, Southey spent much of his childhood at Bath in the care of his aunt, Elizabeth Tyler. Educated at Westminster School and Balliol College, Oxford, Southey expressed his ardent sympathy for the French Revolution in the long poem Joan of Arc (published..
Jorge Luis Borges, (born August 24, 1899, Buenos Aires, Argentina--died June 14, 1986, Geneva, Switzerland), Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer whose works became classics of 20th-century world literature.LifeBorges was reared in the then-shabby Palermo district of Buenos Aires, the setting of some of his works. His family, which had been notable in Argentine history, included British ancestry, and he learned English before Spanish. The first books that he read--from the library of his father, a man of wide-ranging intellect who taught at an English school--included..
Gerard Manley Hopkins, (born July 28, 1844, Stratford, Essex, Eng.--died June 8, 1889, Dublin), English poet and Jesuit priest, one of the most individual of Victorian writers. His work was not published in collected form until 1918, but it influenced many leading 20th-century poets.Hopkins was the eldest of the nine children of Manley Hopkins, an Anglican, who had been British consul general in Hawaii and had himself published verse. Hopkins won the poetry prize at the Highgate grammar school and in 1863 was awarded a grant to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he continued writing poetry..
Stephane Mallarme, (born March 18, 1842, Paris--died Sept. 9, 1898, Valvins, near Fontainebleau, Fr.), French poet, an originator (with Paul Verlaine) and a leader of the Symbolist movement in poetry.Mallarme enjoyed the sheltered security of family life for only five brief years, until the early death of his mother in August 1847. This traumatic experience was echoed 10 years later by the death of his younger sister Maria, in August 1857, and by that of his father in 1863. These tragic events would seem to explain much of the longing Mallarme expressed, from the very beginning of his poetic career,..
Ludovico Ariosto, (born September 8, 1474, Reggio Emilia, duchy of Modena [Italy]--died July 6, 1533, Ferrara), Italian poet remembered for his epic poem Orlando furioso (1516), which is generally regarded as the finest expression of the literary tendencies and spiritual attitudes of the Italian Renaissance.Ariosto's father, Count Niccolo, was commander of the citadel at Reggio Emilia. When Ludovico was 10, the family moved to his father's native Ferrara, and the poet always considered himself a Ferrarese. He showed an inclination toward poetry from an early age, but his father intended..
Bertolt Brecht, original name Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht, (born February 10, 1898, Augsburg, Germany--died August 14, 1956, East Berlin), German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer whose epic theatre departed from the conventions of theatrical illusion and developed the drama as a social and ideological forum for leftist causes.Until 1924 Brecht lived in Bavaria, where he was born, studied medicine (Munich, 1917-21), and served in an army hospital (1918). From this period date his first play, Baal (produced 1923); his first success, Trommeln in der Nacht (Kleist Preis, 1922;..
Paul Valery, in full Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valery, (born Oct. 30, 1871, Sete, Fr.--died July 20, 1945, Paris), French poet, essayist, and critic. His greatest poem is considered La Jeune Parque (1917; "The Young Fate"), which was followed by Album de vers anciens 1890-1900 (1920) and Charmes ou poemes (1922), containing "Le Cimetiere marin" ("The Graveyard by the Sea"). He later wrote a large number of essays and occasional papers on literary topics and took a great interest in scientific discoveries and in political problems.Valery was born at a small Mediterranean port where..
Dylan Thomas, in full Dylan Marlais Thomas, (born October 27, 1914, Swansea, Glamorgan [now in Swansea], Wales--died November 9, 1953, New York, New York, U.S.), Welsh poet and prose writer whose work is known for its comic exuberance, rhapsodic lilt, and pathos. His personal life, punctuated by reckless bouts of drinking, was notorious.Thomas spent his childhood in southwestern Wales. His father taught English at the Swansea grammar school, which in due course the boy attended. Because Dylan's mother was a farmer's daughter, he had a country home he could go to when on holiday. His poem "Fern..
Juvenal, Latin in full Decimus Junius Juvenalis, (born 55-60? ce, Aquinum, Italy--died probably in or after 127), most powerful of all Roman satiric poets. Many of his phrases and epigrams have entered common parlance--for example, "bread and circuses" and "Who will guard the guards themselves?"LifeThe one contemporary who ever mentions Juvenal is Martial, who claims to be his friend, calls him eloquent, and describes him as living the life of a poor dependent cadging from rich men. There are a few biographies of him, apparently composed long after his death; these may contain some nuggets..
Torquato Tasso, (born March 11, 1544, Sorrento, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]--died April 25, 1595, Rome), greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance, celebrated for his heroic epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (1581; "Jerusalem Liberated"), dealing with the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.Early life and works.Tasso was the son of Bernardo Tasso, a poet and courtier, and of Porzia de' Rossi. His childhood was overshadowed by family misfortunes: his father followed the prince of Salerno into exile in 1552; the family estates were confiscated; his mother died in 1556; and there..
Anna Akhmatova, pseudonym of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, (born June 11 [June 23, New Style], 1889, Bolshoy Fontan, near Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire--died March 5, 1966, Domodedovo, near Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.), Russian poet recognized at her death as the greatest woman poet in Russian literature.Akhmatova began writing verse at age 11 and at 21 joined a group of St. Petersburg poets, the Acmeists, whose leader, Nikolay Gumilyov, she married in 1910. They soon traveled to Paris, immersing themselves for months in its cultural life. Their son, Lev, was born in 1912, but their marriage did..
Alphonse de Lamartine, (born October 21, 1790, Macon, France--died February 28, 1869, Paris), French poet, historian, and statesman who achieved renown for his lyrics in Meditations poetiques (1820), which established him as one of the key figures in the Romantic movement in French literature. In 1847 his Histoire des Girondins became widely popular, and he rose to considerable political prominence in early 1848, when he led the Second Republic for a short time.Early life and Meditations poetiquesHis father, an aristocrat, was imprisoned during the culminating phase of the French Revolution..
Samuel Butler, (born Dec. 4, 1835, Langar Rectory, Nottinghamshire, Eng.--died June 18, 1902, London), English novelist, essayist, and critic whose satire Erewhon (1872) foreshadowed the collapse of the Victorian illusion of eternal progress. The Way of All Flesh (1903), his autobiographical novel, is generally considered his masterpiece.Butler was the son of the Reverend Thomas Butler and grandson of Samuel Butler, headmaster of Shrewsbury School and later bishop of Lichfield. After six years at Shrewsbury, the young Samuel went to St. John's College, Cambridge, and was graduated..
Mikhail Lermontov, in full Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov, (born October 15 [October 3, Old Style], 1814, Moscow, Russia--died July 27 [July 15], 1841, Pyatigorsk), the leading Russian Romantic poet and author of the novel Geroy nashego vremeni (1840; A Hero of Our Time), which was to have a profound influence on later Russian writers.LifeLermontov was the son of Yury Petrovich Lermontov, a retired army captain, and Mariya Mikhaylovna, nee Arsenyeva. At the age of three he lost his mother and was brought up by his grandmother, Yelizaveta Alekseyevna Arsenyeva, on her estate in Penzenskaya province...
Francois Villon, pseudonym of Francois de Montcorbier or Francois des Loges, (born 1431, Paris--died after 1463), one of the greatest French lyric poets. He was known for his life of criminal excess, spending much time in prison or in banishment from medieval Paris. His chief works include Le Lais (Le Petit Testament), Le Grand Testament, and various ballades, chansons, and rondeaux.LifeVillon's father died while he was still a child, and he was brought up by the canon Guillaume de Villon, chaplain of Saint-Benoit-le-Betourne. The register of the faculty of arts of the University of Paris..
Jean de La Fontaine, (born July 8?, 1621, Chateau-Thierry, France--died April 13, 1695, Paris), poet whose Fables rank among the greatest masterpieces of French literature.LifeLa Fontaine was born in the Champagne region into a bourgeois family. There, in 1647, he married an heiress, Marie Hericart, but they separated in 1658. From 1652 to 1671 he held office as an inspector of forests and waterways, an office inherited from his father. It was in Paris, however, that he made his most important contacts and spent his most productive years as a writer. An outstanding feature of his existence was..
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, original name Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, (born May 12, 1828, London, England--died April 9, 1882, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent), English painter and poet who helped found the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of painters treating religious, moral, and medieval subjects in a nonacademic manner. Dante Gabriel was the most celebrated member of the Rossetti family.Early life and worksAfter a general education in the junior department of King's College (1836-41), Rossetti hesitated between poetry and painting as a vocation. When about 14 he went to "Sass's,"..
Aristophanes, (born c. 450 bce--died c. 388 bce), the greatest representative of ancient Greek comedy and the one whose works have been preserved in greatest quantity. He is the only extant representative of the Old Comedy--that is, of the phase of comic dramaturgy (c. 5th century bce) in which chorus, mime, and burlesque still played a considerable part and which was characterized by bold fantasy, merciless invective and outrageous satire, unabashedly licentious humour, and a marked freedom of political criticism. But Aristophanes belongs to the end of this phase, and, indeed, his last..
Heinrich Heine, in full Christian Johann Heinrich Heine, original name (until 1825) Harry Heine, (born Dec. 13, 1797, Dusseldorf [now in Germany]--died Feb. 17, 1856, Paris, France), German poet whose international literary reputation and influence were established by the Buch der Lieder (1827; The Book of Songs), frequently set to music, though the more sombre poems of his last years are also highly regarded.LifeHeine was born of Jewish parents. His father was a handsome and kindly but somewhat ineffectual merchant; his mother was fairly well educated for her time and sharply ambitious..
Robert Burns, (born January 25, 1759, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland--died July 21, 1796, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire), national poet of Scotland, who wrote lyrics and songs in Scots and in English. He was also famous for his amours and his rebellion against orthodox religion and morality.LifeBurns's father had come to Ayrshire from Kincardineshire in an endeavour to improve his fortunes, but, though he worked immensely hard first on the farm of Mount Oliphant, which he leased in 1766, and then on that of Lochlea, which he took in 1777, ill luck dogged him, and he died in 1784, worn out and bankrupt...
Edgar Allan Poe, (born January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.--died October 7, 1849, Baltimore, Maryland), American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor who is famous for his cultivation of mystery and the macabre. His tale "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841) initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction. His "The Raven" (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in the national literature.
Poe was the son of the English-born actress Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, Jr.,..
Federico Garcia Lorca, (born June 5, 1898, Fuente Vaqueros, Granada province, Spain--died August 18 or 19, 1936, between Viznar and Alfacar, Granada province), Spanish poet and playwright who, in a career that spanned just 19 years, resurrected and revitalized the most basic strains of Spanish poetry and theatre. He is known primarily for his Andalusian works, including the poetry collections Romancero gitano (1928; Gypsy Ballads) and Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias (1935; "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias," Eng. trans. Lament for a Bullfighter), and the tragedies Bodas de sangre..
Robert Frost, in full Robert Lee Frost, (born March 26, 1874, San Francisco, California, U.S.--died January 29, 1963, Boston, Massachusetts), American poet who was much admired for his depictions of the rural life of New England, his command of American colloquial speech, and his realistic verse portraying ordinary people in everyday situations.LifeFrost's father, William Prescott Frost, Jr., was a journalist with ambitions of establishing a career in California, and in 1873 he and his wife moved to San Francisco. Her husband's untimely death from tuberculosis in 1885 prompted Isabelle..
Ben Jonson, byname of Benjamin Jonson, (born June 11?, 1572, London, England--died August 6, 1637, London), English Stuart dramatist, lyric poet, and literary critic. He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I. Among his major plays are the comedies Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone (1605), Epicoene; or, The Silent Woman (1609), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614).Theatrical careerJonson was born two months after his father died. His stepfather was a bricklayer, but by good fortune..
John Dryden, (born August 9 [August 19, New Style], 1631, Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, England--died May 1 [May 12], 1700, London), English poet, dramatist, and literary critic who so dominated the literary scene of his day that it came to be known as the Age of Dryden.Youth and educationThe son of a country gentleman, Dryden grew up in the country. When he was 11 years old the Civil War broke out. Both his father's and mother's families sided with Parliament against the king, but Dryden's own sympathies in his youth are unknown.About 1644 Dryden was admitted to Westminster School, where he received..
Robert Browning, (born May 7, 1812, London--died Dec. 12, 1889, Venice), major English poet of the Victorian age, noted for his mastery of dramatic monologue and psychological portraiture. His most noted work was The Ring and the Book (1868-69), the story of a Roman murder trial in 12 books.Life.The son of a clerk in the Bank of England in London, Browning received only a slight formal education, although his father gave him a grounding in Greek and Latin. In 1828 he attended classes at the University of London but left after half a session. Apart from a journey to St. Petersburg in 1834 with George..
Ezra Pound, in full Ezra Loomis Pound, (born October 30, 1885, Hailey, Idaho, U.S.--died November 1, 1972, Venice, Italy), American poet and critic, a supremely discerning and energetic entrepreneur of the arts who did more than any other single figure to advance a "modern" movement in English and American literature. Pound promoted, and also occasionally helped to shape, the work of such widely different poets and novelists as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. His pro-Fascist broadcasts in Italy during World War II led to his..
Matthew Arnold, (born December 24, 1822, Laleham, Middlesex, England--died April 15, 1888, Liverpool), English Victorian poet and literary and social critic, noted especially for his classical attacks on the contemporary tastes and manners of the "Barbarians" (the aristocracy), the "Philistines" (the commercial middle class), and the "Populace." He became the apostle of "culture" in such works as Culture and Anarchy (1869).LifeMatthew was the eldest son of the renowned Thomas Arnold, who was appointed headmaster of Rugby School in 1828. Matthew entered Rugby (1837) and then attended..
John Keats, (born October 31, 1795, London, England--died February 23, 1821, Rome, Papal States [Italy]), English Romantic lyric poet who devoted his short life to the perfection of a poetry marked by vivid imagery, great sensuous appeal, and an attempt to express a philosophy through classical legend.YouthThe son of a livery-stable manager, John Keats received relatively little formal education. His father died in 1804, and his mother remarried almost immediately. Throughout his life Keats had close emotional ties to his sister, Fanny, and his two brothers, George and Tom. After the breakup..
Henrik Ibsen, in full Henrik Johan Ibsen, (born March 20, 1828, Skien, Norway--died May 23, 1906, Kristiania [formerly Christiania; now Oslo]), major Norwegian playwright of the late 19th century who introduced to the European stage a new order of moral analysis that was placed against a severely realistic middle-class background and developed with economy of action, penetrating dialogue, and rigorous thought.Early lifeIbsen was born at Skien, a small lumbering town of southern Norway. His father was a respected general merchant in the community until 1836, when he suffered the permanent..
Lord Byron, in full George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, (born January 22, 1788, London, England--died April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece), British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe. Renowned as the "gloomy egoist" of his autobiographical poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18) in the 19th century, he is now more generally esteemed for the satiric realism of Don Juan (1819-24).Life and careerByron was the son of the handsome and profligate Captain John ("Mad Jack") Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon, a Scots heiress...
Petrarch, Italian in full Francesco Petrarca, (born July 20, 1304, Arezzo, Tuscany [Italy]--died July 18/19, 1374, Arqua, near Padua, Carrara), Italian scholar, poet, and humanist whose poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved, contributed to the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry. Petrarch's inquiring mind and love of Classical authors led him to travel, visiting men of learning and searching monastic libraries for Classical manuscripts. He was regarded as the greatest scholar of his age.Education and early poemsPetrarch's father, a lawyer, had been obliged to leave Florence..
Alexander Pope, (born May 21, 1688, London, England--died May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London), poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems An Essay on Criticism (1711), The Rape of the Lock (1712-14), The Dunciad (1728), and An Essay on Man (1733-34). He is one of the most epigrammatic of all English authors.Pope's father, a wholesale linen merchant, retired from business in the year of his son's birth and in 1700 went to live at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The Popes were Roman Catholics, and at Binfield they came to know several neighbouring Catholic families..
Sophocles, (born c. 496 bce, Colonus, near Athens [Greece]--died 406, Athens), with Aeschylus and Euripides, one of classical Athens' three great tragic playwrights. The best known of his 123 dramas is Oedipus the King.Life and careerSophocles was the younger contemporary of Aeschylus and the older contemporary of Euripides. He was born at Colonus, a village outside the walls of Athens, where his father, Sophillus, was a wealthy manufacturer of armour. Sophocles himself received a good education. Because of his beauty of physique, his athletic prowess, and his skill in music, he was chosen..
Arthur Rimbaud, in full Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, (born October 20, 1854, Charleville, France--died November 10, 1891, Marseille), French poet and adventurer who won renown in the Symbolist movement and markedly influenced modern poetry.ChildhoodRimbaud grew up at Charleville in the Ardennes region of northeastern France. He was the second son of an army captain and a local farmer's daughter. The father spent little time with the family and eventually abandoned the children to the sole care of their mother, a strong-willed, bigoted woman who pinned all her ambitions on her younger son,..
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (born October 21, 1772, Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, England--died July 25, 1834, Highgate, near London), English lyrical poet, critic, and philosopher. His Lyrical Ballads, written with William Wordsworth, heralded the English Romantic movement, and his Biographia Literaria (1817) is the most significant work of general literary criticism produced in the English Romantic period.Early life and worksColeridge's father was vicar of Ottery and headmaster of the local grammar school. As a child Coleridge was already a prodigious reader, and he immersed himself..
Edmund Spenser, (born 1552/53, London, England--died January 13, 1599, London), English poet whose long allegorical poem The Faerie Queene is one of the greatest in the English language. It was written in what came to be called the Spenserian stanza.Youth and educationLittle is certainly known about Spenser. He was related to a noble Midlands family of Spencer, whose fortunes had been made through sheep raising. His own immediate family was not wealthy. He was entered as a "poor boy" in the Merchant Taylors' grammar school, where he would have studied mainly Latin, with some Hebrew, Greek,..
Euripides, (born c. 484 bc, Athens [Greece]--died 406, Macedonia), last of classical Athens's three great tragic dramatists, following Aeschylus and Sophocles.Life and careerIt is possible to reconstruct only the sketchiest biography of Euripides. His mother's name was Cleito; his father's name was Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides. One tradition states that his mother was a greengrocer who sold herbs in the marketplace. Aristophanes joked about this in comedy after comedy; but there is better indirect evidence that Euripides came of a well-off family. Euripides first received the honour..
Horace, Latin in full Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (born December 65 bc, Venusia, Italy--died Nov. 27, 8 bc, Rome), outstanding Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus. The most frequent themes of his Odes and verse Epistles are love, friendship, philosophy, and the art of poetry.LifeHorace was probably of the Sabellian hillman stock of Italy's central highlands. His father had once been a slave but gained freedom before Horace's birth and became an auctioneer's assistant. He also owned a small property and could afford to take his son to Rome and ensure personally his getting..
Emily Dickinson, in full Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, (born December 10, 1830, Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S.--died May 15, 1886, Amherst), American lyric poet who lived in seclusion and commanded a singular brilliance of style and integrity of vision. With Walt Whitman, Dickinson is widely considered to be one of the two leading 19th-century American poets.Only 10 of Emily Dickinson's nearly 1,800 poems are known to have been published in her lifetime. Devoted to private pursuits, she sent hundreds of poems to friends and correspondents while apparently keeping the greater number to herself...
Dante, in full Dante Alighieri, (born c. May 21-June 20, 1265, Florence, Italy--died September 13/14, 1321, Ravenna), Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy).Dante's Divine Comedy, a landmark in Italian literature and among the greatest works of all medieval European literature, is a profound Christian vision of humankind's temporal and eternal destiny. On its most personal level, it draws on Dante's own experience of exile from..
John Milton, (born December 9, 1608, London, England--died November 8?, 1674, London?), English poet, pamphleteer, and historian, considered the most significant English author after William Shakespeare.Milton is best known for Paradise Lost, widely regarded as the greatest epic poem in English. Together with Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, it confirms Milton's reputation as one of the greatest English poets. In his prose works Milton advocated the abolition of the Church of England and the execution of Charles I. From the beginning of the English Civil Wars in 1642 to long after..
William Wordsworth, (born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, England—died April 23, 1850, Rydal Mount, Westmorland), English poet whose Lyrical Ballads (1798), written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the English Romantic movement.Early life and educationWordsworth was born in the Lake District of northern England, the second of five children of a modestly prosperous estate manager. He lost his mother when he was 7 and his father when he was 13, upon which the orphan boys were sent off by guardian uncles to a grammar school at Hawkshead, a village in the heart of the Lake District...
William Cowper, (born November 26, 1731, Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, England—died April 25, 1800, East Dereham, Norfolk), one of the most widely read English poets of his day, whose most characteristic work, as in The Task or the melodious short lyric “The Poplar Trees,” brought a new directness to 18th-century nature poetry.Cowper wrote of the joys and sorrows of everyday life and was content to describe the minutiae of the countryside. In his sympathy with rural life, his concern for the poor and downtrodden, and his comparative simplicity of language, he may be seen as one in revolt..
William Congreve, (born January 24, 1670, Bardsey, near Leeds, Yorkshire, England—died January 19, 1729, London), English dramatist who shaped the English comedy of manners through his brilliant comic dialogue, his satirical portrayal of the war of the sexes, and his ironic scrutiny of the affectations of his age. His major plays were The Old Bachelour (1693), The Double-Dealer (1693), Love for Love (1695), and The Way of the World (1700).Early lifeIn 1674 Congreve’s father was granted a commission in the army to join the garrison at Youghal, in Ireland. When he was transferred to Carrickfergus,..
William Butler Yeats, (born June 13, 1865, Sandymount, Dublin, Ireland—died January 28, 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.Yeats’s father, John Butler Yeats, was a barrister who eventually became a portrait painter. His mother, formerly Susan Pollexfen, was the daughter of a prosperous merchant in Sligo, in western Ireland. Through both parents Yeats (pronounced “Yates”) claimed kinship with various Anglo-Irish Protestant..
William Blake, (born Nov. 28, 1757, London, Eng.—died Aug. 12, 1827, London), English engraver, artist, poet, and visionary, author of exquisite lyrics in Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) and profound and difficult “prophecies,” such as Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793), The First Book of Urizen (1794), Milton (1804[–?11]), and Jerusalem (1804[–?20]). The dating of Blake’s texts is explained in the Researcher’s Note: Blake publication dates. These works he etched, printed, coloured, stitched, and sold, with the assistance of his devoted wife, Catherine...
Walt Whitman, in full Walter Whitman, (born May 31, 1819, West Hills, Long Island, New York, U.S.—died March 26, 1892, Camden, New Jersey), American poet, journalist, and essayist whose verse collection Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, is a landmark in the history of American literature.Early lifeWalt Whitman was born into a family that settled in North America in the first half of the 17th century. His ancestry was typical of the region: his mother, Louisa Van Velsor, was Dutch, and his father, Walter Whitman, was of English descent. They were farm people with little formal education...
W. H. Auden, in full Wystan Hugh Auden, (born February 21, 1907, York, Yorkshire, England—died September 29, 1973, Vienna, Austria), English-born poet and man of letters who achieved early fame in the 1930s as a hero of the left during the Great Depression. Most of his verse dramas of this period were written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood. In 1939 Auden settled in the United States, becoming a U.S. citizen.LifeIn 1908 Auden’s family moved to Birmingham, where his father became medical officer and professor in the university. Since the father was a distinguished physician of broad..
Virgil, also spelled Vergil, Latin in full Publius Vergilius Maro, (born October 15, 70 bce, Andes, near Mantua [Italy]—died September 21, 19 bce, Brundisium), Roman poet, best known for his national epic, the Aeneid (from c. 30 bce; unfinished at his death).Virgil was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet, an estimation that subsequent generations have upheld. His fame rests chiefly upon the Aeneid, which tells the story of Rome’s legendary founder and proclaims the Roman mission to civilize the world under divine guidance. His reputation as a poet endures not only for the music and..
Ralph Waldo Emerson, (born May 25, 1803, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.—died April 27, 1882, Concord, Massachusetts), American lecturer, poet, and essayist, the leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism.Early life and worksEmerson was the son of the Reverend William Emerson, a Unitarian clergyman and friend of the arts. The son inherited the profession of divinity, which had attracted all his ancestors in direct line from Puritan days. The family of his mother, Ruth Haskins, was strongly Anglican, and among influences on Emerson were such Anglican writers and thinkers as Ralph..
Rainer Maria Rilke, original name René Maria Rilke, (born Dec. 4, 1875, Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary [now in Czech Republic]—died Dec. 29, 1926, Valmont, Switz.), Austro-German poet who became internationally famous with such works as Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus.Early life.Rilke was the only son of a not-too-happy marriage. His father, Josef, a civil servant, was a man frustrated in his career; his mother, the daughter of an upper-middle-class merchant and imperial councillor, was a difficult woman, who felt that she had married beneath her. She left her husband in 1884 and..
Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur, (born May 7, 1861, Calcutta [now Kolkata], India—died August 7, 1941, Calcutta), Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, playwright, essayist, and painter who introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. He was highly influential in introducing Indian culture to the West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of early 20th-century India. In 1913 he became the first..
Percy Bysshe Shelley, (born Aug. 4, 1792, Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, Eng.—died July 8, 1822, at sea off Livorno, Tuscany [Italy]), English Romantic poet whose passionate search for personal love and social justice was gradually channeled from overt actions into poems that rank with the greatest in the English language.
Shelley was the heir to rich estates acquired by his grandfather, Bysshe (pronounced “Bish”) Shelley. Timothy Shelley, the poet’s father, was a weak, conventional man who was caught between an overbearing father and a rebellious son...
Paul Verlaine, (born March 30, 1844, Metz, France—died January 8, 1896, Paris), French lyric poet first associated with the Parnassians and later known as a leader of the Symbolists. With Stéphane Mallarmé and Charles Baudelaire he formed the so-called Decadents.Life.Verlaine was the only child of an army officer in comfortable circumstances. He was undoubtedly spoiled by his mother. At the Lycée Bonaparte (now Condorcet) in Paris, he showed both ability and indolence and at 14 sent his first extant poem (“La Mort”) to the “master” poet Victor Hugo. Obtaining the baccalauréat in 1862, with..
Ovid, Latin in full Publius Ovidius Naso, (born March 20, 43 bce, Sulmo, Roman Empire [now Sulmona, Italy]—died 17 ce, Tomis, Moesia [now Constanṭa, Romania]), Roman poet noted especially for his Ars amatoria and Metamorphoses. His verse had immense influence both by its imaginative interpretations of Classical myth and as an example of supreme technical accomplishment.LifePublius Ovidius Naso was, like most Roman men of letters, a provincial. He was born at Sulmo, a small town about 90 miles (140 km) east of Rome. The main events of his life are described in an autobiographical poem in the..
Omar Khayyam, Arabic in full Ghiyāth al-Dīn Abū al-Fatḥ ʿUmar ibn Ibrāhīm al-Nīsābūrī al-Khayyāmī, (born May 18, 1048, Neyshābūr [also spelled Nīshāpūr], Khorāsān [now Iran]—died December 4, 1131, Neyshābūr), Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet, renowned in his own country and time for his scientific achievements but chiefly known to English-speaking readers through the translation of a collection of his robāʿīyāt (“quatrains”) in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859), by the English writer Edward FitzGerald.His name Khayyam (“Tentmaker”) may have been derived from his father’s..
Oliver Goldsmith, (born Nov. 10, 1730, Kilkenny West, County Westmeath, Ire.—died April 4, 1774, London), Anglo-Irish essayist, poet, novelist, dramatist, and eccentric, made famous by such works as the series of essays The Citizen of the World, or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher (1762), the poem The Deserted Village (1770), the novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), and the play She Stoops to Conquer (1773).LifeGoldsmith was the son of an Anglo-Irish clergyman, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, curate in charge of Kilkenny West, County Westmeath. At about the time of his birth, the family moved..
Octavio Paz, (born March 31, 1914, Mexico City, Mexico—died April 19, 1998, Mexico City), Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. Paz’s family was ruined financially by the Mexican Civil War, and he grew up in straitened circumstances. Nonetheless, he had access to the excellent library that had been stocked by his grandfather, a politically active liberal intellectual who had himself been a writer. Paz was educated at a Roman Catholic school and at the University of Mexico...
Langston Hughes, in full James Mercer Langston Hughes, (born February 1, 1902?, Joplin, Missouri, U.S.—died May 22, 1967, New York, New York), American writer who was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance and made the African American experience the subject of his writings, which ranged from poetry and plays to novels and newspaper columns.While it was long believed that Hughes was born in 1902, new research released in 2018 indicated that he might have been born the previous year. His parents separated soon after his birth, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. After his grandmother’s..
James Russell Lowell, (born Feb. 22, 1819, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.—died Aug. 12, 1891, Cambridge), American poet, critic, essayist, editor, and diplomat whose major significance probably lies in the interest in literature he helped develop in the United States. He was a highly influential man of letters in his day, but his reputation declined in the 20th century.A member of a distinguished New England family, Lowell graduated from Harvard in 1838 and in 1840 took his degree in law, though his academic career had been lacklustre and he did not care to practice law for a profession. In 1844 he was..
Geoffrey Chaucer, (born c. 1342/43, London?, England—died October 25, 1400, London), the outstanding English poet before Shakespeare and “the first finder of our language.” His The Canterbury Tales ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in English. He also contributed importantly in the second half of the 14th century to the management of public affairs as courtier, diplomat, and civil servant. In that career he was trusted and aided by three successive kings—Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. But it is his avocation—the writing of poetry—for which he is remembered.Perhaps the chief..
Gary Snyder, in full Gary Sherman Snyder, (born May 8, 1930, San Francisco, California, U.S.), American poet early identified with the Beat movement and, from the late 1960s, an important spokesman for the concerns of communal living and ecological activism. Snyder received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975.Snyder was educated at Reed College (B.A., 1951) in Portland, Oregon, where he became friends with Philip Whalen, a classmate and future Beat poet. Snyder studied anthropology at Indiana University (1951–52) before moving to San Francisco, where he lived with Whalen and became friends..