Saint-John Perse (May 31, 1887 - September 20, 1975)
Born: 31st May, 1887
Died: 20th September, 1975
Nationality: French
Profession/Occupation: Diplomat
Region: Guadeloupe, France
Notable works: "Eloges, and Other Poems"

Saint-John Perse Facts


Saint-John Perse, pseudonym of Marie-Rene-Auguste-Alexis Saint-Leger Leger, (born May 31, 1887, Saint-Leger-les-Feuilles, Guadeloupe--died Sept. 20, 1975, Presqu'ile-de-Giens, France), French poet and diplomat who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 "for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry."

He studied at the universities of Bordeaux and Paris and in 1914 entered the diplomatic service. He went to China and was successively consul at Shanghai and secretary at Peking. In 1921 he attended the Washington disarmament conference as an expert on East Asian affairs. He was later secretary (1921-32) to the French statesman Aristide Briand. In 1933 he was appointed secretary-general at the Foreign Ministry, with the rank of ambassador. Dismissed from office in 1940 and deprived of French citizenship by the Vichy government, he went to the United States, where he worked as consultant on French literature in the Library of Congress. He returned to France in 1957.

Saint-John Perse's early poetry, published before his diplomatic career began in earnest, includes Eloges (1911; Eloges, and Other Poems), which shows the influence of Symbolism; he later developed a more personal style. The language of his poetry, admired especially by poets for its precision and purity, is difficult, and he made little appeal to the general public. His poetry has been compared to that of Arthur Rimbaud. His hypnotic vision is conveyed by a liturgical metre and exotic words. The best-known early work is the long poem Anabase (1924; Anabasis, translated by T.S. Eliot). In the poems written in exile--Exile (1942; Exile, and Other Poems), Vents (1946; Winds), Amers (1957; Seamarks), Chronique (1960), and Oiseaux (1962; Birds)--he achieved a deeply personal note. For some, Saint-John Perse is the embodiment of the French national spirit: intellectual yet passionate, deeply conscious of the tragedy of life, a man of affairs with an artist's feeling for perfection and symmetry. Among his better-known poems translated into English are "I have halted my horse by the tree of the doves," "And you, Seas," and "Under the bronze leaves a colt was foaled."

Top 5 Saint-John Perse quotes

In truth, every creation of the mind is first of all 'poetic' in the proper sense of the word; and inasmuch as there exists an equivalence between the modes of sensibility and intellect, it is the same function that is exercised initially in the enterprises of the poet and the scientist.
First of all
Astronomers have been bewildered by the theory of an expanding universe, but there is no less expansion in the moral infinite of the universe of man. As far as the frontiers of science are pushed back, over the extended arc of these frontiers one will hear the poet's hounds on the chase.
As far as
The poet existed among the cave men; he will exist among men of the atomic age, for he is an inherent part of man. Even religions have been born from the need for poetry, which is a spiritual need, and it is through the grace of poetry that the divine spark lives forever in the human flint.
Poetry allies itself with beauty - a supreme union - but never uses it as its ultimate goal or sole nourishment.
Ultimate goal
It is enough for a poet to be the guilty conscience of his age.

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