Saturday, November 21, 2009

Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

Robert Frost (1874-1963) was born in San Francisco, California. His father William Frost, a journalist and an ardent Democrat, died when Frost was about eleven years old. His Scottish mother, the former Isabelle Moody, resumed her career as a schoolteacher to support her family. The family lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with Frost's paternal grandfather, William Prescott Frost, who gave his grandson a good schooling. In 1892 Frost graduated from a high school and attended Darthmouth College for a few months. Over the next ten years he held a number of jobs. Frost worked among others in a textile mill and taught Latin at his mother's school in Methuen, Massachusetts. In 1894 the New York Independent published Frost's poem 'My Butterfly' and he had five poems privately printed. Frost worked as a teacher and continued to write and publish his poems in magazines. In 1895 he married a former schoolmate, Elinor White; they had six children. From 1897 to 1899 Frost studied at Harvard, but left without receiving a degree. He moved to Derry, New Hampshire, working there as a cobbler, farmer, and teacher at Pinkerton Academy and at the state normal school in Plymouth. When he sent his poems to The Atlantic Monthly they were returned with this note: "We regret that The Atlantic has no place for your vigorous verse." In 1912 Frost sold his farm and took his wife and four young children to England. There he published his first collection of poems, A BOY'S WILL, at the age of 39. It was followed by NORTH BOSTON (1914), which gained international reputation. The collection contains some of Frost's best-known poems: 'Mending Wall,' 'The Death of the Hired Man,' 'Home Burial,' 'A Servant to Servants,' 'After Apple-Picking,' and 'The Wood-Pile.' The poems, written with blank verse or looser free verse of dialogue, were drawn from his own life, recurrent losses, everyday tasks, and his loneliness. While in England Frost was deeply influenced by such English poets as Rupert Brooke. After returning to the US in 1915 with his family, Frost bought a farm near Franconia, New Hampshire. When the editor of The Atlantic Monthly asked for poems, he gave the very ones that had previously been rejected. Frost taught later at Amherst College (1916-38) and Michigan universities. In 1916 he was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. On the same year appeared his third collection of verse, MOUNTAIN INTERVAL, which contained such poems as 'The Road Not Taken,' 'The Oven Bird,' 'Birches,' and 'The Hill Wife.' Frost's poems show deep appreciation of natural world and sensibility about the human aspirations. His images - woods, stars, houses, brooks, - are usually taken from everyday life. With his down-to-earth approach to his subjects, readers found it is easy to follow the poet into deeper truths, without being burdened with pedantry. Often Frost used the rhythms and vocabulary of ordinary speech or even the looser free verse of dialogue. In 1920 Frost purchased a farm in South Shaftsbury, Vermont, near Middlebury College where he cofounded the Bread Loaf School and Conference of English. His wife died in 1938 and he lost four of his children. Two of his daughters suffered mental breakdowns, and his son Carol, a frustrated poet and farmer, committed suicide. Frost also suffered from depression and the continual self-doubt led him to cling to the desire to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. After the death of his wife, Frost became strongly attracted to Kay Morrison, whom he employed as his secretary and adviser. Frost also composed for her one of his finest love poems, 'A Witness Tree.' Frost travelled in 1957 with his future biographer Lawrance Thompson to England and to Israel and Greece in 1961. He participated in the inauguration of President John Kennedy in 1961 by reciting two of his poems. When the sun and the wind prevented him from reading his new poem, 'The Preface', Frost recited his old poem, 'The Gift Outright', from memory. Frost travelled in 1962 in the Soviet Union as a member of a goodwill group. He had a long talk with Premier Nikita Khrushchev, whom he described as "no fathead"; as smart, big and "not a coward." Frost also reported that Khrushchev had said the United States was "too liberal to fight," it caused a considerable stir in Washington. Among the honors and rewards Frost received were tributes from the U.S. Senate (1950), the American Academy of Poets (1953), New York University (1956), and the Huntington Hartford Foundation (1958), the Congressional Gold Medal (1962), the Edward MacDowell Medal (1962). In 1930 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Amherst College appointed him Saimpson Lecturer for Life (1949), and in 1958 he was made poetry consultant for the Library of Congress. At the time of his death on January 29, 1963, Frost was considered a kind of unofficial poet laureate of the US. "I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world," Frost once said. In his poems Frost depicted the fields and farms of his surroundings, observing the details of rural life, which hide universal meaning. His independent, elusive, half humorous view of the world produced such remarks as "I never take my side in a quarrel", or "I'm never serious except when I'm fooling." Although Frost's works were generally praised, the lack of seriousness concerning social and political problems of the 1930s annoyed some more socially orientated critics. Later biographers have created a complex and contradictory portrait of the poet. In Lawrance Thompson's humorless, three-volume official biography (1966-1976) Frost was presented as a misanthrope, anti-intellectual, cruel, and angry man, but in Jay Parini's work (1999) he was again viewed with sympathy: ''He was a loner who liked company; a poet of isolation who sought a mass audience; a rebel who sought to fit in. Although a family man to the core, he frequently felt alienated from his wife and children and withdrew into reveries. While preferring to stay at home, he traveled more than any poet of his generation to give lectures and readings, even though he remained terrified of public speaking to the end..."

Arthur Rimbaud

When he was not yet 17, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) electrified Paris's literary society with the incendiary poems that later made him the guiding saint of 20th-century rebels, from Pablo Picasso to Jim Morrison. "A Season in Hell," "The Drunken Boat," and the prose poems of Illuminations were epochal works that changed the nature of an art form--and yet their author abandoned poetry at age 21 and spent the rest of his short life as a colonial adventurer in Arabia and Africa. "He was writing in a void," explains British scholar Graham Robb. "In 1876, most of Rimbaud's admirers either were still in the nursery or had yet to be conceived." Hardly surprising, since the poet was a difficult and frequently unpleasant person to actually know. The Parisian poets who took him under their wing soon discovered that Rimbaud was ungrateful, crude, and as scornful of their precious verse as he was of the Catholic Church, bourgeois proprieties, and everything else his disapproving mother held dear. Rimbaud's stormy affair with Paul Verlaine estranged the older poet from his wife and, eventually, from most of his artistic friends as well. In Robb's depiction, the poet possessed from his earliest youth a restless, searching intellect that permitted no compromise with convention nor tenderness for others' weaknesses. The author doesn't soften Rimbaud's "savage cynicism" or gloss over his frequently obnoxious behavior, yet Robb arouses our admiration for "one of the great Romantic imaginations, festering in damp, provincial rooms like an intelligent disease." Like Robb's excellent biographies of Hugo and Balzac, this sharp, subtle, unsentimental portrait is both erudite and beautifully written. - Wendy Smith

John Crowe Ransom (1888 - 1974)

John Crowe Ransom was born 30 April 1888 in Pulaski, Tenn., the third of five children of Methodist minister John James Ransom and his wife Ella Crowe Ransom. John Crowe attended the Bowen preparatory school in Nashville, completing a rigorous program in classical languages, English, history, mathematics, and German. Entering Vanderbilt University at 15, he continued his classical studies. He was a Rhodes Scholar at University College, Oxford, from 1910 to 1912, reading widely in classics and philosophy. In 1914 Ransom accepted an instructorship in English at Vanderbilt, where he immediately began the method of teaching that, through texts written in the late 1930s and early 1940s by his former students Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren (the "New Critics"), was to dominate the teaching of literature in American colleges and universities for nearly 30 years: close analysis of individual texts with emphasis on the uses of language. Except for army service during World War I, followed by a term at the University of Grenoble, Ransom remained in the English department at Vanderbilt until 1937 (teaching many summer sessions in other colleges and programs). His first volume of poetry, Poems about God, appeared in 1919. In the fall of 1919 Ransom began meeting with the group that would, in 1922, begin to publish the Fugitive, a magazine whose name signified flight from "the high-caste Brahmins of the Old South" (according to Ransom's foreword). Ransom, an already-published poet and a respected teacher, was sought out for advice and judgment by such younger members of the group as Donald Davidson and Allen Tate (and later Warren, Andrew Lytle, Jesse Wills, and others). The Fugitive, which lasted 19 issues, from 1922 to 1925, and expired not for lack of funds but for want of an editor, published the bulk of Ransom's mature poetry, collected in the volumes Grace after Meat (1924) and Chills and Fever (1924). In 1927 Two Gentlemen in Bonds was published, containing some of Ransom's best poems: "Dead Boy," "Blue Girls," "Janet Waking," "Vision by Sweetwater," "Antique Harvesters," and "The Equilibrists." In God without Thunder (1930) Ransom proposed that new rationalistic theologies were destructive of the religious sense, for they destroyed a person's respect for the mysterious universe and elevated "science," which analyzes and uses "nature" rather than fearing and loving it. Ransom's religious ideas were coordinate with his defense of the South in "Reconstructed but Unregenerate," his essay for I'll Take My Stand (1930), and other essays about the South in contemporary society, such as "The South Defends its Heritage" and "The South—Old or New?" For the former Fugitives and others who published I'll Take My Stand, the respect and love for nature associated with farming, especially family subsistence farming, were intimately bound up with the best social values of the culture—filial piety, kindliness, good manners, respect for the past, contemplativeness, and appreciation not only of the natural world but of art. The publicity focused upon I'll Take My Stand and a series of debates related to it made the agrarian position a focal point for discussion of broad cultural values of American society. In an essay for a 1936 collection, Who Owns America?: A New Declaration of Independence (edited by Herbert Agar and Allen Tate), Ransom retreated from the extreme agrarian position, acknowledging that the South must accept industrialization in order to preserve economic autonomy. By 1940 Ransom had called the agrarian ideal a "fantasy" in the Kenyon Review, thus making public and final his defection from the economic position he had defended a decade before. The espousal of humane values—including respect for the mysteries—was not recanted but became the center of Ransom's poetic theory in The World’s Body (1938), The New Criticism (1941), and later essays. Ransom accepted a teaching position at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 1937 and founded the Kenyon Review two years later. During Ransom's editorship of the Kenyon Review (1939-59), he published important works by such southern writers as Andrew Lytle, Randall Jarrell, Caroline Gordon, and Flannery O'Connor. Although Ransom had left the South and had abandoned the agrarian program, he remained a staunch spokesman for the aesthetic and ethical values formulated in the essays and poems of his Vanderbilt period. He died 2 July 1974 in Gambier, Ohio. Suzanne Ferguson Ohio State University Louis D. Rubin, Jr., in The New Criticism and After, ed. Thomas Daniel Young (1976); John L. Stewart, John Crowe Ransom (1962); Thomas Daniel Young, Gentleman in a Dustcoat: A Biography of John Crowe Ransom (1976).

Mary Darby Robinson (1758 - 1800)

Born to Mr. and Mrs. John Darby of Bristol, England, Mary Darby Robinson benefited greatly from her father’s membership with the mercantile firm of Miller and Elton. Not only did she enjoy the perks of high society but she was also provided what was considered to be one of the finest educations of the time. She spent her early educational years learning from a minister of a monastery at St. Augustine. Robinson grew to love the arts, dabbling not only in writing and music, but also acting in her later years. Even in her early years she demonstrated a skill in the use of language and flourished in her English classes. Her talent in music earned her a harpsichord and she studied music under Edmund Broadrip. Robinson then attended a famous school, which was run by Hannah More and her sisters in Bristol.
During her childhood, her father John abruptly mortgaged all of his property and then sailed away with his mistress, Elenor, leaving Robinson and the rest of her family behind. His escapade to America failed, and he was forced to return home seven years later. Immediately, he formally separated from his wife and then placed Robinson and her brother John in a school at Chelsea. When Robinson failed from Mrs. Lorrington's school at Chelsea failed, Robinson's mother intervened and enrolled her in her own boarding school, which she opened up with the help of her children. By this time Robinson was fourteen and teaching English prose, poetry, and grammar in Little Chelsea in her mother’s school.
Robinson finished her schooling at Oxford House, the place she developed her love for theatre where she became involved in theater. On a trip to Greenwich she met her future husband, when she stepped out of the carriage at The Star and Garter Inn at Greenwich. Thomas Robinson Esquire greeted her as she exited the carriage, and soon realized he was a neighbor of hers. Shortly after that, Robinson’s brother, George, caught smallpox and Thomas attended to him daily, which gained the approval of Robinson’s mother. By the time George recovered Robinson had fallen ill as well, and received the same care from Thomas that her brother had. Thomas pressed courtship and attended her everyday until Robinson finally agreed. She and Thomas wed in secret when she was fifteen. After Robinson started showing her pregnancy her mother demanded their marriage be announced, and Thomas confessed to his father, who accepted them.

Soon after, they became friends with Lord Lyttleton, an older man who became quite intrested in Robinson. He began to pursue her, and even informed her of her husband’s infidelity with a woman by the name of Harriet Wilmot. Upon questioning, Robinson found this to be true, and became quite distraught. Despite her pain Lyttleton continued to try to seduce Robinson, but she refused. She was later rumored to have had a fifteen-year love affair with Lord Banastre Tarleton. The death of his mother in 1797 catalyzed him to end his 15-year relationship with Mary. Within a year, he met and married a young heiress, Susan Priscilla Bertie. Mary Robinson revenged herself as best she could by writing a savage characterization of Tarleton in The False Friend. The Natural Daughter was an attempt to remind readers of an old scandal concerning Tarleton's young wife: Susan Bertie was an illegitimate child of the Duke of Ancaster. Shortly after the affair she was nearly raped by George Robert Fitzgerald, a murderer who was later hanged by the Kings Officers. Thomas fell into debt and the couple was forced to move in with Thomas’ father, who was now much less welcoming. Robinson soon tired of constant taunting and insults and fled to the Treveca House on November 18, 1774. Here she bore her daughter, whom she christened Maria Elizabeth. Later Thomas was discovered and the couple relocated to Robinson’s grandmother’s home in Mommouth. Thomas was caught here and forced into custody. After his release the family retired at Hafton Garden, where Robinson lived the rest of her life.
In her final writings Robinson sought to describe and justify her life. She expressed her disillusionment with marriage in a work of social criticism, entitled A Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination which she wrote in 1799. She first published the work under the name of Anne Frances Randall, and it reflected the thinking of her friends Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Mary argued for the choice of a wife to leave her husband. Robinson also began to write her autobiography. However, her health became increasingly poor, and she died on December 26, 1800, leaving it unfinished. Her daughter Maria Elizabeth edited and published her memoirs (Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson, Written by Herself, With Some Posthumous Pieces) in 1801 and a collected edition of her Poetical Works in 1806.

Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

I lived from 1207-1273. I was from Afghanistan, and am in the Asian category.

My influences include Shams al-Din Tabrizi

Jalal al-Din Rumi was born on September 30, 1207 in Balkh (Afghanistan). His father Baha' Walad was descended from the first caliph Abu Bakr and was influenced by the ideas of Ahmad Ghazali, brother of the famous philosopher. Baha' Walad's sermons were published and still exist as Divine Sciences (Ma'arif). He fled the Mongols with his son in 1219, and it was reported that at Nishapur young Rumi met 'Attar, who gave him a copy of his Book of Mysteries (Asrar-nama). After a pilgrimage to Mecca and other travels, the family went to Rum (Anatolia). Baha' Walad was given an important teaching position in the capital at Konya (Iconium) in 1228 by Seljuk king 'Ala' al-Din Kayqubad (r. 1219-1236) and his vizier Mu'in al-Din. Rumi married and had a son, who later wrote his biography. In 1231 Rumi succeeded his late father as a religious teacher. His father's friend Burhan al-Din arrived and for nine years taught Rumi Sufism. Rumi probably met the philosopher ibn al-Arabi at Damascus.

Poet of the Month - Spike Milligan (1918 - 2002)

"Spike" Milligan was born in Ahmednagar, India, on 16 April 1918 to an Irish-born officer in the British Army and his wife. Though he lived most of his life in England and served in the British Army, he was declared stateless in 1960, and took Irish citizenship. He suffered from bipolar disorder for most of his life, having at least ten mental breakdowns. He was a strident campaigner on environmental matters, particularly arguing against unnecessary noise. He served in the Royal Artillery in World War II in North Africa and also Italy, where he was hospitalized for shell shock. During most of the 1930s and early 1940s he performed as a jazz trumpeter but even then he did comedy sketches. After his hospitalisation he played guitar with a jazz/comedy group called The Bill Hall Trio, at first in concert parties for the troops and, after the war, for a short time on stage. While he was with the Central Pool of Artists (a group, in his own words, "of bomb-happy squaddies") he began to write parodies of their mainstream plays, that displayed many of the key elements of what would become The Goon Show with Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine. Spike Milligan in his younger days He was the primary author of The Goon Show scripts (though many were written jointly with Eric Sykes) as well as a star performer, and is considered the father of modern British comedy, having inspired countless writers and performers with his work on The Goon Show and his own Q series, including Monty Python's Flying Circus. Writing a show a week affected his health greatly and caused him to have a series of nervous breakdowns. On one occasion, Peter Sellers had to lock his door against a knife-wielding Milligan; on another, Sellers and Harry Secombe broke into Milligan's dressing room, fearing he was suicidal. Eventually lithium was found to be the most effective treatment. He also had a number of acting parts in theatre, film and television series; one of his last screen appearances was in the BBC dramatisation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, and he was (almost inevitably) noted as an ad-libber. One of Spike's most famous ad-lib incidents occurred during a visit to Australia in the late 1960s. He was interviewed live-to-air and remained in the studio for the news broadcast that followed (read by Rod McNeil) during which Milligan constantly interjected, adding his own name to news items. As a result, he was banned from making any further live appearances on the ABC. The ABC also changed its national policy so that talent had to leave the studio after interviews were complete. A tape of the bulletin survives and has been included in an ABC Radio audio compilation, also on the BBC tribute CD, Vivat Milligan. Milligan also wrote nonsense verse for children, the best of which is comparable with that of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, and (while depressed) serious poetry. He also wrote a very successful series of war memoirs, including Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (1971) and Rommel? Gunner Who? A Confrontation in the Desert (1976). He also wrote comedy songs, including Purple Aeroplane, which was a parody of The Beatles' song, Yellow Submarine. After their retirement, Milligan's parents and his younger brother Desmond moved to Australia. His mother lived the rest of her life in the coastal village of Woy Woy on the New South Wales Central Coast, just north of Sydney; as a result, Spike became a regular visitor to Australia and made a number of radio and TV programmes there. From the 1960s onwards Milligan was a regular correspondent with Robert Graves. Milligan's letters to Graves usually addressed a question to do with classical studies. The letters form part of Graves' bequest to St. John's College, Oxford. In 1972, Milligan caused controversy by liberating a live shark from an art exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. In 1996, he successfully campaigned for the restoration of London's Elfin Oak. The Prince of Wales was a noted fan, and Milligan caused a stir by calling him a "little grovelling bastard" on television in 1994. He later faxed the prince, saying "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question?". A knighthood (honorary because of his Irish citizenship) was finally awarded in 2000. Milligan had three children with his first wife June Marlow: Laura, Seán and Síle. He had one daughter with his second wife Patricia Milligan: the actress Jane Milligan. He had no children with his third (and last) wife Shelagh Sinclair. The four children have recently collaborated with documentary makers on a new multi-platform program called I Told You I Was Ill: The Life and Legacy of Spike Milligan (2005) and web site, (see[[1]]). Even late in life, Milligan's black humour had not deserted him. After the death of friend Harry Secombe from cancer, he said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral". A recording of Secombe singing was played at Milligan's memorial service. In a BBC poll in August 1999, Spike Milligan was voted the "funniest person of the last 1000 years". He died from liver disease, at the age of 83, on February 27, 2002, at his home in Rye, East Sussex. The film of Puckoon, starring his daughter, the actress Jane Milligan, was released after his death. The Holden Road plaque Milligan lived for several years in Holden Road, Woodside Park and at The Crescent, Barnet, and was a strong supporter of the Finchley Society. His old house in Woodside Park is now demolished, but there is a blue plaque in his memory on the new house on the site. The Finchley Society is trying to get a statue of him erected in Finchley. There is also a campaign to erect a statue in Lewisham, where he grew up after coming to the UK from India in the 1930s. In accordance with his last wishes, his headstone bears the words "I told you I was ill." As his local church refused to allow these words on a headstone in its cemetery, a compromise was reached with the Irish language translation, "Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite." In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

On December 22nd, 1869, Edwin Arlington Robinson was born to Edwin Robinson and Mary Elizabeth Palmer in Head Tide, Maine. Growing up he lived in a town on the Kennecbec River called Gardiner, Maine. In a lot of his later poetry he bases a fictional town, Tilbury Town, on Gardiner. His family, which also consisted of two other brothers, lived moderately on his father's income, who worked as an important timber merchant. Robinson started seriously writing poetry at age 11, and was a talented writer for someone his age.

Despite his father's wishes, Robinson attended Harvard for two years, but had to leave because his family's money was running short. In 1892 his father died, resulting in Robinson and his family becoming quite poor. Later in 1896 his mother died of a serious illness. Some of Robinson's poetry grew from these unfortunate incidents.

After leaving Harvard, Robinson moved to New York City, and lived in Greenwich Village, in a house where many other artists and writers had once lived. He was very poor during this time, and didn't have much to support himself at all. He could basically carry all of his worldly possessions in one backpack.

In the 1890's he began to publish some of his poetry, mostly with the help of some of his friends. His first two books were "The Torrent and the Night Before" and "The Children of the Night" (based on the death of his mother). His third published book was "Captain Craig", and his forth was "The Town Down the River", which former President Theodore Roosevelt helped to get published.

Robinson, at the time, was working underground inspecting construction when Roosevelt discovered him. Roosevelt liked Robinson's work, and helped him to get a clerkship in the New York City Customs House. At this job, Robinson made enough income to support himself, and was able to devote most of his time to writing poetry. From this time on, Robinson's money problems were over.

After 1911 Robinson spent his summers in New Hampshire, and spent much time writing and publishing his poetry. By this time his books supported him for the rest of his life.

During his lifetime, Edwin Arlington Robinson won three Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry. The first time was in 1922; "Collected Poems" won his first Pulitzer. In 1925, he won his second for "The Man Who Died Twice". And he won his final Pulitzer in 1928 for "Tristram". During the 1920's he was often called "The Greatest Living American Poet", and later in his life was hailed the foremost figure of "New Poetry". Even though Robinson mostly wrote about traditional things (some being days of his old hometown, and King Authurs Court), nothing new or experimental, he still was considered a legend after his time.

Robinson died on April 6th, 1935 in New York City. By this time all his immediate family had died. He wrote many popular and great poems during his days, some of these are: "Merlin", "Lancelot", "Richard Cory", "Miniver Cheevy", "Mr. Flood's Party", "For a Dead Lady", and "Luke Havergal".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

William Blake Biography

William Blake was born on November 28, 1757 in London, the third of five children. His father James was a hosier, and could only afford to give William enough schooling to learn the basics of reading and writing, though for a short time he was able to attend a drawing school run by Henry Par.
William worked in his father's shop until his talent for drawing became so obvious that he was apprenticed to engraver James Basire at age 14. He finished his apprenticeship at age 21, and set out to make his living as an engraver.
Blake married Catherine Boucher at age 25, and she worked with him on most of his artistic creations. Together they published a book of Blake's poems and drawings called Songs of Innocence.
Blake engraved the words and pictures on copper plates (a method he claimed he received in a dream), and Catherine coloured the plates and bound the books. Songs of Innocence sold slowly during Blake's lifetime, indeed Blake struggled close to poverty for much of his life.
More successful was a series of copperplate engravings Blake did to illustrate the Book of Job for a new edition of the Old Testament.
Blake did not have a head for business, and he turned down publisher's requests to focus on his own subjects. In his choice of subject Blake was often guided by his gentle, mystical views of Christianity. Songs of Experience (1794) was followed by Milton (1804-1808), and Jerusalem (1804-1820).
In 1800 Blake gained a patron in William Hayley, who commissioned him to illustrate his Life of Cowper, and to create busts of famous poets for his house in Felpham, Suurey.
While at Felpham, Blake was involved in a bizarre episode which could have proven disastrous; he was accused by a drunken soldier of cursing the king, and on this testimony he was brought to trial for treason. The cae against Blake proved flimsy, and he was cleared of the charges.
Blake poured his whole being into his work. The lack of public recognition sent him into a severe depression which lasted from 1810-1817, and even his close friends thought him insane.
Unlike painters like Gainsborough, Blake worked on a small scale; most of his engravings are little more than inches in height, yet the detailed rendering is superb and exact. Blake's work received far more public acclaim after his death, and an excerpt from his poem Milton was set to music, becoming a sort of unofficial Christian anthem of English nationalism in the 20th century.
William Blake died on August 12, 1827, and is buried in an unmarked grave at Bunhill Fields, London.

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

For all his fame and celebration, William Shakespeare remains a mysterious figure with regards to personal history. There are just two primary sources for information on the Bard: his works, and various legal and church documents that have survived from Elizabethan times. Naturally, there are many gaps in this body of information, which tells us little about Shakespeare the man.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, allegedly on April 23, 1564. Church records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564. Young William was born of John Shakespeare, a glover and leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a landed heiress. William, according to the church register, was the third of eight children the Shakespeare household—three of whom died in childhood. John Shakespeare had a remarkable run of success as a merchant, and later as an alderman and high bailiff of Stratford, during William's early childhood. His fortunes declined, however, in the 1570s.
There is great conjecture about Shakespeare's childhood years, especially regarding his education. It is surmised by scholars that Shakespeare attended the free grammar school in Stratford, which at the time had a reputation to rival Eton. While there are no records extant to prove this claim, Shakespeare's knowledge of Latin and Classical Greek would tend to support this theory. In addition, Shakespeare's first biographer, Nicholas Rowe, wrote that John Shakespeare had placed William "for some time in a free school." John Shakespeare, as a Stratford official, would have been granted a waiver of tuition for his son. As the records do not exist, we do not know how long William attended the school, but certainly the literary quality of his works suggest a solid education. What is certain is that William Shakespeare never proceeded to university schooling, which has stirred some of the debate concerning the authorship of his works.
The next documented event in Shakespeare's life is his marriage to Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. William was 18 at the time, and Anne was 26—and pregnant. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. The couple later had twins, Hamnet and Judith, born February 2, 1585 and christened at Holy Trinity. Hamnet died in childhood at the age of 11, on August 11, 1596.
For seven years, William Shakespeare effectively disappears from all records, turning up in London circa 1592. This has sparked as much controversy about Shakepeare's life as any period. Rowe notes that young Shakespeare was quite fond of poaching, and may have had to flee Stratford after an incident with Sir Thomas Lucy, whose lands he allegedly hunted. There is also rumor of Shakespeare working as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire for a time, though this is circumstantial at best. It is estimated that Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright. Evidently, Shakespeare garnered envy early on for his talent, as related by the critical attack of Robert Greene, a London playwright, in 1592: " upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country."
Greene's bombast notwithstanding, Shakespeare must have shown considerable promise. By 1594, he was not only acting and writing for the Lord Chamberlain's Men (called the King's Men after the ascension of James I in 1603), but was a managing partner in the operation as well. With Will Kempe, a master comedian, and Richard Burbage, a leading tragic actor of the day, the Lord Chamberlain's Men became a favorite London troupe, patronized by royalty and made popular by the theatre-going public. When the plague forced theatre closings in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare and his company made plans for the Globe Theatre in the Bankside district, which was across the river from London proper.
Shakespeare's success is apparent when studied against other playwrights of this age. His company was the most successful in London in his day. He had plays published and sold in octavo editions, or "penny-copies" to the more literate of his audiences. It is noted that never before had a playwright enjoyed sufficient acclaim to see his works published and sold as popular literature in the midst of his career. While Shakespeare could not be accounted wealthy, by London standards, his success allowed him to purchase New House and retire in comfort to Stratford in 1611.
William Shakespeare wrote his will in 1611, bequeathing his properties to his daughter Susanna (married in 1607 to Dr. John Hall). To his surviving daughter Judith, he left £300, and to his wife Anne left "my second best bed." William Shakespeare allegedly died on his birthday, April 23, 1616. This is probably more of a romantic myth than reality, but Shakespeare was interred at Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 25. In 1623, two working companions of Shakespeare from the Lord Chamberlain's Men, John Heminges and Henry Condell, printed the First Folio edition of the Collected Works, of which half the plays contained therein were previously unpublished. The First Folio also contained Shakespeare's sonnets.
William Shakespeare's legacy is a body of work that will never again be equaled in Western civilization. His words have endured for 400 years, and still reach across the centuries as powerfully as ever. Even in death, he leaves a final piece of verse as his epitaph: ..

William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born at Cockermouth, Cumberland County, England, April 7, 1770, and he died on April 28, 1850. He was buried by the side of his daughter in the beautiful churchyard of Grasmere.
His father was law agent to Sir James Lowther, afterward Earl of Lonsdale, but he died when William was in his seventh year.
The poet attended school first at Hawkshead School, then at Cambridge University. William was also entered at St. Johns in 1787. Having finished his academical course, Wordsworth, in 1790, in company with Mr. Robert James, a fellow-student, made a tour on the continent. With this friend Wordsworth made a tour in North Wales the following year, after taking his degree in college. He was again in France toward the close of the year 1791, and remained in that country about a twelvemonth. He had hailed the French Revolution with feelings of enthusiastic admiration.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive But to be young was very heaven.
A young friend, Raisley Calvert, dying in 1795, left him a sum. A further sum came to him as a part of the estate of his father, who died intestate; and with this small competence Wordsworth devoted himself to study and seclusion.
In 1793, in his twenty-third year, he appeared before the world as an author, in "Descriptive Sketches" and "The Evening Walk." The sketches were made from his tour in Switzerland with his friend, and the Walk was among the mountains of Westmoreland.
In 1795 Wordsworth and his sister were living at Racedown Lodge, in Somersetshire, where, in 1797, they were visited by Coleridge. The meeting was mutually pleasant, and a life-long friendship was the result. The intimate relations thus established induced Wordsworth and his sister to change their home for a residence near Coleridge, at Alfoxen, near Neither Stowey. In this new home the poet composed many of his lighter poems, also the "Borderers," a tragedy, which was rejected by the Covent Garden Theatre. In 1797 appeared his "Lyrical Ballads," which also contained Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."
In 1798, in company with his sister and Coleridge, he went to Germany, where he spent some time at Hamburg, Ratzeburg and Goslar. Returning to England, he took up his residence at Grasmere, in Westmoreland. In 1800 he reprinted his "Lyrical Ballads" with some additions, making two volumes. Two years later he married Mary Hutchinson, to whom he addressed, the beautiful lines, "She was a Phantom of Delight." In 1802, Wordsworth, with his sister and his friend Coleridge, visited Scotland. This visit formed one of the most important periods of his literary life, as it led to the composition of some of his finest lighter poems. In 1805 he completed the "Prelude, or Growth of my own Mind," a poem written in blank verse, but not published till after the author's death. In the same year he also wrote his "Waggoner," but did not publish it till in 1819. At this time he purchased a cottage and small estate at the head of Ulleswater, Lord Lonsdale generously assisting him. In 1807 he published two volumes of "Poems."
In the spring of 1813 he removed from Grasmere to Royal Mount, where he remained for the rest of his life, a period of thirty-seven years. Here were passed his brightest days. He enjoyed retirement and almost perfect happiness, as seen in his lines:
Long have I loved what I behold, The night that calms, the day that cheers; The common growth of mother-earth Suffices me--her tears, her mirth, Her humblest mirth and tears.
The dragon's wing, the magic ring, I shall not covet for my dower, If I along that lowly way With sympathetic heart may stray, And with a soul of power.
At the same time he commenced to write poems of a higher order, thus greatly extending the circle of his admirers. In 1814 he published "The Excursion," a philosophical poem in blank verse. By viewing man in connection with external nature, the poet blends his metaphysics with pictures of life and scenery. To build up and strengthen the powers of the mind, in contrast to the operations of sense, was ever his object. Like Bacon, Wordsworth would rather have believed all the fables in the Talmud and Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind--or that mind does not, by its external symbols, speak to the human heart. He lived under the habitual away of nature:
To me the meanest flower that blows can, give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
The removal of the poet to Rydal was marked by an incident of considerable importance in his personal history. Through the influence of the Earl of Lonsdale, he was appointed distributor of stamps in the county of Westmoreland, which added greatly to his income without engrossing all of his time. He was now placed beyond the frowns of Fortune--if Fortune can ever be said to have frowned on one so independent of her smiles. The subsequent works of the poet were numerous--"The White Doe of Rylstone," a romantic narrative poem, yet colored with his peculiar genius; "Sonnets on the River Duddon" "The Waggoner;" "Peter Bell;" "Ecclesiastical Sketches;" "Yarrow Revisited," and others. His fame was extending rapidly. The universities of Durham and Oxford conferred academic honors upon him. Upon the death of his friend Southey, in 1843, he was made Poet Laureate of England, and the crown gave him a pension of per annum. Thus his income was increased and honors were showered upon him, making glad the closing years of his life. But sadness found its way into his household in 1847, caused by the death of his only daughter, Dora, then Mrs. Quillinan. Wordsworth survived the shock but three years, having reached the advanced age of eighty, always enjoying robust health and writing his poems in the open air. He died in 1850, on the anniversary of St. George, the patron saint of England.

Monday, November 2, 2009

W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)

Born in York, England, in 1907, he moved to Birmingham with his family during his childhood and was educated at Christ's Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.
In 1928, Auden published his first book of verse, and his collection Poems, published in 1930, which established him as the leading voice of a new generation. Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James. His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.
He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.
W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.

Prayers To Lord Murugan Poems by A. K. Ramanujan

Lord of new arrivals lovers and rivals: arrive at once with cockfight and banner— dance till on this and the next three hills
women's hands and the garlands on the chests of men will turn like chariotwheels
O where are the cockscombs and where the beaks glinting with new knives at crossroads
when will orange banners burn among blue trumpet flowers and the shade of trees
waiting for lightnings?
============= 2 ===============
Twelve etched arrowheads for eyes and six unforeseen faces, and you were not embarrassed.
Unlike other gods you find work for every face, and made eyes at only one woman. And your arms are like faces with proper names.
============= 3 =============
Lord of green growing things, give us a hand
in our fight with the fruit fly. Tell us,
will the red flower ever come to the branches of the blueprint
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Lord of great changes and small cells: exchange our painted grey pottery
for iron copper the leap of stone horses our yellow grass and lily seed for rams!
flesh and scarlet rice for the carnivals on rivers O dawn of nightmare virgins bring us
your white-haired witches who wear three colours even in sleep.
============= 5 =============
Lord of the spoor of the tigress, outside our town hyenas and civet cats live on the kills of leopards and tigers
too weak to finish what's begun. Rajahs stand in photographs over ninefoot silken tigresses that sycophants have shot. Sleeping under country fans
hearts are worm cans turning over continually for the great shadows of fish in the open waters.
We eat legends and leavings, remember the ivory, the apes, the peacocks we sent in the Bible to Solomon, the medicines for smallpox, the similes
for muslin: wavering snakeskins, a cloud of steam Ever-rehearsing astronauts, we purify and return our urine to the circling body and burn our faeces for fuel to reach the moon through the sky behind the navel.
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Master of red bloodstains, our blood is brown; our collars white.
Other lives and sixty- four rumoured arts tingle,
pins and needles at amputees' fingertips in phantom muscle
============= 7 =============
Lord of the twelve right hands why are we your mirror men with the two left hands
capable only of casting reflections? Lord of faces,
find us the face we lost early this morning.
============= 8 =============
Lord of headlines, help us read the small print.
Lord of the sixth sense, give us back our five senses.
Lord of solutions, teach us to dissolve and not to drown.
============= 9 =============
Deliver us O presence from proxies and absences
from sanskrit and the mythologies of night and the several roundtable mornings
of London and return the future to what it was.
============= 10 =============
Lord, return us. Brings us back to a litter
of six new pigs in a slum and a sudden quarter of harvest
Lord of the last-born give us birth.
============= 11 =============

Selected bibliography of Ramanujan's works

The Striders. London: Oxford U. Press, 1966.
Interior Landscapes: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology. Bloomington: Indiana U. Press. 1967.
Hokkulalli Huvilla, No Lotus in the Navel. Dharwar, 1969.
Relations. London, New York: Oxford U. Press, 1971.
Speaking of Siva. Harmondsworth, Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1973.
(with Edwin Gerow, eds.) The Literatures of India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Selected Poems. Delhi, New York: Oxford U. Press, 1976.
Samskara. Delhi: Oxford U. Press, 1976.
Mattu Itara Padyagalu And Other Poems. Dharwar, 1977.
Hymns for the Drowning. Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1981.
The Epic of Palnadu: A Study of Translation of Palnati Vinula Katha, a Telugu Oral Tradition from Andhra Pradesh, India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Poems of Love and War. New York: Colombia U. Press, 1985.
Second Sight. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1986.
(with S. Blackburn, eds.) Another Harmony New Essays on the Folklore of India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. 294-344.
(with Vinay Dharwadker, eds.) The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry. 1990
Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.
The Collected Poems of A. K. Ramanujan. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995.
A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India.
Essays :
(with W. Bright.) "Sociolinguistic Variation and Language Change." In Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings. J.B. Pride and J. Holmes, eds. London: Penguin, 1964.
"The Indian Oedipus." In Oedipus: A Folklore Casebook. Alan Dundes and Lowell Edmunds, eds. New York: Garland Press, 1983. 234-261.
"On Folk Puranas." Conference on Puranas, University of Wisconsin, Madison, August, mss. 1985.
"Two Realms of Kannada Folklore." In Another Harmony New Essays on the Folklore of India. Blackburn and Ramanujan, eds. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1986. 41-75.
"Introduction." In Indian Folktales, Beck et al., 1987. xxv-xxxi.
"The Relevance of South Asian Folklore." In Indian Folklore II, Peter Claus, J. Handoo, and D.P. Pattanayak, eds. Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages, 1987. 79-156.
"Classics Lost and Found." In Contemporary India: Essays on the Uses of Tradition. Carla M. Borden, ed. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989.
"Where Mirrors are Windows: Toward an anthology of reflections." In History of Religions 28.3 (1989): 187-216.
1990 "Is There an Inidan Way of Thinking?" In India Through Hindu Categories. McKim Marriott, ed. New Delhi/London: Sage publications, 1990.
"Three hundred Ramayanas." In Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition. Paula Richman, ed. Berkeley: U Cal Press, 1991.
"Toward a Counter-System: Women's Tales." In A. Appadurai, F. Korom, and M. Mills, eds. Philadelphia: U Penn Press, 1991.
"A story in search of an audience." In Parabola 17.3 (1992): 79-82.
"On Folk Mythologies and Folk Puranas." In Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Wendy Doniger, ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
1994 "Some Thoughts on 'Non-Western' Classics, with Indian Examples." World Literature Today, 1994. 68.

A. K. Ramanujan

Attipat Krishnaswami Ramanujan or A. K. Ramanujan, as he is known, was born in Mysore, India in 1929. He was a transitional figure in the history of Indian English Literature, and also a trans-disciplinary scholar, working as a poet, translator, linguist, and folklorist. Although he wrote primarily in English, he was fluent in both Kannada and Tamil, the language of his family. Ramanujan received his BA and MA in English language and literature from the University of Mysore. He then spent some time teaching at several universities in South India before getting a graduate diploma in theoretical linguistics from Deccan University in Poona in 1958. He went to the U.S. in 1959. In 1962, he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, where he was affiliated throughout the rest of his career. The following year, he went to Indiana University where he got a Ph.D. in linguistics in 1963. He taught at several U.S. universities, including Harvard, University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley, and Carlton College. At the University of Chicago, Ramanujan was instrumental in shaping the South Asian Studies program. He worked in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Linguistics, and with the Committee on Social Thought. In 1976, the government of India awarded him the honorific title "Padma Sri," and in 1983, he was given the MacArthur Prize Fellowship. Ramanujan breathed his last in Chicago on July 13, 1993.