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Archibald MacLeish


Archibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois, on May 7, 1892. First educated at Hotchkiss School, MacLeish later studied at Yale and Harvard Law School, where he was first in his class. Although he focused his studies on law, he also began writing poetry during this time. In 1916 he married Ada Hitchcock.

At the onset of World War I, MacLeish volunteered as an ambulance driver, and later became a captain of field artillery. Upon returning home, he worked in Boston as a lawyer but found that the position distracted him from his poetry. He resigned in 1923, on the day that he was promoted to partner in the firm. MacLeish then moved his family to France and began to focus on writing. There he was to befriend fellow writers such as Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, and Ezra Pound. During the next four years he published four books of poetry, including The Happy Marriage and Other Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1924) and The Pot of Earth (Houghton Mifflin, 1925). In 1928, MacLeish returned to America, where he began research for his epic poem Conquistador by travelling the steps and mule-ride of Cortez's army through Mexico. MacLeish won the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts in 1932.

From 1930 to 1938, MacLeish worked as an editor at Fortune magazine. During that period, he wrote two radio dramas to increase patriotism and warn Americans against fascism. MacLeish also displayed increasing passion for this cause in his poems and articles. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded him to accept an appointment as Librarian of Congress, a position he kept for five years. MacLeish thoroughly reorganized the Library's administrative offices and established the Library's series of poetry readings. At the same time, MacLeish served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and assistant director of the Office of War Information, specializing in propaganda. In 1944, he was appointed assistant Secretary of State for cultural affairs. After World War II, MacLeish became the first American member of the governing body of UNESCO, and chaired the first UNESCO conference in Paris.

In 1949, Archibald Macleish retired from his political activism to become Harvard's Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, a position he held until 1962. From 1963 to 1967, he was Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. Macleish continued to write poetry, criticism, and stage- and screenplays, to great acclaim. His Collected Poems, 1917-1952 (Houghton Mifflin,1952), won him a second Pulitzer Prize, as well as the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize. J.B. (Houghton Mifflin, 1958), a verse play based on the book of Job, earned him a third Pulitzer, this time for drama. And in 1965 he received an Academy Award for his work on the screenplay of The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1946 to 1949. Archibald MacLeish died in April 1982 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Selected Bibliography


New and Collected Poems, 1917-1976 (Houghton Mifflin,1976)
The Human Season, Selected Poems 1926-1972 (Houghton Mifflin, 1972)
"The Wild Old Wicked Man" and Other Poems (W. H. Allen, 1968)
The Collected Poems of Archibald MacLeish (Houghton Mifflin, 1962)
Songs for Eve (Houghton Mifflin, 1954)
Collected Poems, 1917-1952 (Houghton Mifflin, 1952)
Actfive and Other Poems (Random House, 1948)
Poems, 1924-1933 (Houghton Mifflin, 1935)
Elpenor (1933)
Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City (The John Day Company, 1933)
Conquistador (Houghton Mifflin, 1932)
New found land, fourteen poems (The Black sun press, 1930)
Einstein (Black Sun Press, 1929)
Streets in the Moon (Houghton Mifflin, 1928)
The Hamlet of A. Macleish (Houghton Mifflin, 1928)
The Pot of Earth (Houghton Mifflin, 1925)
The Happy Marriage and Other Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1924)
Tower of Ivory (Yale University Press, 1917)
Class Poem (Yale University Press, 1915)
Songs for a Summer's Day (Yale University Press, 1915)


Letters of Archibald MacLeish, 1907-1982 (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)
Riders on the Earth: Essays & Recollections (Houghton Mifflin, 1978)
Champion of a Cause: Essays and Addresses on Librarianship (American Library Association, 1971)
A Continuing Journey (Houghton Mifflin, 1968)
The Eleanor Roosevelt Story (Houghton Mifflin, 1965)
The Dialogues of Archibald MacLeish and Mark Van Doren (Dutton, 1964)
Poetry and Experience (Riverside Press, 1961)
Art Education and the Creative Process (Museum of Modern Art, 1954)
Freedom Is the Right to Choose (Beacon Press, 1951)
Poetry and Opinion: the Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound (University of Illinois Press, 1950)
A Time to Act: Selected Addresses (Houghton Mifflin, 1943)
American Opinion and the War: the Rede Lecture (1942)
A Time to Speak: The Selected Prose of Archibald MacLeish (Houghton Mifflin, 1941)
The American Cause (Sloan and Pearce, 1941)
The Irresponsibles: A Declaration (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940)
America Was Promises (Duell, Sloan & Pearce,1939)
Jews in America (Random House, 1936)
Public Speech (Farrar & Rinehart, 1936)


Six Plays (Houghton Mifflin, 1980)
The Great American Fourth of July Parade (International Poetry Forum, 1975)
Scratch (Houghton Mifflin, 1971)
The Wild Old Wicked Man (Houghton Mifflin, 1968)
An Evening's Journey to Conway Massachusetts (Houghton Mifflin, 1967)
Herakles: A Play in Verse (Houghton Mifflin, 1967)
Three Short Plays: The secret of freedom. Air raid. The fall of the city. (Dramatists Play Service, 1961)
J.B. (Houghton Mifflin, 1958)
This Music Crept By Me on the Waters (Harvard University Press, 1953)
The Trojan Horse (Houghton Mifflin, 1952)
The American Story: Ten Broadcasts (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1944)
Colloquy for the States (1943)
Air Raid (Harcourt, Brace and company, 1938)
The Land of the Free (Harcourt, Brace and company, 1938)
The Fall of the City (Farrar & Rinehart, 1937)
Panic ( Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935)
Union Pacific (ballet) (1934)
Nobodaddy: a play (Dunster House, 1926)

Archibald MacLeish

By This Poet


You, Andrew Marvell

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change
And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
high through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .


Like moon-dark, like brown water you escape,
O laughing mouth, O sweet uplifted lips.
Within the peering brain old ghosts take shape;
You flame and wither as the white foam slips
Back from the broken wave: sometimes a start,
A gesture of the hands, a way you own
Of bending that smooth head above your heart,—
Then these are vanished, then the dream is gone.

Oh, you are too much mine and flesh of me
To seal upon the brain, who in the blood
Are so intense a pulse, so swift a flood
Of beauty, such unceasing instancy.
Dear unimagined brow, unvisioned face,
All beauty has become your dwelling place.


Since my Beloved chambered me
   To beat within her breast,
And took my soul to light a shrine
   Her soul had decked and dressed,
And caught my songs about her throat,—
   Dissected, known, confessed,
I dwell within her charity
   A half-unwelcome guest.

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