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About this poet

Robert Seymour Bridges was born on October 23, 1844, in Walmer, Kent, England. He enrolled in Eton College in 1854 and started writing poetry. In 1863, he enrolled at Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, where he met Gerard Manley Hopkins, who he would remain friends with until Hopkins’s death in 1889. Bridges would also become Hopkins’s literary executor, collecting and editing his friend’s poems for publication after his death.

In 1869, Bridges registered as a student at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. After he initially failed his medical exams in 1873, Bridges spent part of his summer studying medicine in Dublin. That same year, he published his first book of poems, Poems (Pickering, 1873), and he received his MB the following year. Bridges continued working at St. Bartholomew’s and other hospitals until 1881, when he retired after contracting a case of pneumonia. He spent the rest of his life in nearly unbroken domestic seclusion, devoting himself to the writing and studying of poetry.

During his prolific period of domestic seclusion, Bridges published several long poems, dramas, and poetry collections, some of which contained his experiments using a meter based on syllables rather than accents. Many of his most popular verses are collected in The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges (George Bell & Sons, 1890).

In 1913, Bridges was named poet laureate of England, a position he held until his death. He also helped found the Society for Pure English, an organization of literary figures and linguistic scholars who sought to preserve the “purity” of the English language. Bridges remained a bestselling poet throughout the 1920s.

Bridges died in his home in Boars Hill, England, on April 21, 1930.


Selected Bibliography

The Testament of Beauty (Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, 1929)
The Tapestry (F . W. & S. M., 1925)
New Verse (Clarendon Press, 1925)
October and Other Poems, with Occasional Verses on the War (William Heinemann/Alfred A. Knopf, 1920)
Britannia Victrix (Oxford University Press, 1919)
Poetical Works (Smith, Elder & Co., 1898)
The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges (George Bell & Sons, 1890)
Eros & Psyche: A Poem in Twelve Measures (George Bell & Sons, 1885)
Poems (Henry Daniel Press, 1884)
Poems (Edward Bumpus, 1880)
Poems (Edward Bumpus, 1879)
The Growth of Love: A Poem in Twenty-four Sonnets (Edward Bumpus, 1876)
Poems (Pickering, 1873)

Noel: Christmas Eve 1913

Robert Bridges, 1844 - 1930

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis

A frosty Christmas Eve 
   when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone 
   where westward falls the hill,
And from many a village 
   in the water'd valley
Distant music reach'd me 
   peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds 
   ran sprinkling on earth's floor
As the dark vault above 
   with stars was spangled o'er.
Then sped my thoughts to keep 
   that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching 
   by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields 
   and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels 
   or the bright stars singing.

Now blessed be the tow'rs 
   that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer 
   unto God for our souls
Blessed be their founders 
   (said I) an' our country folk
Who are ringing for Christ 
   in the belfries to-night
With arms lifted to clutch 
   the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above 
   and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar 
   it was starry music
Angels' song, comforting 
   as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly 
   to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me 
   by the riches of time
Mellow'd and transfigured 
   as I stood on the hill
Heark'ning in the aspect 
   of th' eternal silence.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Robert Bridges

Robert Bridges

Robert Seymour Bridges was born on October 23, 1844, in Walmer, Kent, England. He enrolled in Eton College in 1854 and started writing poetry. In 1863, he enrolled at Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, where he met Gerard Manley Hopkins, who he would remain friends with until Hopkins’s death in 1889. Bridges would also become Hopkins’s literary executor, collecting and editing his friend’s poems for publication after his death.

by this poet

poem
When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
      Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
      
poem
The south-wind strengthens to a gale, 
Across the moon the clouds fly fast, 
The house is smitten as with a flail, 
The chimney shudders to the blast. 

On such a night, when Air has loosed 
Its guardian grasp on blood and brain, 
Old terrors then of god or ghost 
Creep from their caves to life again; 

And