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Robert Bridges

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Robert Bridges
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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)

by this poet

poem
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
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
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: