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About this poet

On November 19, 1899, John Orley Allen Tate was born in Winchester, Clarke County, Kentucky. He attended Vanderbilt University and graduated magna cum laude in 1922. He married the novelist Caroline Gordon in 1924.

Tate was a founding editor of The Fugitive, a magazine of verse published out of Nashville, Tennessee, from 1922 to 1925. The magazine was named for the Fugitives, a group of Southern poets which included Tate and several of his colleagues from Vanderbilt, including John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson, and Merrill Moore. The Fugitives were practitioners and defenders of formal technique in poetry and were preoccupied with the defending the traditional values of the agrarian South against the effects of urban industrialization.

Tate published his first book of poems, Mr. Pope and Other Poems (Minton, Balch & Company), in 1928. His early work reflects the influence by Baudelaire, Corbière, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Ezra Pound. In 1922, Tate read T. S. Eliot and discovered a kindred spirit. He admired Eliot's adherence to literary tradition and found Eliot's social and political concerns were similar to his own. Tate taught at several colleges and universities and was editor of The Sewanee Review from 1944 to 1947. He had a great influence not only as a critic but as a mentor to such younger poets as Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Randall Jarrell. From 1951 until his retirement he was a professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He died on February 9, 1979.

Selected Bibliography


Collected Poems, 1919-1976 (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1977)
The Swimmers and Other Selected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1970)
Poems (Scribner, 1960)
Two Conceits for the Eye to Sing, If Possible (Cummington Press, 1950)
Poems, 1922-1947 (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948)
Poems, 1920-1945 (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1947)
The Winter Sea (Cummington Press, 1944)
Selected Poems (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937)
The Mediterranean and Other Poems (Alcestis Press, 1936)
Poems, 1928-1931 (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932)
Three Poems (1930)
Mr. Pope and Other Poems (Minton, Balch & Company, 1928)


Memoirs and Opinions, 1926-1974 (Swallow Press, 1975)
Essays of Four Decades (Swallow Press, 1968)
Collected Essays (Swallow Press, 1959)
The Man of Letters in the Modern World (Meridian Books, 1955)
The Forlorn Demon (Regnery, 1953)
The Hovering Fly (Cummington Press, 1949)
On the Limits of Poetry: Selected Essays, 1928-1948 (Swallow Press, 1948)
Reason in Madness (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1941)
The Fathers (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938)
Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936)
Robert E. Lee (1932)
Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall (Balch & Company, 1929)
Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier (Balch & Company, 1928)

The Mediterranean

Quen das finem, rex magne, dolorum?

Where we went in the boat was a long bay
a slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone--
Peaked margin of antiquity's delay,
And we went there out of time's monotone:

Where we went in the black hull no light moved
But a gull white-winged along the feckless wave,
The breeze, unseen but fierce as a body loved,
That boat drove onward like a willing slave:

Where we went in the small ship the seaweed
Parted and gave to us the murmuring shore
And we made feast and in our secret need
Devoured the very plates Aeneas bore:

Where derelict you see through the low twilight
The green coast that you, thunder-tossed, would win,
Drop sail, and hastening to drink all night
Eat dish and bowl--to take that sweet land in!

Where we feasted and caroused on the sandless
Pebbles, affecting our day of piracy,
What prophecy of eaten plates could landless
Wanderers fulfil by the ancient sea?

We for that time might taste the famous age
Eternal here yet hidden from our eyes
When lust of power undid its stuffless rage;
They, in a wineskin, bore earth's paradise.

Let us lie down once more by the breathing side
Of Ocean, where our live forefathers sleep
As if the Known Sea still were a month wide--
Atlantis howls but is no longer steep!

What country shall we conquer, what fair land
Unman our conquest and locate our blood?
We've cracked the hemispheres with careless hand!
Now, from the Gates of Hercules we flood

Westward, westward till the barbarous brine
Whelms us to the tired land where tasseling corn,
Fat beans, grapes sweeter than muscadine
Rot on the vine: in that land were we born.

From Selected Poems by Allen Tate, published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright © 1937 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Used with permission.

From Selected Poems by Allen Tate, published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright © 1937 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Used with permission.

Allen Tate

Allen Tate

Poet Allen Tate was a founding editor of The Fugitive and had a great influence as a critic and a mentor to younger poets.

by this poet

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast