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About this poet

Witter Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1881. He graduated from Harvard University in 1902. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter and, later, as the assistant editor of McClure’s magazine.

Bynner published his first poetry collection, An Ode to Harvard (Small, Maynard, & Co.), in 1907. He was also the author of New Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1960), Take Away the Darkness (Alfred A. Knopf, 1947), The Beloved Stranger (Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), Tiger (M. Kennerley, 1913), and several other poetry collections.

He was also known for his work in translation, including The Way of Life According to Laotzu: An American Version (John Day Co., 1944), and a literary biography, Journey with Genius: Recollections and Reflections Concerning the D. H. Lawrences (J. Day Co, 1951).

In 1916, he and Arthur David Ficke published Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments, under the pseudonyms Emanuel Morgan and Anne Krish. The book included poems and a manifesto on “spectrism,” a parody of Imagism. In 1918, Bynner admitted that the book was a hoax.

In 1922, he settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his partner, Robert Hunt. He died there on June 1, 1968.


Selected Bibliography

New Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1960)
Book of Lyrics (Alfred A. Knopf, 1955)
Take Away the Darkness (Alfred A. Knopf, 1947)
Against the Cold (Alfred A. Knopf, 1940)
Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1936)
Indian Earth (Alfred A. Knopf, 1929)
Caravan (Alfred A. Knopf, 1925)
A Canticle of Pan (Alfred A. Knopf, 1920)
The Beloved Stranger (Alfred A. Knopf, 1919)
Grenstone Poems, A Sequence (Frederick A. Stokes, 1917)
The New World (M. Kennerley, 1915)
The Little King (M. Kennerley, 1914)
Tiger (M. Kennerley, 1913)
An Ode to Harvard (Small, Maynard, & Co., 1907)

Train-Mates

Outside hove Shasta, snowy height on height,
A glory; but a negligible sight,
For you had often seen a mountain-peak
But not my paper. So we came to speak...
  
A smoke, a smile,—a good way to commence
The comfortable exchange of difference!
You a young engineer, five feet eleven,
Forty-five chest, with football in your heaven,
Liking a road-bed newly built and clean,
Your fingers hot to cut away the green
Of brush and flowers that bring beside a track
The kind of beauty steel lines ought to lack,—
And I a poet, wistful of my betters,
Reading George Meredith's high-hearted letters,
Joining betweenwhile in the mingled speech
Of a drummer, circus-man, and parson, each
Absorbing to himself—as I to me
And you to you—a glad identity!
  
After a time, when others went away,
A curious kinship made us choose to stay,
Which I could tell you now; but at the time
You thought of baseball teams and I of rhyme,
Until we found that we were college men
And smoked more easily and smiled again;
And I from Cambridge cried, the poet still:
"I know your fine Greek theatre on the hill
At Berkeley!" With your happy Grecian head
Upraised, "I never saw the place," you said—
"Once I was free of class, I always went
Out to the field."
  
Young engineer, you meant
As fair a tribute to the better part
As ever I did. Beauty of the heart
Is evident in temples. But it breathes
Alive where athletes quicken curly wreaths,
Which are the lovelier because they die.
You are a poet quite as much as I,
Though differences appear in what we do,
And I an athlete quite as much as you.
Because you half-surmise my quarter-mile
And I your quatrain, we could greet and smile.
Who knows but we shall look again and find
The circus-man and drummer, not behind
But leading in our visible estate—
As discus-thrower and as laureate?

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Witter Bynner

Witter Bynner

Witter Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1881. He graduated from Harvard University in 1902. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter and, later, as the assistant editor of McClure’s magazine.

Bynner published his first poetry collection, An Ode to Harvard (Small, Maynard, & Co.), in 1907. He was also the author of New Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1960), Take Away the Darkness (Alfred A. Knopf, 1947), The Beloved Stranger (Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), Tiger (M. Kennerley, 1913), and several other poetry collections.

by this poet

poem
Fiercely I remove from you
All the little vestiges—
Garments that confine you,
Things that touch the flesh,
The wool and the silk
And the linen that entwine you,
Tear them all away from you,
Bare you from the mesh.
And now I have you
poem
There is no denying
That it matters little,
When through a narrow door
We enter a room together,
Which goes after, which before.
 
Perhaps you are not dying:
Perhaps—there is no knowing—
I shall slip by and turn and laugh with you
poem
 
At the touch of you,	
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,	
The arrows of delight shot through my body.	
 
You were spring,	
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me.