Robert Graves (1895-1985)

Poet Laureate in 1962. Born to Alfred Perceval Graves, an Irish poet, on July 26, 1895, at Wimbledon. Educated at Charterhouse, which he found hypocritical and anti-intellectual. A week before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he left school to join the Royal Welch Fusiliers and went to France. In 1916 Graves was sorely injured in the Battle of the Somme. He was mistakenly reported killed in action, but he survived to read his own obituary in the Times on his 21st birthday. In 1929 he wrote an autobiography, Goodbye to All That, where he expresses a farewell to the social and cultural stabilities. At the end of the war, Graves married Nancy Nicholson, an artist and feminist, but it ended in failure. Soon after the marriage, Nancy included him in her universal condemnation of men. After the war Graves studied at Oxford, where he met a psychiatrist, W. H. R. Rivers, who led Graves to a psychiatrically based theory of poetry. By the late Twenties Graves had reached a poetical dead end. In order to be rescued from the poetic irresolution, he collaborated with the American poet Laura Riding, and they left England for Majorca. One of their prose tracts of great verve and imagination is A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), to which William Empson showed his indebtedness in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). Graves, scarred by World War I for life, sought fulfillment in love. He says that ‘the main theme of poetry is the relations of man and woman’ in The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948). The English Ballad: A Short Critical Survey (1927) and English and Scottish Ballads (1957) evince that Graves was a noteworthy ballad critic in the twentieth century. (H. N.)

1.Alexander and Queen Janet  
2.The Foreboding  
3.'The General Elliott'