Robert Lowell (1917–1977) was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Life Studies, For the Union Dead, and The Dolphin are among his many volumes of verse. He was a co-founder of and contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Mary Mc Carthy (1912–1989)

THE IMMORTALS “Dear Mary, with her usual motherly solicitude for the lost overdog….” You’ve always wished to stand by a white horse, a Jeanne d’Arc by Albrecht Dürer, armed and lettered in the tougher university of the world…. Since your travels, the horse is firmly …

Near the Unbalanced Aquarium

One morning in July 1954 I sat in my bedroom on the third floor of the Payne-Whitney clinic of New York Hospital, trying as usual to get my picture of myself straight. I was recovering from a violent manic seizure, an attack of pathological enthusiasm. What I saw were the …

Three Poems by Eugenio Montale

These translations of three poems by Montale were found among Robert Lowell’s papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard. Like all Lowell’s versions of other poets, they are “free”: “Bellosquardo,” for example, is only the first half of Montale’s “Tempi di Bellosquardo.” They were probably written in the mid-Sixties. I …

Epics

During the summer of 1977, Robert Lowell finished a draft of a long essay on New England poets, “New England and Further.” The “further” refers (for the most part) to the conclusion of the essay, “Epics,” published here. He intended to spend the first two months of the fall school …

Executions

My executions begin at 10 P.M. and end with dawn. I sit under the royal oak raising most, condemning few with an inaudible whisper to my guard— these six years, these sixteen years… it doesn’t matter, the count was lost. Besides …

For John Berryman

(After reading his last Dream Song) The last years we only met when you were on the road, and lit up for reading your battering Dream— audible, deaf… in another world then as now. I used to want to live to avoid your …

On Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt was an oasis in the fevered, dialectical dust of New York—to me, and I imagine to everyone who loved her. We met in the late Fifties or early Sixties in Mary McCarthy’s apartment. She seemed hardly to take her coat off, as she brushed on with purpose to …

A Special Supplement: The Meaning of Vietnam

In early May, The New York Review asked some of its contributors to write on the meaning of the Vietnam war and its ending. They were asked to consider the questions of the responsibility for the war; its effect on American life, politics, and culture, and the US position in …

Three Poems

NOT CLEARED OF KILLING (Boston Globe, February 17, ’75) The convicted abortion surgeon and his Harvard lawyer are Big League, happy, unpopular men lost today in the clouds above the friendly Municipal Court— one smear of sunlight multiplied on the long, severe tier of windows, …

For John Berryman

I sit looking out a window at 3:30 this February afternoon. I see a pasture, green out of season and sunlit; in an hour more or less, it will be black. John Berryman walks brightly out of my memory. We met at Princeton through Caroline Gordon, in 1944, the wane …

Power

(The following is a part of a sequence of poems from Robert Lowell’s Notebook 1967-1968, to be published this spring.) 1. Allah Like Henry VIII, Mohammed got religion in the dangerous years, and smashed the celibates, haters of life, though never takers of lives. Changed their monasteries …

Those Older

I They won’t stay gone, rising with royal torpor, as if held in my binoculars’ fog and enlargement, casting the raindrops of the rainbow: childhood; loved by their still older elders in a springtide invisible to us as the Hittites. We’re too near now to …

The Pacification of Columbia

A patch of tan, then blood-warm roof-tile, and tan patch and sky patch, as the jigsaw flung some mosque of Omar to vaultless consummation and blue consumption, exhalation of the sands of the desert to fire. I got the message, one the puzzle never sent… …

Two Walls

Somewhere a white wall faces a white wall, one wakes the other, the other wakes the first, each burning in the other’s borrowed splendor— the walls, once woken, are forced to go on talking, their color looks much alike, two shadings of white, each living …

The March

(For Dwight Macdonald) I Under the too white marmorial Lincoln Memorial, the too tall marmorial Washington obelisk, gazing into the too long reflecting pool, the reddish trees, the withering autumn sky, the remorseless, amplified harangues for peace— lovely, to lock arms, to march absurdly locked …

Prometheus Bound derived from Aeschylus

AUTHOR’S NOTE Aeschylus’s PROMETHEUS BOUND is probably the most lyrical of the Greek classical tragedies. It is also the most undramatic—one man, a sort of demigod at that, chained to a rock, orated to, and orating at, a sequence of embodied apparitions. In translation, the poetry seems lofty and dead, …

On Two Poets

I first met Ford in 1937, a year or so after the publication of Buckshee, and two years before his death. Reading these poems is like stepping back in time to Ford in his right setting, France, to a moment when both he and Europe between the wars were, imperceptibly, …

Near the Ocean

(For E. H. L.) The house is filled. The last heart-throb thrills through her flesh. The hero stands, stunned by the applauding hands, and lifts her head to please the mob… No, young and starry-eyed, the brother, and sister wait before their mother, old …

Nine Poems by Ossip Mandelstam

These poems, among the last by Ossip Mandelstamm, were written during the apocalyptic days of the great Stalinist purges in the Thirties. Our translations, while trying to be as faithful as possible to Mandelstamm’s images and meter, are not literal. Rather, they are adaptations attempting to recapture Mandelstamm’s tone and …