Robert Graves

Robert Graves

Biography of Robert Graves

Robert Graves was a poet, a novelist, a biographer, a mythographer, a classical scholar and a translator. On July 24, 1895, he was born in Wimbledon, near London. His father, Alfred Perceval Graves, was a Gaelic scholar and minor Irish poet. His mother, Amalie von Ranke Graves, was a relation of Leopold von Ranke, one of the founding fathers of modern historical studies. One of ten children, Robert was greatly influenced by his mother's puritanical beliefs and his father's love of Celtic poetry and myth. As a young man, he was more interested in boxing and mountain climbing than studying, although poetry later sustained him through a turbulent adolescence.

In 1913 Graves won a scholarship to continue his studies at St. John's College, Oxford, but in August 1914 he enlisted as a junior officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He fought in the Battle of Loos and was injured in the Somme offensive in 1916. While convalescing, he published his first collection of poetry, Over the Brazier. By 1917, though still an active serviceman, Graves had published three volumes. In 1918, he spent a year in the trenches, where he was again severely wounded.

In January 1918, at the age of twenty-two, he married eighteen-year-old Nancy Nicholson, with whom he was to have four children. Traumatized by the war, he went to Oxford with his wife and took a position at St. John's College. Graves's early volumes of poetry, like those of his contemporaries, deal with natural beauty and bucolic pleasures, and with the consequences of the First World War. Over the Brazier and Fairies and Fusiliers earned Graves his reputation as an accomplished war poet. After meeting the American poet and theorist Laura Riding in 1926, Graves's poetry underwent a significant transformation. Douglas Day has written that the "influence of Laura Riding is quite possibly the most important single element in [Graves's] poetic career: she persuaded him to curb his digressiveness and his rambling philosophizing and to concentrate instead on terse, ironic poems written on personal themes."

In 1927, Graves and his first wife separated permanently, and in 1929 he published Goodbye to All That, an autobiography that announced his psychological accommodation with the residual horror of his war experiences. Shortly afterward, he departed to Majorca with Laura Riding. In addition to completing many books of verse while in Majorca, Graves also wrote several volumes of criticism, some in collaboration with Riding. The couple cofounded Seizin Press in 1928 and Epilogue, a semiannual magazine, in 1935. During that period, he evolved his theory of poetry as spiritually cathartic to both the poet and the reader. Although Graves claimed that he wrote novels only to earn money, it was through these that he attained status as a major writer in 1934, with the publication of the historical novel I, Claudius, and its sequel, Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina. (During the 1970's, the BBC adapted the novels into an internationally popular television series.)

At the onset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Graves and Riding fled Majorca, eventually settling in America. In 1939, Laura Riding left Graves for the writer Schuyler Jackson; one year later Graves began a relationship with Beryl Hodge that was to last until his death. It was in the 1940s, after his break with Riding, that Graves formulated his personal mythology of the White Goddess. Inspired by late nineteenth-century studies of matriarchal societies and goddess cults, this mythology was to pervade all of his later work.

After World War II, Graves returned to Majorca, where he lived with Hodge and continued to write. By the 1950s, Graves had won an enormous international reputation as a poet, novelist, literary scholar, and translator. In 1962, W. H. Auden went as far as to assert that Graves was England's "greatest living poet." In 1968, he received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. During his lifetime he published more than 140 books, including fifty-five collections of poetry (he reworked his Collected Poems repeatedly during his career), fifteen novels, ten translations, and forty works of nonfiction, autobiography, and literary essays. From 1961 to 1966, Graves returned to England to serve as a professor of poetry at Oxford. In the 1970s his productivity fell off; and the last decade of his life was lost in silence and senility. Robert Graves died in Majorca in 1985, at the age of ninety.

Poems by Robert Graves

  1. 1805
  2. 1915
  3. A Ballad Of Nursery Rhyme
  4. A Boy In Church
  5. A Child's Nightmare
  6. A Dead Boche
  7. A First Review
  8. A Frosty Night
  9. A Lover Since Childhood
  10. A Pinch Of Salt
  11. A Rhyme Of Friends
  12. A Slice Of Wedding Cake
  13. A Song For Two Children
  14. A Valentine
  15. After The Play
  16. Allie
  17. An English Wood
  18. An Old Twenty-Third Man
  19. Apples And Water
  20. Babylon
  21. Baloo Loo For Jenny
  22. Big Words
  23. Brittle Bones
  24. Call It A Good Marriage
  25. Careers
  26. Cherry-Time
  27. Corporal Stare
  28. Counting The Beats
  29. Country At War
  30. Dead Cow Farm
  31. Dew-Drop And Diamond
  32. Dicky
  33. Double Red Daisies
  34. Down, Wanton, Down!
  35. Escape
  36. Faun
  37. Finland
  38. Flying Crooked
  39. Fox's Dingle
  40. Free Verse
  41. Full Moon
  42. Ghost Raddled
  43. Give Us Rain
  44. Goliath And David
  45. Hate Not
  46. Haunted
  47. Hawk And Buckle
  48. Here They Lie
  49. I Wonder What It Feels Like To Be Drowned?
  50. I'D Love To Be A Fairy's Child
  51. In Broken Images
  52. In The Wilderness
  53. It's A Queer Time
  54. Jane
  55. John Skelton
  56. Jonah
  57. Knowledge Of God
  58. Letter To S.S. From Mametz Wood
  59. Like Snow
  60. Lost Love
  61. Love And Black Magic
  62. Love Without Hope
  63. Loving Henry
  64. Manticor In Arabia
  65. Marigolds
  66. Mermaid, Dragon, Fiend
  67. Morning Phœnix
  68. Mr. Philosopher
  69. Nebuchadnezzar's Fall
  70. Neglectful Edward
  71. Nine O'Clock
  72. Not Dead
  73. Not To Sleep
  74. On Giving
  75. Outlaws
  76. Pot And Kettle
  77. Recalling War
  78. Retrospect: The Jests Of The Clock
  79. Rocky Acres
  80. She Tells Her Love
  81. She Tells Her Love
  82. Smoke-Rings
  83. Song: One Hard Look
  84. Sorley’s Weather
  85. Sospan Fach
  86. Star-Talk
  87. Strong Beer
  88. Sullen Moods
  89. Symptoms Of Love
  90. The Assault Heroic
  91. The Beach
  92. The Beacon
  93. The Bough Of Nonsense
  94. The Boy In Church
  95. The Boy Out Of Church
  96. The Caterpillar
  97. The Cool Web
  98. The Cottage
  99. The Cruel Moon
  100. The Cupboard
  101. The Dead Fox Hunter
  102. The Frog And The Golden Ball
  103. The General Elliott
  104. The God Called Poetry
  105. The Kiss
  106. The Lady Visitor In The Pauper Ward
  107. The Last Post
  108. The Leveller
  109. The Lost Love
  110. The Naked And The Nude
  111. The Next War
  112. The Patchwork Bonnet
  113. The Patchwork Quilt
  114. The Persian Version
  115. The Picture Book
  116. The Pier-Glass
  117. The Poet In The Nursery
  118. The Promised Lullaby
  119. The Shivering Beggar
  120. The Snapped Thread
  121. The Spoilsport
  122. The Thieves
  123. The Three Drinkers
  124. The Travellers' Curse After Misdirection
  125. The Troll's Nosegay
  126. The Voice Of Beauty Drowned
  127. The White Goddess
  128. Thunder At Night
  129. To An Ungentle Critic
  130. To Juan At The Winter Solstice
  131. To Lucasta On Going To The War
  132. To Robert Nichols
  133. Tom Taylor
  134. True Johnny
  135. Two Fusiliers
  136. Vain And Careless
  137. Warning To Children
  138. Welsh Incident
  139. When I'M Killed