Monday, November 14, 2016

Robert Fitzgerald

Robert Fitzgerald (1910—1985) is well known for his verse translations of Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad. He also translated works by Sophocles, Euripides, and Virgil. His career began in journalism, working at the New York Herald Tribune and at Time Magazine. Later he held teaching positions at such schools as Princeton and Harvard.

He and his wife Sally edited two of Flannery O'Connor's books. He was also appointed in 1984 to the position now known as the Poet Laureate of the United States.

He expressed his philosophy as:
------"So hard at best is the lot of man, and so great is the beauty he
------can apprehend, that only a religious conception of things can take
------in the extremes and meet the case. Our lifetimes have seen the
------opening of abysses before which the mind quails. But it seems to
------me there are a few things everyone can humbly try to hold onto:
------love and mercy (and humor) in everyday living; the quest for exact
------truth in language and affairs of the intellect; self-recollection
------or prayer; and the peace, the composed energy of art."

The following poem comes from Fitzgerald's fourth poetry collection Spring Shade: Poems, 1931—1970.

Solstitium Saeculare

Winter blows on my eaves,
And dry stalks nod in the snow
Pitted by dripping trees.

The strong sun, brought low,
Gives but an evening glare
Through black twigs' to-and-fro

At noon in the cold air.
A rusty windmill grates.
I sit in a Roman chair,

Musing upon Roman fates,
And make peace with Rome
While the solar Fury waits.

I hold my peace at home
And call to my wondering mind
The chaos I came from—

Waste sea and ancient wind
That sailing long I fought,
Unshriven and thin-skinned.

God knows why I perished not,
But made it here by grace
To harbor beyond my thought,

To the stillness of this place.
Here while I live I hold
Young hope in one embrace

With all the ruin of old,
And bless God's will in each;
And bless His word of gold.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.