Biography of David Gascoyne
David Gascoyne was born in 1916 in Harrow, Middlesex, and educated at Salisbury Cathedral School and the Regent Street Polytechnic, London. His first collection of poetry, 'Roman Balcony and Other Poems' was published when he was sixteen, and in 1933 Cobden-Sanderson brought out his novel 'Opening Day'. Both books are remarkable achievements for an adolescent, and they were followed by the equally striking poetry collections 'Man's Life Is This Meat' (1936) and 'Hoelderlin's Madness' (1938), which established his reputation as one of the most original voices of the 1930s.
Gascoyne was among the earliest champions of Surrealism: in 1935 his A Short Survey of Surrealism was published, and in the next year he was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealist Exhibition. From this period, and during his time living in France in 1937-39, date his friendships with Dali, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Pierre Jean Jouve. As well as becoming internationally celebrated as a poet - especially after publication of his 'Poems 1937-1942', with its Graham Sutherland images - Gascoyne became highly regarded as a translator, notably of Hoelderlin and of the leading French Surrealists.
After the war Gascoyne again lived in France (1947-48 and 1953-64), partly in Paris and partly in Provence. He consolidated his reputation with 'A Vagrant and Other Poems' (1950), and with 'Night Thoughts' (1956), commissioned by Douglas Cleverdon for BBC Radio. His 'Collected Poems', published by Oxford University Press in 1965, were reprinted six times. In 1994 Enitharmon published a substantial volume of Selected Poems.
David Gascoyne lived with his wife, Judy, at Northwood on the Isle of Wight. In 1996 he was made a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture for his lifelong services to French Literature.
David Gascoyne's Works:
1932 - Roman Balcony (Benford A1)
1933 - Opening Day (Benford A2)
1935 - A Short Survey of Surrealism (Benford A3)
1936 - Man's Life is this Meat (Benford A4)
1938 - Hoelderlin's Madness (Benford A5)
1943 - Poems 1937-1942 (Benford A6)
1950 - A Vagrant and Other Poems (Benford A7)
1952 - Thomas Carlyle (Benford A8)
1956 - Requiem (Benford A9)
1956 - Night Thoughts (Benford A10)
1965 - Collected Poems (Benford A11)
1970 - Sun at Midnight (Benford A12)
1976 - Three Poems (Benford A13)
1978 - Paris Journal 1937-1939 (Benford A14)
1980 - Journal 1936-1937 (Benford A15)
1980 - Early Poems (Benford A16)
1984 - Journal de Paris et d'Ailleurs 1936-1942 (Benford A17)
1984 - Five Early Uncollected Poems (Benford A18)
1984 - Recontres avec Benjamin Fondane (Benford A19)
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David Gascoyne Poems
Snow in Europe
Out of their slumber Europeans spun Dense dreams: appeasements, miracle, glimpsed flash Of a new golden era; but could not restrain The vertical white weight that fell last night
And the Seventh Dream is the Dream of Is...
1 white curtains of infinite fatigue dominating the starborn heritage of the colonies of St Francis
In the waking night The forests have stopped growing The shells are listening The shadows in the pools turn grey
The face of the precipice is black with lovers; The sun above them is a bag of nails; the spring's First rivers hide among their hair. Goliath plunges his hand into the poisoned well
The Very Image - To Rene Magritte
An image of my grandmother her head appearing upside-down upon a cloud the cloud transfixed on the steeple of a deserted railway-station
The Cubical Domes
Indeed indeed it is growing very sultry The indian feather pots are scrambling out of the room The slow voice of the tobacconist is like a circle Drawn on the floor in chalk and containing ants
Orpheus In The Underworld
Curtains of rock And tears of stone, Wet leaves in a high crevice of the sky: From side to side the draperies
The Writer's Hand
What is your want, perpetual invalid Whose fist is always beating on my breast's Bone wall, incurable dictator of my house And breaker of its peace? What is your will,
London Bridge is falling down, Rome's burnt and Babylon The Great is now but dust; yet still Spring must Swing back through Time's continual arc to earth. Though every land become as a black field
The worlds are breaking in my head Blown by the brainless wind That comes from afar Swollen with dusk and dust
The End Is Near The Beginning
Yes you have said enough for the time being There will be plenty of lace later on Plenty of electric wool And you will forget the eglantine
The Truth is Blind
The light fell from the window and the day was done Another day of thinking and distractions Love wrapped in its wings passed by and coal-black Hate Paused on the edge of the cliff and dropped a stone
Perpetual Winter Never Known
When the light falls on winter evenings And the river makes no sound in its passing Behind the house, is silent but for its cold Flowing, its reeds frozen stiffer than glass
London Bridge is falling down, Rome's burnt and Babylon
The Great is now but dust; yet still Spring must
Swing back through Time's continual arc to earth.
Though every land become as a black field
Dunged with the dead, drenched by the dying's blood,
Still must a punctual goddess waken and ascend
The rocky stairs, up into earth's chilled air,
And pass upon her mission through those carrion ranks,
Picking her way among a maze of broken brick