Biography of Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe was an English poet, critic and novelist, who became an academic, translator and Director of the British Institute in Paris.
He was born in South Shields; he was brought up from a young age at the Royal Merchant Seaman's Orphanage. He was educated at Durham University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He then studied at the Sorbonne.
While in Paris he wrote surrealist verse, and dabbled in communism, from which he then retreated. He taught at the University of Glasgow briefly before the outbreak of World War II, in which he worked in the British Army's Education Corps. He was posted to Orkney, and the Faroe Islands. While in the Orkneys he lodged with the family of the young George Mackay Brown, on whom he was a major influence.
His book from 1942 was one of the first to engage critically with the Auden Group, if superficially; he returned to Auden in a post-war book of greater depth. After the war he held a number of academic positions.
Francis Scarfe's Works:
Inscapes (1940) poems
Forty Poems and Ballads (1941)
Auden & After: The Liberation Of Poetry, 1930-41 (1942) criticism
Promises (?) first novel
W. H. Auden (1948) criticism
Underworlds (1950) poems
Single Blessedness (1951) novel
The Unfinished Woman (1954) novel
The Art of Paul Valéry (1954)
Picasso by Frank Elgar and Robert Maillard (1956) translator
Baudelaire (1961, Penguin Books) editor
Conversations on the Dresden Gallery, by Louis Aragon and Jean Cocteau (1982) translator
Complete Verse of Charles P. Baudelaire (1986 Anvil Press Poetry) translator
Baudelaire: the Poems in Prose (1989, Anvil Press Poetry) translator
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Francis Scarfe Poems
An Elegy for Tristan Tzara In the hungry kitchen The dog sings for its dinner.
Ode In Honour
Evening is part of the jig-saw truth of her, ply-wood ply-flesh, her insolent reply blinding the ace with a straight shot to centre, the woman's a delicate devil in twenty places
The summer season at Tyne Dock Hoisted my boyhood in a crane Above the shaggy mining town, Above the slaghills and the rocks,
Far away is one who now is sleeping In the same world and the same darkness, But not in my keeping. Oh no, my arms could never stretch so far
Those who love cats which do not even purr Or which are thin and tired and very old, Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
The Merry Window
The alabaster legs of the lonely woman hang from the window like white ensigns out of the laughing window like false teeth sheets, flagstaffs, telescopes, rolls of music,
See that satan pollarding a tree, That geometric man straightening a road: Surely such passions are perverse and odd
The sea still plunges where as naked boys We dared the currents and the racing tides That stamped red weals of fury on our thighs,
In after years, when you look back upon This time, and upon me, who am no more Close to your heart nor a shadow in your sun,
See that satan pollarding a tree,
That geometric man straightening a road:
Surely such passions are perverse and odd
That violate windows and set the north wind free.
No doubt tomorrow the world will be too straight.
Five hundred miles an hour will churn our dreams
Like surprised whales, when we lie a dead weight
In an ignorant sleep, and things will be what they seem.