Treasure Island

James Elroy Flecker


Biography of James Elroy Flecker

James Elroy Flecker (5 November 1884 - 3 January 1915) was an English poet, novelist and playwright. As a poet he was most influenced by the Parnassian poets.

He was born in London, and baptised Herman Elroy Flecker, later choosing to use the first name "James", either because he disliked the name "Herman" or to avoid confusion with his father. "Roy", as he was known to his family, was educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, where his father was headmaster, and Uppingham School. He studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and Caius College, Cambridge. While at Oxford he was greatly influenced by the last flowering of the Aesthetic movement there, under John Addington Symonds. From 1910 he was in the consular service, in the Eastern Mediterranean. He met Helle Skiadaressi on a ship to Athens,[1] and married her in 1911. His most widely known poem is "To a poet a thousand years hence". The most enduring testimony to his work is perhaps an excerpt from "The Golden Journey to Samarkand" inscribed on the clock tower of the barracks of the British Army's 22 Special Air Service regiment in Hereford: "We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go Always a little further; it may be Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow Across that angry or that glimmering sea".

He died of tuberculosis in Davos, Switzerland. His death at the age of thirty was described at the time as "unquestionably the greatest premature loss that English literature has suffered since the death of Keats".[2]

His poem "The Bridge of Fire" is featured in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, in the volume The Wake. A quatrain from his poem "To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence" is quoted by Jorge Luis Borges in his essay Note on Walt Whitman (to be found in the collection Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952):

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,

student of our sweet English tongue,

read out my words at night, alone:

I was a poet, I was young.

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The Old Ships

I have seen old ships like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese

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