Allen Tate

Allen Tate Poems

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves

Where we went in the boat was a long bay
a slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone--
Peaked margin of antiquity's delay,
And we went there out of time's monotone:


Last night I fled until I came
To streets where leaking casements dripped
Stale lamplight from the corpse of flame;
A nervous window bled.

Dark accurate plunger down the successive knell
Of arch on arch, where ogives burst a red
Reverberance of hail upon the dead

Towards nightfall when the wind
Tries the eaves and casements
(A winter wind of the mind

There are wolves in the next room waiting
With heads bent low, thrust out, breathing
At nothing in the dark; between them and me

I rise, gentlemen, it is the pleasant hour.
Darkness falls. The night falls.

You hold your eager head
Too high in the air, you walk
As if the sleepy dead
Had never fallen to drowse

Think about it at will: there is that
Which is the commentary; there's that other,
Which may be called the immaculate

Landor, not that I doubt your word,
That you had strove with none
At seventy-five and had deferred
To nature and art alone;

There is a place that some men know,
I cannot see the whole of it
Nor how I came there. Long ago
Flame burst out of a secret pit

I have looked at them long,
My eyes blur; sourceless light
Keeps them forever young
Before our ageing sight.

Alice grown lazy, mammoth but not fat,
Declines upon her lost and twilight age;
Above in the dozing leaves the grinning cat

When little boys grown patient at last, weary,
Surrender their eyes immeasurably to the night,
The event will rage terrific as the sea;

Now all day long the man who is not dead
Hastens the dark with inattentive eyes,
The woman with white hand and erect head

Turn back. Turn, young lady dear
A murderer's house you enter here

The afternoon with heavy hours
Lies vacant on the wanderer's sight
And sunset waits whose cloudy towers

There by some wrinkled stones round a leafless tree
With beards askew, their eyes dull and wild
Twelve ragged men, the council of charity

Say never the strong heart
In the consuming breath
Cries out unto the dark
The skinny death.

I see the horses and the sad streets
Of my childhood in an agate eye
Roving, under the clean sheets,

Allen Tate Biography

John Orley Allen Tate was an American poet, essayist, social commentator, and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1943 to 1944. Life Tate was born near Winchester, Kentucky to John Orley Tate, a businessman, and Eleanor Parke Custis Varnell. In 1916 and 1917 Tate studied the violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He began attending Vanderbilt University in 1918, where he met fellow poet Robert Penn Warren . Warren and Tate were invited to join a group of young Southern poets under the leadership of John Crowe Ransom; the group were known as the Fugitive Poets and later as the Southern Agrarians. Tate contributed to the group's magazine The Fugitive and to the agrarian manifesto I'll Take My Stand published in 1930, and this was followed in 1938 by Who Owns America? Tate also joined Ransom to teach at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. In 1924, Tate moved to New York City where he met poet Harold Hart Crane, with whom he had been exchanging correspondence for some time. During a summer visit with Warren in Kentucky, he began a relationship with writer Caroline Gordon. They married in New York in May 1925. Their daughter Nancy was born in September. In 1928, along with others of the Village crowd, he went to Europe. In London he visited with T.S. Eliot, whose poetry and criticism he greatly admired, and he also visited Paris. After two years abroad, he returned to the United States, and in 1930 was back in Tennesseee. Here he took up residence in an antebellum mansion with an 85-acre estate attached, that had been bought for him by one of his brothers, "who had made a lot of northern money out of coal." He resumed his senior position with the Fugitives. He devoted most of his time to promoting "the principles of Agrarianism." Just before leaving for Europe in 1928, Tate described himself to John Gould Fletcher as "an enforced atheist". Later, he told Fletcher, "I am an atheist, but a religious one — which means that there is no organization for my religion." He regarded secular attempts to develop a system of thought for the modern world as misguided. "Only God," he insisted, "can give the affair a genuine purpose." In his essay "The Fallacy of Humanism" (1929), he criticized the New Humanists for creating a value system without investing it with any identifiable source of authority. "Religion is the only technique for the validation of values," he wrote. Already attracted to Roman Catholicism, he deferred converting. Louis D. Rubin, Jr. observes that Tate may have waited "because he realized that for him at this time it would be only a strategy, an intellectual act". Tate and Gordon were divorced in 1945 and remarried in 1946. Though devoted to one another for life, they could not get along and later divorced again. In 1950, Tate converted to Roman Catholicism. Tate married the poet Isabella Gardner in the early fifties. While teaching at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he met Helen Heinz, a nun enrolled in one of his courses, and began an affair with her. Gardner divorced Tate, and he married Heinz in 1966. They moved to Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1967 Tate became the father of twin sons, John and Michael. Michael died at eleven months from choking on a toy. A third son Benjamin was born in 1969. Writings In 1924, Tate began a four-year sojourn in New York City where he worked freelance for The Nation, contributed to the Hound and Horn, Poetry magazine, and others. He worked as a janitor, and lived la vie boheme in Greenwich Village with Caroline Gordon, and when urban life proved too overwhelming, repaired to "Robber Rocks", a house in Patterson, New York, with friends Slater Brown and his wife Sue, Hart Crane, and Malcolm Cowley. He would, some years later, contribute to the conservative National Review. In 1928, Tate published his first book of poetry, Mr. Pope and Others Poems which contained his most famous poem, "Ode to the Confederate Dead" (not to be confused with "Ode to the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery" written by American Civil War poet and South Carolina native, Henry Timrod). That same year, Tate also published a biography Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier. In 1929, Tate published a second biography Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall. By the 1930s, Tate had returned to Tennessee, where he worked on social commentary influenced by his agrarian philosophy. He contributed an essay, "Remarks on the Southern Religion" to I'll Take My Stand, a book of essays by the so-called Southern Agrarians that served as the movement's manifesto. Later, Tate co-edited Who Owns America?, which was a follow up to I'll Take My Stand and which contained Agrarian responses to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. During this time, Tate also became the de facto associate editor of The American Review, which was published and edited by Seward Collins. Tate believed The American Review could popularize the work of the Southern Agrarians. He objected to Collins's open support of Fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and condemned fascism in an article in The New Republic in 1936. According to the critic Ian Hamilton however, Tate and his co-agrarians had been more than ready at the time to overlook the anti-Semitism and pro-Hitlerism of the American Review in order to promote their 'spiritual' defence of the Deep South's traditions. And when leftist New York critics pointed out that those traditions included slavery and lynching, Tate was untroubled: "I belong to the white race, therefore I intend to support white rule...lynching will disappear when the white race is satisfied that its supremacy will not be questioned in social crises." The scholar David Havird nicely sums up the rest of Tate's publication history in poetry: By 1937, when he published his first Selected Poems, Tate had written all of the shorter poems upon which his literary reputation came to rest. This collection--which brought together work from two recent volumes, Poems: 1928-1931 (1932) and the privately printed The Mediterranean and Other Poems (1936), as well as the early Mr. Pope--included "Mother and Son," "Last Days of Alice," "The Wolves," "The Mediterranean," "Aeneas at Washington," "Sonnets at Christmas," and the final version of "Ode to the Confederate Dead." In 1938 Tate published his only novel, The Fathers, which drew upon knowledge of his mother's ancestral home and family in Fairfax County, Virginia. Tate was a poet-in-residence at Princeton University until 1942. He founded the Creative Writing program at Princeton. In 1942, Tate assisted novelist and friend Andrew Lytle in transforming The Sewanee Review, America's oldest literary quarterly, from a modest journal into one of the most prestigious in the nation. Tate and Lytle had attended Vanderbilt together prior to collaborating at The University of the South. Tate died in Nashville, Tennessee. His papers are collected at the Firestone Library at Princeton University.)

The Best Poem Of Allen Tate

Ode To The Confederate Dead

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.

Autumn is desolation in the plot
Of a thousand acres where these memories grow
From the inexhaustible bodies that are not
Dead, but feed the grass row after rich row.
Think of the autumns that have come and gone!--
Ambitious November with the humors of the year,
With a particular zeal for every slab,
Staining the uncomfortable angels that rot
On the slabs, a wing chipped here, an arm there:
The brute curiosity of an angel's stare
Turns you, like them, to stone,
Transforms the heaving air
Till plunged to a heavier world below
You shift your sea-space blindly
Heaving, turning like the blind crab.

Dazed by the wind, only the wind
The leaves flying, plunge

You know who have waited by the wall
The twilight certainty of an animal,
Those midnight restitutions of the blood
You know--the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze
Of the sky, the sudden call: you know the rage,
The cold pool left by the mounting flood,
Of muted Zeno and Parmenides.
You who have waited for the angry resolution
Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow,
You know the unimportant shrift of death
And praise the vision
And praise the arrogant circumstance
Of those who fall
Rank upon rank, hurried beyond decision--
Here by the sagging gate, stopped by the wall.

Seeing, seeing only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick and fast
You will curse the setting sun.

Cursing only the leaves crying
Like an old man in a storm

You hear the shout, the crazy hemlocks point
With troubled fingers to the silence which
Smothers you, a mummy, in time.

The hound bitch
Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar
Hears the wind only.

Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea,
Seals the malignant purity of the flood,
What shall we who count our days and bow
Our heads with a commemorial woe
In the ribboned coats of grim felicity,
What shall we say of the bones, unclean,
Whose verdurous anonymity will grow?
The ragged arms, the ragged heads and eyes
Lost in these acres of the insane green?
The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
With the furious murmur of their chivalry.

We shall say only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

We shall say only the leaves whispering
In the improbable mist of nightfall
That flies on multiple wing:
Night is the beginning and the end
And in between the ends of distraction
Waits mute speculation, the patient curse
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps
For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim.

What shall we say who have knowledge
Carried to the heart?Shall we take the act
To the grave?Shall we, more hopeful, set up the grave
In the house?The ravenous grave?

Leave now
The shut gate and the decomposing wall:
The gentle serpent, green in the mulberry bush,
Riots with his tongue through the hush--
Sentinel of the grave who counts us all!

Allen Tate Comments

Allen Tate Quotes

I suck in smoke! I smile at grimy mirth, And laugh to think that you had parried death.

every son-of-a-bitch is Christ, at least Rousseau....

For intellect is a mansion where waste is without drain....

The innocent mansion of a panther's heart!

The twilight is long fingers and black hair.

For Pope's tight back was rather a goat's than man's.

The Spring I seek is in a new face only.

They sough the rumour of mortality.

The moon will run all consciences to cover....

Allen Tate Popularity

Allen Tate Popularity

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