Archibald MacLeish

(7 May 1892 – 20 April 1982 / Glencoe, Illinois)

Archibald MacLeish
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Archibald MacLeish was an American poet, writer, and the Librarian of Congress. He is associated with the Modernist school of poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.

Early Years

MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. His father, Scottish-born Andrew MacLeish, worked as a dry goods merchant. His mother, Martha (née Hillard), was a college professor and had served as president of Rockford College. He grew up on an estate bordering Lake Michigan. He attended the Hotchkiss School from 1907 to 1911 before entering Yale University, where he majored in English, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and was selected for the Skull and Bones society. He then enrolled ... more »

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Quotations

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  • ''Poets ... are literal-minded men who will squeeze a word till it hurts.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Art and Law" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Apologia," Harvard Law Review (Cambridge, June 1972).
  • ''The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life—to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. As "Art and Law" in Riders on Earth (1978). "Apologia," Harvard Law Review (Cambridge, June 1972).
  • It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived for better or worse in life, and to a man in life, his life can be no more absurd than it can be the opposite of absurd, whatever that...
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. repr. In "Return from the Excursion," Riders on Earth (1978). "Heaven and Earth and the Cage of Form," Rock...
  • ''The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. "In Praise of Dissent," New York Times (Dec. 16, 1956).
  • ''Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, there is no reason either in football or in poetry why the two should not meet in a man's life if he has the weight and cares about the words.''
    Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), U.S. poet. "Moonlighting on Yale Field," Riders on Earth (1978).
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Comments about Archibald MacLeish

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  • Miguel Pla (12/8/2018 7:49:00 AM)

    Dear Caroline Mintzer
    Stephen Colbert was quoting from Macleish's J.B: a Play in Verse:
    I heard upon his dry dung heap
    That man cry out who cannot sleep:
    ‘If God is God He is not good,
    If God is good He is not God;
    Take the even, take the odd,
    I would not sleep here if I could
    Except for the little green leaves in the wood
    And the wind on the water.’

  • Caroline Mintzer (12/2/2018 5:45:00 PM)

    Stephen Colbert quoted Macleish recently - recall it was about Job and one of the last lines was having to do with the beauty of the wind on the water. Can you find that poem for me?

  • James A. Legel (6/18/2016 10:49:00 AM)

    A lot of what A.M. said was not just Poems but Intellectual Quotations... HE WAS A.O.K. !

  • Ahme Ahmed (11/7/2008 10:36:00 AM)

    please i want Archibald MacLeish ars poetica analysis please

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Best Poem of Archibald MacLeish

The End Of The World

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly to top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black ...

Read the full of The End Of The World

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