Arthur Davison Ficke
Biography of Arthur Davison Ficke
Arthur Davison Ficke was born in Davenport, Iowa. His father, Charles August Ficke, was a prominent lawyer and his mother a longtime member of the Davenport Public Library school board. They were active in the Unitarian Church which Ficke attended as a young boy. During his childhood there were frequent travels to Europe and the Orient with his family. Ficke attended Davenport High School, and first published his poetry in the high school newspaper which he served as literary editor. In 1900 he entered Harvard where he studied with William James and George Santayana and wrote for a Harvard literary magazine. It was at Harvard that Ficke met Witter Bynner, who would become a lifelong friend, and figure prominently in a literary hoax involving the Imagist poets the two men would engineer.
After graduation from Harvard, Ficke traveled with his family and then undertook two years of legal study at the University of Iowa (1906-1907) where he also taught in the English department. After his graduation he joined his father's law firm and in 1907 married Evelyn B. Blunt and published his first book, From the Isles (1907).
Ficke's travel's were curtailed by the war as he entered Army service in 1917 and served as a captain in France. In 1918 he met the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and they would remain close friends for the rest of his life. Millay was clearly in love with Ficke, but it was poetry and friendship that would sustain them over the years.
Ficke received an Army assignment as a Judge Advocate in Paris where he continued his efforts to collect Japanese prints, an interest which is reflected in his poetry. A second trip to Japan was made in 1920.
After the war, Ficke decided to give up the practice of law. He divorced his wife in 1922, but remarried in December, 1923 to Gladys Brown, a painter and took up residence in New York City. In 1925 Ficke was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was treated at Saranac Lake, New York. He then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he lived until 1928 when he and his wife acquired a home in Hillsdale, New York.
In the 1930s Ficke would undergo further treatment for tuberculosis, but he continued to travel and to write, and work with Millay on her poetry. In 1940 Ficke began a series of lectures on Japanese art in New York, but the lecture series was canceled in 1941 because of the impending war. Ficke learned in 1943 that he had throat cancer; he died in Hudson, New York on November 30, 1945.
Ficke corresponded with various literary figures, including the attorney-poet, Edgar Lee Masters, who he began writing in 1915. The correspondence continued until Ficke's death in 1945.
Arthur Davison Ficke Poems
The Three Sisters
Gone are the three, those sisters rare With wonder-lips and eyes ashine. One was wise and one was fair, And one was mine.
I Am In Love With High Far-Seeing Places
I am in love with high far-seeing places That look on plains half-sunlight and half-storm, -- In love with hours when from the circling faces Veils pass, and laughing fellowship glows warm.
I Am Weary Of Being Bitter
I am weary of being bitter and weary of being wise, And the armor and the mask of these fall from me, after long.
OH my little house of glass! How carefully I have planted shrubbery
Skeptical cat, Calm your eyes, and come to me. For long ago, in some palmed forest, I too felt claws curling
From Sonnets Of A Portrait Painter
I am in love with high far-seeing places That look on plains half-sunlight and half-storm, In love with hours when from the circling faces
Fate With Devoted...
Fate, with devoted and incessant care, Has showered grotesqueness round us day by day. If we turn grave, a hurdy-gurdy's air
In halls of sleep you wandered by, This time so indistinguishably I cannot remember aught of it, Save that I know last night we met.
There are strange shadows fostered of the moon, More numerous than the clear-cut shade of day….
Serenade In Firelight
Sit here where I could touch your hand If that should be my sudden will: Among the shadows where we wait I shall not stir.
Portrait Of An Old Woman
She limps with halting painful pace, Stops, wavers and creeps on again; Peers up with dim and questioning face,
I would not in the early morning Start my mind on its inevitable journey Toward the East. There are white domes somewhere
Gray-robed Wanderer in sleep . . . Wanderer . . . You also move among Those silent halls
Like Him Whose Spirit
Like him whose spirit in the blaze of noon Still keeps the memory of one secret star That in the dusk of a remembered June
In halls of sleep you wandered by,
This time so indistinguishably
I cannot remember aught of it,
Save that I know last night we met.
I know it by the cloudy thrill
That in my heart is quivering still;
And sense of loveliness forgot
Teases my fancy out of thought.
Though with the night the vision wanes,