Francis Scarfe

(1911-1986 / South Shields, England)

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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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,
or you would say beheaded necks of swans
or the electric horns of factories
where foreign dreams are nightly fabricated.

Yearning for her coal once heaved in the seam

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