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, 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".
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.
James Elroy Flecker Poems
The Golden Journey To Samarkand
We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die, We Poets of the proud old lineage Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why, -
The Gates Of Damascus
Four great gates has the city of Damascus And four Great Wardens, on their spears reclining, All day long stand like tall stone men
To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence
I who am dead a thousand years, And wrote this sweet archaic song, Send you my words for messengers The way I shall not pass along.
The War Songs Of The Saracens
We are they who come faster than fate: We are they who ride early or late: We storm at your ivory gate: Pale Kings of the Sunset, beware!
Yasmin (A Ghazel)
How splendid in the morning grows the lily: with what grace he throws His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?
A Ship, An Isle, A Sickle Moon
A Ship, an isle, a sickle moon- With few but with how splendid stars The mirrors of the sea are strewn Between their silver bars!
The Dying Patriot
DAY breaks on England down the Kentish hills, Singing in the silence of the meadow-footing rills, Day of my dreams, O day!
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
When the words rustle no more, And the last work's done, When the bolt lies deep in the door, And Fire, our Sun,
I had a friend who battled for the truth With stubborn heart and obstinate despair, Till all his beauty left him, and his youth,
Opportunity : From Machiavelli
'But who art thou, with curious beauty graced, O woman, stamped with some bright heavenly seal Why go thy feet on wings, and in such haste?'
Smile then, children, hand in hand Bright and white as the summer snow, Or that young King of the Grecian land,
The Masque Of The Magi
Three Kings have come to Bethlehem With a trailing star in front of them.
We That Were Friends
We that were friends to-night have found A sudden fear, a secret flame: I am on fire with that soft sound You make, in uttering my name.
A Western Voyage
My friend the Sun—like all my friends
Inconstant, lovely, far away -
Is out, and bright, and condescends
To glory in our holiday.
A furious march with him I'll go
And race him in the Western train,
And wake the hills of long ago
And swim the Devon sea again.