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.
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, -
Four great gates has the city of Damascus
And four Great Wardens, on their spears reclining,
All day long stand like tall stone men
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.
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