Archibald Macleish - History

Archibald Macleish - History


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Archibald Macleish

1892- 1982

Statesman

Archibald MacLeish was not only an accomplished poet and playwright, but a statesman as well. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, MacLeish left legal practice to travel to Paris in the 1920's. Toward the end of the decade, he returned to the United States, imbued with the fervor of social commitment which ultimately led him to join Franklin Roosevelt's administration.

He served in a number of positions, including Assistant Secretary of State in 1944-45. From 1949 to 1962, MacLeish was a chaired professor at Harvard. MacLeish was awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry and drama and also won the Bollingen Prize and a National Book Award.


Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois, on May 7, 1892. First educated at Hotchkiss School, MacLeish later studied at Yale and Harvard Law School, where he was first in his class. Although he focused his studies on law, he also began writing poetry during this time. In 1916 he married Ada Hitchcock.

At the onset of World War I, MacLeish volunteered as an ambulance driver, and later became a captain of field artillery. Upon returning home, he worked in Boston as a lawyer but found that the position distracted him from his poetry. He resigned in 1923, on the day that he was promoted to partner in the firm. MacLeish then moved his family to France and began to focus on writing. There he was to befriend fellow writers such as Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, and Ezra Pound. During the next four years he published four books of poetry, including 'The Happy Marriage' (1924) and 'The Poet of Earth' (1925). In 1928 MacLeish returned to America, where he began research for his epic poem 'Conquistador' by travelling the steps and mule-ride of Cortez's army through Mexico. MacLeish won the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts in 1932.

From 1930 to 1938, MacLeish worked as an editor at Fortune magazine. During that period, he wrote two radio dramas to increase patriotism and warn Americans against fascism. MacLeish also displayed increasing passion for this cause in his poems and articles. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded him to accept an appointment as Librarian of Congress, a position he kept for five years. MacLeish thoroughly reorganized the Library's administrative offices and established the Library's series of poetry readings. At the same time, MacLeish served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and assistant director of the Office of War Information, specializing in propaganda. In 1944 he was appointed assistant Secretary of State for cultural affairs. After World War II, MacLeish became the first American member of the governing body of UNESCO, and chaired the first UNESCO conference in Paris.


Learn More

  • Search the collection Freedom’s Fortress: The Library of Congress, 1939 to 1953 on Archibald MacLeish to find speeches, letters, and memos written by MacLeish during his tenure as Librarian of Congress.
  • A May 13, 1963, recording of Archibald MacLeish reading and commenting on his poems in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium is available through the Library’s online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.
  • Search Today in History on writer, playwright, or poet to find more features on literary lights of America, including William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway.
  • Search Today in History on such terms as Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, and World War II to read more about the era of MacLeish’s tenure as Librarian of Congress and assistant secretary of state.
  • Read more about the illustrious Librarians of Congress in John Cole’s history of the Library, Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress. Biographies of the Librarians, including the current Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, are also available on the About section of the Library’s website. And for even more about MacLeish, see the post on the Library of Congress Blog, “The Warrior Poet (a.k.a. Fellow Traveler No. 1).”
  • Examine a letter from Ernest Hemingway to Archibald MacLeish. Written in August 1943, Hemingway answers an earlier letter concerning poet Ezra Pound’s mental health. This document is included in the Archibald MacLeish Papers which are part of the collections of the Library’s Manuscript Division.

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About Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982) 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.

MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. His father, Andrew MacLeish, worked as a dry goods merchant. His mother, Martha 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 in Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1916, he married Ada Hitchcock. His studies were interrupted by World War I, in which he served first as an ambulance driver and later as a captain of artillery. He graduated from law school in 1919, taught law for a semester for the government department at Harvard, then worked briefly as an editor for The New Republic. He next spent three years practicing law.

In 1923 MacLeish left his law firm and moved with his wife to Paris, France, where they joined the community of literary expatriates that included such members as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. They also became part of the famed coterie of Riviera hosts Gerald and Sarah Murphy, which included Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, John O'Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. He returned to America in 1928. From 1930 to 1938 he worked as a writer and editor for Fortune Magazine, during which he also became increasingly politically active, especially with anti-fascist causes.

American Libraries has called MacLeish "one of the hundred most influential figures in librarianship during the 20th century" in the United States. MacLeish’s career in libraries and public service began, not with a burning desire from within, but from a combination of the urging of a close friend Felix Frankfurter, and as MacLeish put it, “The President decided I wanted to be Librarian of Congress.” Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination of MacLeish was a controversial and highly political maneuver fraught with several challenges. First, the current Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, who had served at the post for 40 years, needed to be persuaded to retire from the position. In order to be persuaded, Putnam was made Librarian Emeritus. Secondly, Franklin D. Roosevelt desired someone with similar political sensibilities to fill the post and to help convince the American public that the New Deal was working and that he had the right to run for an unprecedented third term in office. MacLeish’s occupation as a poet and his history as an expatriate in Paris rankled many Republicans. Lastly, MacLeish’s lack of a degree in library sciences or any training whatsoever aggravated the librarian community, especially the American Library Association which was campaigning for one of its members to be nominated. Despite these challenges, President Roosevelt and Justice Frankfurter felt that the mixture of MacLeish’s love for literature and his abilities to organize and motivate people, exemplified by his days in law school, would be just what the Library of Congress needed.

MacLeish sought support from expected places such as the president of Harvard, MacLeish’s current place of work, but found none. It was support from unexpected places, such as M. Llewellyn Raney of the University of Chicago libraries, which alleviated the ALA letter writing campaign against MacLeish’s nomination. Raney pointed out to the detractors that, “MacLeish was a lawyer like Putnam…he was equally at home in the arts as one of the four leading American poets now alive𠉪nd while it was true that he had not attended a professional school of library science, neither had thirty-four of thirty-seven persons presently occupying executive positions at the Library of Congress.” The main Republican arguments against MacLeish’s nomination from within Congress was: that he was a poet and was a �llow traveler” or sympathetic to communist causes. Calling to mind differences with the party he had over the years, MacLeish avowed that, “no one would be more shocked to learn I am a Communist than the Communists themselves.” In Congress MacLeish’s main advocate was Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley, Democrat from Kentucky. With President Roosevelt’s support and Senator Barkley’s skillful defense in the United States Senate, victory in a roll call vote with sixty-three Senators voting in favor of MacLeish’s appointment was achieved.

MacLeish found the Library of Congress to be extremely disorganized, as might be expected[citation needed] after being run by someone for forty years constantly trying to increase the size of the collection.[citation needed] MacLeish became privy to Roosevelt’s views on the library during a private meeting with the president. According to Roosevelt, the pay levels were too low and many people would need to be removed. Soon afterward, MacLeish joined Putnam for a luncheon in New York. At the meeting, Putnam relayed his desire to come to the Library for work and that his office would be down the hall from MacLeish’s. This meeting further crystallized for MacLeish that as Librarian of Congress, he would be 𠇊n unpopular newcomer, disturbing the status quo.”

It was a question from MacLeish’s daughter, Mimi, which led him to realize that, “Nothing is more difficult for the beginning librarian than to discover what profession he was engaged.” Mimi, his daughter, had inquired about what her daddy was to do all day, “…hand out books?” Similar to any incoming executive to a new position, MacLeish created his own job description and set out to learn about how the library was currently organized. In October 1944, MacLeish described that he did not set out to reorganize the library, rather “…one problem or another demanded action, and each problem solved led on to another that needed attention.”

MacLeish’s chief accomplishments had their start in instituting daily staff meetings with division chiefs, the chief assistant librarian, and other administrators. He then set about setting up various committees on various projects including: acquisitions policy, fiscal operations, cataloging, and outreach. The committees alerted MacLeish to various problems throughout the library.

First and foremost, under Putnam, the library was acquiring more books than it could catalog. A report in December 1939, found that over one-quarter of the library’s collection had not yet been cataloged. MacLeish solved the problem of acquisitions and cataloging through establishing another committee instructed to seek advice from specialists outside of the Library of Congress. The committee found many subject areas of the library to be adequate and many other areas to be, surprisingly, inadequately provided for. A set of general principles on acquisitions was then developed to ensure that, though it was impossible to collect everything, the Library of Congress would acquire the bare minimum of canons to meet its mission. These principles included acquiring all materials necessary to members of Congress and government officers, all materials expressing and recording the life and achievements of the people of the United States, and materials of other societies past and present which are of the most immediate concern to the peoples of the United States.

Secondly, MacLeish set about reorganizing the operational structure. Leading scholars in library science were assigned a committee to analyze the library’s managerial structure. The committee issued a report a mere two months after it was formed, in April 1940 stating that a major restructuring was necessary. This was no surprise to MacLeish who had thirty-five divisions under him. He divided the library’s functions into three departments: administration, processing, and reference. All existing divisions were then assigned as appropriate. By including library scientists from inside and outside the Library of Congress, MacLeish was able to gain faith from the library community that he was on the right track. Within a year MacLeish had completely restructured the Library of Congress making it work more efficiently, bringing the library to the center to “report on the mystery of things.”

Last, but not least, MacLeish promoted the Library of Congress through various forms of public advocacy. Perhaps his greatest display of public advocacy was requesting a budget increase of over a million dollars in his March 1940 budget proposal to the United States Congress. While the library did not receive the full increase, it did receive an increase of $367, 591, the largest one-year increase to date. Much of the increase went toward improved pay levels, increased acquisitions in under served subject areas, and new positions.

During World War II MacLeish also served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information. These jobs were heavily involved with propaganda, which was well-suited to MacLeish's talents he had written quite a bit of politically motivated work in the previous decade. He spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO. After this, he retired from public service and returned to academia.

Despite a long history of criticizing Marxism, MacLeish came under fire from conservative politicians of the 1940s and 1950s, including J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Much of this was due to his involvement with left-wing organizations like the League of American Writers, and to his friendships with prominent left-wing writers. In 1949 MacLeish became the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. He held this position until his retirement in 1962. In 1959 his play J.B. won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. From 1963 to 1967 he was the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. Around 1969/70 he met Bob Dylan, who describes this encounter in the third chapter of Chronicles, Vol. 1.

MacLeish greatly admired T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and his work shows quite a bit of their influence. He was the literary figure that played the most important role in freeing Ezra Pound from St. Elisabeths Hospital in Washington DC where he was incarcerated for high treason between 1946 and 1958. In fact, some critics charge that MacLeish's poetry is derivative and adds little of his own voice[citation needed]. MacLeish's early work was very traditionally modernist and accepted the contemporary modernist position holding that a poet was isolated from society. His most well-known poem, "Ars Poetica," contains a classic statement of the modernist aesthetic: "A poem should not mean / But be." He later broke with modernism's pure aesthetic. MacLeish himself was greatly involved in public life and came to believe that this was not only an appropriate but an inevitable role for a poet.

MacLeish worked to promote the arts, culture, and libraries. Among other impacts, MacLeish was the first Librarian of Congress to begin the process of naming what would become the United States Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress came from a donation in 1937 from Archer M. Huntington, a wealthy ship builder. Like many donations it came with strings attached. In this case Huntington wanted the poet Joseph Auslander to be named to the position. MacLeish found little value in Auslander’s writing. However, MacLeish was happy that having Auslander in the post attracted many other poets, such as Robinson Jeffers and Robert Frost, to hold readings at the library. He set about establishing the consultantship as a revolving post rather than a lifetime position. In 1943, MacLeish displayed his love of poetry and the Library of Congress by naming Louise Bogan to the position. Bogan, who had long been a hostile critic of MacLeish’s own writing, asked MacLeish why he appointed her to the position MacLeish replied that she was the best person for the job. For MacLeish promoting the Library of Congress and the arts was vitally more important than petty personal conflicts.

In the June 5, 1972 issue of The American Scholar, MacLeish laid out in an essay his philosophy on libraries and librarianship, further shaping modern thought on the subject. MacLeish remarked in the essay that libraries are more than a mere collection of books. "If books are reports on the mysteries of the world and our existence in it, libraries remain reporting on the human mind, that particular mystery, still remains as countries lose their grandeur and universities are not certain what they are." For MacLeish, libraries are a massive report on the mysteries of human kind.

Two collections of MacLeish's papers are held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: these are the Archibald MacLeish Collection (YCAL MSS 38) and Archibald MacLeish Collection Addition (YCAL MSS 269).

MacLeish is also a great uncle of film actress Laura Dern.

1933: Pulitzer Prize for poetry (Conquistador )

1953: Pulitzer Prize for poetry (Collected Poems 1917�)

1953: National Book Award (Collected Poems, 1917�)

1953: Bollingen Prize in Poetry

1959: Pulitzer Prize for Drama (J.B.)

1959: Tony Award for Best Play (J.B.)

1965: Academy Award for Documentary Feature (The Eleanor Roosevelt Story)

1977: Presidential Medal of Freedom

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982) 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.

MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. His father, Scottish-born Andrew MacLeish, worked as a dry goods merchant. His mother, Martha (nພ 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 in Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1916, he married Ada Hitchcock. His studies were interrupted by World War I, in which he served first as an ambulance driver and later as a captain of artillery. He graduated from law school in 1919, taught law for a semester for the government department at Harvard, then worked briefly as an editor for The New Republic. He next spent three years practicing law.

In 1923 MacLeish left his law firm and moved with his wife to Paris, France, where they joined the community of literary expatriates that included such members as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. They also became part of the famed coterie of Riviera hosts Gerald and Sarah Murphy, which included Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, John O'Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. He returned to America in 1928. From 1930 to 1938 he worked as a writer and editor for Fortune Magazine, during which he also became increasingly politically active, especially with anti-fascist causes. By the 1930s, he considered Capitalism to be "symbolically dead" and wrote the play "Panic" in response.

While in Paris, Harry Crosby, publisher of the Black Sun Press, offered to publish MacLeish's poetry. Both MacLeish and Crosby had overturned the normal expectations of society, rejecting conventional careers in the legal and banking fields. Crosby published MacLeish's long poem Einstein in a deluxe edition of 150 copies that sold quickly. MacLeish was paid US$200 for his work.

American Libraries has called MacLeish "one of the hundred most influential figures in librarianship during the 20th century" in the United States.[5] MacLeish’s career in libraries and public service began, not with a burning desire from within, but from a combination of the urging of a close friend Felix Frankfurter, and as MacLeish put it, “The President decided I wanted to be Librarian of Congress.” Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination of MacLeish was a controversial and highly political maneuver fraught with several challenges. First, the current Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, who had served at the post for 40 years, needed to be persuaded to retire from the position. In order to be persuaded, Putnam was made Librarian Emeritus. Secondly, Franklin D. Roosevelt desired someone with similar political sensibilities to fill the post and to help convince the American public that the New Deal was working and that he had the right to run for an unprecedented third term in office. MacLeish’s occupation as a poet and his history as an expatriate in Paris rankled many Republicans. Lastly, MacLeish’s lack of a degree in library sciences or any training whatsoever aggravated the librarian community, especially the American Library Association which was campaigning for one of its members to be nominated. Despite these challenges, President Roosevelt and Justice Frankfurter felt that the mixture of MacLeish’s love for literature and his abilities to organize and motivate people, exemplified by his days in law school, would be just what the Library of Congress needed.

MacLeish sought support from expected places such as the president of Harvard, MacLeish’s current place of work, but found none. It was support from unexpected places, such as M. Llewellyn Raney of the University of Chicago libraries, which alleviated the ALA letter writing campaign against MacLeish’s nomination. Raney pointed out to the detractors that, “MacLeish was a lawyer like Putnam. he was equally at home in the arts as one of the four leading American poets now alive. and while it was true that he had not attended a professional school of library science, neither had thirty-four of thirty-seven persons presently occupying executive positions at the Library of Congress.” The main Republican arguments against MacLeish’s nomination from within Congress was: that he was a poet and was a �llow traveler” or sympathetic to communist causes. Calling to mind differences with the party he had over the years, MacLeish avowed that, “no one would be more shocked to learn I am a Communist than the Communists themselves.” In Congress MacLeish’s main advocate was Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley, Democrat from Kentucky. With President Roosevelt’s support and Senator Barkley’s skillful defense in the United States Senate, victory in a roll call vote with sixty-three Senators voting in favor of MacLeish’s appointment was achieved.

MacLeish became privy to Roosevelt’s views on the library during a private meeting with the president. According to Roosevelt, the pay levels were too low and many people would need to be removed. Soon afterward, MacLeish joined Putnam for a luncheon in New York. At the meeting, Putnam relayed his desire to come to the Library for work and that his office would be down the hall from MacLeish’s. This meeting further crystallized for MacLeish that as Librarian of Congress, he would be 𠇊n unpopular newcomer, disturbing the status quo.”

It was a question from MacLeish’s daughter, Mimi, which led him to realize that, “Nothing is more difficult for the beginning librarian than to discover what profession he was engaged.” Mimi, his daughter, had inquired about what her daddy was to do all day, “…hand out books?” MacLeish created his own job description and set out to learn about how the library was currently organized. In October 1944, MacLeish described that he did not set out to reorganize the library, rather “…one problem or another demanded action, and each problem solved led on to another that needed attention.”

MacLeish’s chief accomplishments had their start in instituting daily staff meetings with division chiefs, the chief assistant librarian, and other administrators. He then set about setting up various committees on various projects including: acquisitions policy, fiscal operations, cataloging, and outreach. The committees alerted MacLeish to various problems throughout the library.

First and foremost, under Putnam, the library was acquiring more books than it could catalog. A report in December 1939, found that over one-quarter of the library’s collection had not yet been cataloged. MacLeish solved the problem of acquisitions and cataloging through establishing another committee instructed to seek advice from specialists outside of the Library of Congress. The committee found many subject areas of the library to be adequate and many other areas to be, surprisingly, inadequately provided for. A set of general principles on acquisitions was then developed to ensure that, though it was impossible to collect everything, the Library of Congress would acquire the bare minimum of canons to meet its mission. These principles included acquiring all materials necessary to members of Congress and government officers, all materials expressing and recording the life and achievements of the people of the United States, and materials of other societies past and present which are of the most immediate concern to the peoples of the United States.

Secondly, MacLeish set about reorganizing the operational structure. Leading scholars in library science were assigned a committee to analyze the library’s managerial structure. The committee issued a report a mere two months after it was formed, in April 1940 stating that a major restructuring was necessary. This was no surprise to MacLeish who had thirty-five divisions under him. He divided the library’s functions into three departments: administration, processing, and reference. All existing divisions were then assigned as appropriate. By including library scientists from inside and outside the Library of Congress, MacLeish was able to gain faith from the library community that he was on the right track. Within a year MacLeish had completely restructured the Library of Congress making it work more efficiently, bringing the library to the center to “report on the mystery of things.”

Last, but not least, MacLeish promoted the Library of Congress through various forms of public advocacy. Perhaps his greatest display of public advocacy was requesting a budget increase of over a million dollars in his March 1940 budget proposal to the United States Congress. While the library did not receive the full increase, it did receive an increase of $367, 591, the largest one-year increase to date. Much of the increase went toward improved pay levels, increased acquisitions in underserved subject areas, and new positions.

Archibald MacLeish also assisted with the development of the new "Research and Analysis Branch" of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. "These operations were overseen by the distinguished Harvard University historian William L. Langer, who, with the assistance of the American Council of Learned Societies and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, set out immediately to recruit a professional staff drawn from across the social sciences. Over the next twelve months academic specialists from fields ranging from geography to classical philology descended upon Washington, bringing with them their most promising graduate students, and set up shop in the headquarters of the Research and Analysis (R&A) Branch at Twenty-third and E Streets, and in the new annex to the Library of Congress."

During World War II MacLeish also served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information. These jobs were heavily involved with propaganda, which was well-suited to MacLeish's talents he had written quite a bit of politically motivated work in the previous decade. He spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO. After this, he retired from public service and returned to academia.

Despite a long history of debate over the merits of Marxism, MacLeish came under fire from anti-communists in the 1940s and 1950s, including J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Much of this was due to his involvement with left-wing organizations like the League of American Writers, and to his friendships with prominent left-wing writers. Time magazine's Whittaker Chambers cited him as a fellow traveler in a 1941 article: "By 1938, U. S. Communists could count among their allies such names as Granville Hicks, Newton Arvin, Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Matthew Josephson, Kyle Crichton (Robert Forsythe), Malcolm Cowley, Donald Ogden Stewart, Erskine Caldwell, Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, John Steinbeck, George Soule, many another."

In 1949 MacLeish became the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. He held this position until his retirement in 1962. In 1959 his play J.B. won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. From 1963 to 1967 he was the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. Around 1969/70 he met Bob Dylan, who describes this encounter in the third chapter of Chronicles, Vol. 1.

MacLeish greatly admired T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and his work shows quite a bit of their influence. He was the literary figure that played the most important role in freeing Ezra Pound from St. Elisabeths Hospital in Washington DC where he was incarcerated for high treason between 1946 and 1958. MacLeish's early work was very traditionally modernist and accepted the contemporary modernist position holding that a poet was isolated from society. His most well-known poem, "Ars Poetica," contains a classic statement of the modernist aesthetic: "A poem should not mean / But be." He later broke with modernism's pure aesthetic. MacLeish himself was greatly involved in public life and came to believe that this was not only an appropriate but an inevitable role for a poet.

MacLeish worked to promote the arts, culture, and libraries. Among other impacts, MacLeish was the first Librarian of Congress to begin the process of naming what would become the United States Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress came from a donation in 1937 from Archer M. Huntington, a wealthy ship builder. Like many donations it came with strings attached. In this case Huntington wanted the poet Joseph Auslander to be named to the position. MacLeish found little value in Auslander’s writing. However, MacLeish was happy that having Auslander in the post attracted many other poets, such as Robinson Jeffers and Robert Frost, to hold readings at the library. He set about establishing the consultantship as a revolving post rather than a lifetime position. In 1943, MacLeish displayed his love of poetry and the Library of Congress by naming Louise Bogan to the position. Bogan, who had long been a hostile critic of MacLeish’s own writing, asked MacLeish why he appointed her to the position MacLeish replied that she was the best person for the job. For MacLeish promoting the Library of Congress and the arts was vitally more important than petty personal conflicts.

In the June 5, 1972 issue of The American Scholar, MacLeish laid out in an essay his philosophy on libraries and librarianship, further shaping modern thought on the subject. MacLeish remarked in the essay that libraries are more than a mere collection of books. "If books are reports on the mysteries of the world and our existence in it, libraries remain reporting on the human mind, that particular mystery, still remains as countries lose their grandeur and universities are not certain what they are." For MacLeish, libraries are a massive report on the mysteries of human kind.

Two collections of MacLeish's papers are held at the Yale Library Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. These are the Archibald MacLeish Collection and Archibald MacLeish Collection Addition.

MacLeish had three children: Kenneth, Mary Hillard, and Peter. He is also a great-uncle of film actress Laura Dern.


Still studied law, but continued his writing and

Still he standsWatching the vortex widen and involvein swirling dissolution the whole earthand circle through the skies till swaying timecollapses, crumpling into dark the skies-from the poem “Einstein”INTRODUCTIONArchibald MacLeish was always a loner. Although he married he was always wondering about man’s relationship to the world. He wondered why people could not see that they were wasting the little time we have on this earth.

He tried to show in his poems “the reality of the emotions that words cannot describe.”(Falk 27) Often he would include in his poems laws of nature and physics which gave him a unique style.(Falk 24)BIOGRAPHYArchibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois to an average middle class family.

His father, Andrew MacLeish, was a businessman. His mother, Martha Hillard MacLeish, was a homemaker. His parents soon realized they had a very gifted son so they sent him to the Hotchkiss School.

This school catered to his many different interests. Of all the things MacLeish excelled at he was the best at writing. Archibald graduated at the top of his class and was accepted to Yale University.

While at Yale MacLeish studied law, but continued his writing and in his off time the university published a book of his works. After Yale, MacLeish decided to focus on his poetry and his new wife and children. During this time off he wrote his first collaboration called Tower of Ivory Then in 1917 he went to France to serve in the war as a private. He rose from private to captain in just one year of service. Upon his return to the United States MacLeish began teaching at Harvard. While there he taught International Law and Constitutional Law which improved his grammar skills greatly.

MacLeish was accepted by the Massachusetts bar in 1920. He began practicing law in Boston and continued to do that for three years. MacLeish then returned to France to focus on his writing. While in France MacLeish spent much time outdoors so he wrote about what he saw and what he thought of it. During his time in France, MacLeish wrote the poems “The Happy Marriage”,”The Pot of Earth”, and the controversial poem about religion called “Nobodaddy.”(Moritz 143)MacLeish returned to America in 1928 and that same year he wrote The Hamlet of A. MacLeish.

This book was a tribute to Shakespeare , but his work reflected that of his fellow poet ,T.S. Eliot. After writing that collaboration MacLeish took a two month trip to Mexico where he followed the trail of Cortes.

With that experience MacLeish wrote the epic poem “Conquistador” for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for. He was also awarded the John Reed Memorial Award for poetry by Poetry magazine. (Falk 67)MacLeish then made a career move into a different area of literature when he became the editor for Fortune magazine(Falk 91).

At this time in his life MacLeish felt that society was heading in the wrong direction because of how much people depended on each other. He saw this as a blow to people’s identity and their independence. MacLeish was a believer , like Thoreau, in self-government. He saw government as only a temporary necessity because of unruly people. MacLeish thought that a perfect society would have no need for a ruling body. In protest of this trend MacLeish became severely independent.

He showed his fear for society in the poem “Panic”, which was written at the height if the stock market crisis(Magill 229).In 1939 Archibald MacLeish became the librarian of Congress. This new field of work put an enormous amount of stress on him. More stress was on MacLeish because so many thought of him as a radical because of his views on government. People thought MacLeish was not responsible enough to hold an important job. In response to this he wrote the book The Irresponsibles which said ,in a sense, that people should mind their own business and worry about their own lives. MacLeish did so well at this job he was appointed assistant secretary of state in 1944.

MacLeish held this position until his retirement ,after which he continued writing poetry until his death(Falk 94).PHILOSOPHYArchibald MacLiesh was such a diverse writer because of his many different occupations. He also had a large following because of the many different subjects he wrote on. His topics ranged from the beauty of nature to the wrongdoings of the government. He learned to use grammar well from doing briefs for his law studies and his law firm. Early in his career he tried to emulate all of the best poets and write like them(Moritz 153).

MacLeish believed three poets brought on the revolutionary movement in poetry, these three were William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. MacLeish believed their poetry to be “a revolt against the neurotic nineteenth-century idea of poetry.”(MacLeish 165).

MacLeish lived through two World Wars, serving in the first, and the Great Depression. The wars only effected his poetry a little while he wrote about the Depression quite a lot. The poem “Panic” expresses the many diverse problems that the Depression gave way to.

This poem has a very pessimistic mood to it that was probably brought on by the immense suffering his fellow Americans were going through(Magill 232).The poetry MacLeish wrote while in France for the second time was very optimistic, but it still poses many questions that show that he was always wondering about the universe around him. The poem “Streets in the Moon” is a happy poem about the moon, but he still wonders why it is there. MacLeish thought the poetry of his era was very poor so he wrote a book as a sort of apology for all of his peers bad writing.

This book of poetry was called Poetry and Opinion. Often MacLeish wrote about the social issues of the time such as when, at the height of the “red scare,” he wrote a poem called “The Trojan Horse”. This poem was supposed to be symbolic of the foolish way the Americans were acting. MacLiesh would use symbolism to get across a point he wanted to make ,usually about society(Magill 225).MacLeish’s poetic style changed as he got older. His writing became more loose and less grammatically correct.

He also became much more optimistic in his writing. His poetry became more spiritual and natural often focusing on heaven or some related item. MacLeish wrote his interpretation of the book of Job called “J.B.

A play in verse.” His main focus was always the people and the problems they faced. Poets said he was more of an activist than a poet, but they could not deny his incredible talent for poetry(Falk 173). “ARS POETICA” by Archibald MacLeish A poem should be palpable and muteAs a globed fruit,DumbAs old medallions to the thumb,Silent as the sleeve worn stoneOf casement ledges where the moss has grown-A poem should be wordless As the flight of birds.A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs,Leaving, as the moon releasesTwig by twig the night entangled trees,Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,Memory by memory the mind-A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs.A poem should be equal to:Not true.For all the history of griefAn empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For loveThe leaning grasses and two lightsabove the sea-A poem should not mean But be.ANALYSISThe poem “Ars Poetica” is a lyric poem that uses perfect rhyme and an AABB rhyme scheme. MacLeish uses much figurative language, especially similes, and he uses iambic biameter throughout the poem. MacLeish uses a lot of symbolism to get his message across such as “A poem should be wordless as the flight of birds.”(MacLeish 49) A bird flying is not wordless, but MacLeish uses that as saying that there are no words to describe the most beautiful things and a poem should be that way also.

Critics say that this poem makes the point that a poem should be an “intimation rather than a full statement.”(Falk 41). It is also said that this poem is one of the chief doctrines of Imagism, which was a literary movement from 1910 to 1920. Imagism is supposed to create a single sharp image that evokes an emotional response. MacLeish creates the image of autumn and the night and then compares it to the beauty of the written word (MorItz.145).


Hidden History Radio Program Log

41-07-31 Washington County Post
Can a single man be credited with winning the first World War for the Allies? Could it be possible that one man turned the tide of victory? The story of an unknown Englishman who claimed that distinction who believed that it was he who broke the last German resistance in Flanders, will be told by H.V. Kaltenborn, veteran NBC news analyst, on "Hidden History", Sunday August 3, at 2:00 P.M. over WTRY in a dramatization titled "Rumors in War Time". Kaltenborn will also discuss the means of sifting rumor from fact during the turbulent days of war. He will tell the story of the false armistice reports in the World War and similar rumors in this war. "Hidden History", based on diaries, documents and personal letters in the Library of Congress, is presented by the NBC-Blue Network in collaboration with the Library.

41-09-06 Poughkeepsie New Yorker - SEWARDS FOLLY . . . Some of America's most flowery political oratory was spouted by WILLIAM SEWARD, LINCOLN's secretary of state in order to "put over" the purchase of Alaska for "the staggering sum of $7,200,000," it will be shown during the "Hidden History" program at 2 tomorrow afternoon through WKIP.

41-09-13 Poughkeepsie New Yorker - SCARY STORY . . . As scary a ghost story as you're likely to hear in six states and seven counties will be told by "Hidden History" when it presents "The Legend of hte Bell Witch" over WKIP at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Taken from among the distinctive American folk tales collected by the Library of Congress and adapted for radio by BERNARD VICTOR DRYER, the story has overtones of homespun humor which only heightens its suspense.

41-10-19 Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The almost-forgotten story of how Thomas Jefferson induced Chief Little Turtle to be vaccinated against smallpox so the latter's suffeing tribesmen might be encouraged to follow his example will for the climax of a "Hidden History" program to be presented over the NBC-Blue Network and WHIS today at 11:15 a.m., EST.
The drama, written by Bernard Victor Dryer and directed by Charles Warburton of the NBC Production Division, is based primarily on correspondence between President Jefferson and Benjamin Waterhouse, discoverer of the pinciple of vaccination.

41-10-26 Anniston Star
"The Long Haul," a poignant story of the last day of the old Erie Canal, when the new fangled railroads were almost literally drying up "The Big Ditch," will be dramatized by "Hidden History" over hte Blue Network and WHMA today at 10:15 a.m. Based on eyewitness descripotions of trips on the canal, which are now on file at the Library of Congress, the story has been written by Bernard Victor Dryer and will be directed by Charles Warburton of the NBC Production Division. Music for the program will consist of canal boat tunes taken from the archive of American folk songs in the library and from the famous collection of Captain Pearl. R. Nye.

41-10-25 Lockport Union-Sun
"The Long Haul," a poignant story of hte last day of the old Erie canal, when the new-fangled railroads were almost literally drying up "the big ditch" will be dramatized by "Hidden History" on WHAM and N.B.C.- Blue at 11:15 tomorrow morning.

HIDDEN HISTORY
A parade at American heroes, both real and legendary, will pass through the 26th and final Hidden History program presented by the Library of Congress, over WIBA at 10:15 a. m. today. Among them will be Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, telling how they used an iceberg to scoop cut the Mississippi river. Mike Fink, Ohio River keelboatman who made the sad mistake telling one tale too many, and Johnny Appleseed, who was real enough despite his peaked cardboard cap, coffee sack cloak and leather sack, as any resident of Ohio or Indiana n tell you.

41-11-09 Salt Lake Tribune
9:15--NBC--Hidden History--"Yankee Doodle Goes to Town."

41-11-09 Wisconsin State Journal
10:15 a.m.--Hidden History (WIBA): final program featuring told stories of American, from Paul Bunyan to Johnny Appleseed.

41-11-16 Wisconsin State Journal
10:05 NBC Sunday Down South

41-11-16 Salt Lake Tribune
Sunday Novemer 16th
9:15--NBC--Hidden History--"Yankee Doodle Goes to Town."


Family tree of Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982) was an American poet and writer, who was associated with the modernist school of poetry. MacLeish studied English at Yale University and law at Harvard University. He enlisted in and saw action during the First World War and lived in Paris in the 1920s. On returning to the United States, he contributed to Henry Luce's magazine Fortune from 1929 to 1938. For five years, MacLeish was the ninth Librarian of Congress, a post he accepted at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From 1949 to 1962, he was Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. He was awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.

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Early years
MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. His father, Scottish-born Andrew MacLeish, worked as a dry-goods merchant and was a founder of the Chicago department store Carson Pirie Scott. 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. For his college education, MacLeish went to 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 in Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.His studies were interrupted by World War I, in which he served first as an ambulance driver and later as an artillery officer. He fought at the Second Battle of the Marne. His brother, Kenneth MacLeish, was killed in action during the war. He graduated from law school in 1919, taught law for a semester for the government department at Harvard, then worked briefly as an editor for The New Republic. He next spent three years practicing law with the Boston firm Choate, Hall & Stewart. MacLeish expressed his disillusion with war in his poem Memorial Rain, published in 1926.


Years in Paris
In 1923, MacLeish left his law firm and moved with his wife to Paris, France, where they joined the community of literary expatriates that included such members as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. They also became part of the famed coterie of Riviera hosts Gerald and Sarah Murphy, which included Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, John O'Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, and Robert Benchley. He returned to America in 1928. From 1930 to 1938, he worked as a writer and editor for Henry Luce's Fortune, during which he also became increasingly politically active, especially with antifascist causes. By the 1930s, he considered capitalism to be "symbolically dead" and wrote the verse play Panic (1935) in response.
While in Paris, Harry Crosby, publisher of the Black Sun Press, offered to publish MacLeish's poetry. Both MacLeish and Crosby had overturned the normal expectations of society, rejecting conventional careers in the legal and banking fields. Crosby published MacLeish's long poem "Einstein" in a deluxe edition of 150 copies that sold quickly. MacLeish was paid US$200 for his work. In 1932, MacLeish published his long poem "Conquistador", which presents Cortés's conquest of the Aztecs as symbolic of the American experience. In 1933, "Conquistador" was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, the first of three awarded to MacLeish.In 1934, he wrote a libretto for Union Pacific, ballet by Nicolas Nabokov and Léonide Massine (Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo) it premiered in Philadelphia with a great success.
In 1938, MacLeish published as a book a long poem "Land of the Free", built around a series of 88 photographs of the rural depression by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, and the Farm Security Administration and other agencies. The book was influential on Steinbeck in writing The Grapes of Wrath.


Librarian of Congress
American Libraries has called MacLeish "one of the 100 most influential figures in librarianship during the 20th century" in the United States. MacLeish's career in libraries and public service began, not with an internal desire, but from a combination of the urging of a close friend, Felix Frankfurter, and as MacLeish put it, "The President decided I wanted to be Librarian of Congress." Franklin D. Roosevelt's nomination of MacLeish was a controversial and highly political maneuver fraught with several challenges.
MacLeish sought support from expected places such as the president of Harvard, MacLeish's current place of work, but found none. Support from unexpected places, such as M. Llewellyn Raney of the University of Chicago libraries, alleviated the ALA letter-writing campaign against MacLeish's nomination." The main Republican argument against MacLeish's nomination from within Congress was that he was a poet and was a "fellow traveler" or sympathetic to communist causes. Calling to mind differences with the party he had over the years, MacLeish avowed, "no one would be more shocked to learn I am a Communist than the Communists themselves." In Congress, MacLeish's main advocate was Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley, Democrat from Kentucky. With President Roosevelt's support and Senator Barkley's skillful defense in the United States Senate, victory in a roll call vote with 63 senators voting in favor of MacLeish's appointment was achieved. MacLeish was sworn in as Librarian of Congress on July 10, 1939, by the local postmaster at Conway, Massachusetts.MacLeish became privy to Roosevelt's views on the library during a private meeting with the President. According to Roosevelt, the pay levels were too low and many people would need to be removed. Soon afterward, MacLeish joined the retiring Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam for a luncheon in New York. At the meeting, Putnam relayed his intention to continue working at the library, that he would be given the title of librarian emeritus, and that his office would be down the hall from MacLeish's. The meeting further crystallized for MacLeish that as Librarian of Congress, he would be "an unpopular newcomer, disturbing the status quo."

A question from MacLeish's daughter, Mimi, led him to realize, "Nothing is more difficult for the beginning librarian than to discover [in] what profession he was engaged." Mimi, his daughter, had inquired about what her daddy was to do all day, ". hand out books?" MacLeish created his own job description and set out to learn about how the library was currently organized. In October 1944, MacLeish described that he did not set out to reorganize the library, rather ". one problem or another demanded action, and each problem solved led on to another that needed attention."MacLeish's chief accomplishments had their start in instituting daily staff meetings with division chiefs, the chief assistant librarian, and other administrators. He then set about setting up various committees on various projects, including acquisitions policy, fiscal operations, cataloging, and outreach. The committees alerted MacLeish to various problems throughout the library. Putnam was conspicuously not invited to attend these meetings, resulting in the librarian emeritus' feelings being "mortally hurt", but according to MacLeish, it was necessary to exclude Putnam otherwise, "he would have been sitting there listening to talk about himself which he would take personally."First and foremost, under Putnam, the library was acquiring more books than it could catalog. A report in December 1939, found that over one-quarter of the library's collection had not yet been cataloged. MacLeish solved the problem of acquisitions and cataloging through establishing another committee instructed to seek advice from specialists outside of the Library of Congress. The committee found many subject areas of the library to be adequate and many other areas to be, surprisingly, inadequately provided for. A set of general principles on acquisitions was then developed to ensure that, though it was impossible to collect everything, the Library of Congress would acquire the bare minimum of canons to meet its mission. These principles included acquiring all materials necessary to members of Congress and government officers, all materials expressing and recording the life and achievements of the people of the United States, and materials of other societies past and present that are of the most immediate concern to the peoples of the United States.Secondly, MacLeish set about reorganizing the operational structure. Leading scholars in library science were assigned a committee to analyze the library's managerial structure. The committee issued a report a mere two months after it was formed, in April 1940, stating that a major restructuring was necessary. This was no surprise to MacLeish, who had 35 divisions under him. He divided the library's functions into three departments: administration, processing, and reference. All existing divisions were then assigned as appropriate. By including library scientists from inside and outside the Library of Congress, MacLeish was able to gain faith from the library community that he was on the right track. Within a year, MacLeish had completely restructured the Library of Congress, making it work more efficiently and aligning the library to "report on the mystery of things."Last, but not least, MacLeish promoted the Library of Congress through various forms of public advocacy. Perhaps his greatest display of public advocacy was requesting a budget increase of over a million dollars in his March 1940 budget proposal to Congress. While the library did not receive the full increase, it received an increase of $367,591, the largest one-year increase to date. Much of the increase went toward improved pay levels, increased acquisitions in underserved subject areas, and new positions. MacLeish resigned as Librarian of Congress on December 19, 1944, to take up the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

Archibald MacLeish also assisted with the development of the new "Research and Analysis Branch" of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. "These operations were overseen by the distinguished Harvard University historian William L. Langer, who, with the assistance of the American Council of Learned Societies and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, set out immediately to recruit a professional staff drawn from across the social sciences. Over the next 12 months, academic specialists from fields ranging from geography to classical philology descended upon Washington, bringing with them their most promising graduate students, and set up shop in the headquarters of the Research and Analysis (R&A) Branch at Twenty-third and E Streets, and in the new annex to the Library of Congress."During World War II, MacLeish also served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures, and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information. These jobs were heavily involved with propaganda, which was well-suited to MacLeish's talents he had written quite a bit of politically motivated work in the previous decade. He spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO. After this, he retired from public service and returned to academia.


Return to writing
Despite a long history of debate over the merits of Marxism, MacLeish came under fire from anticommunists in the 1940s and 1950s, including J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Much of this was due to his involvement with left-wing organizations such as the League of American Writers, and to his friendships with prominent left-wing writers. Time magazine's Whittaker Chambers cited him as a fellow traveler in a 1941 article: "By 1938, U. S. Communists could count among their allies such names as Granville Hicks, Newton Arvin, Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Matthew Josephson, Kyle Crichton (Robert Forsythe), Malcolm Cowley, Donald Ogden Stewart, Erskine Caldwell, Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, John Steinbeck, George Soule, many another."In 1949, MacLeish became the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. He held this position until his retirement in 1962. In 1959, his play J.B. won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. From 1963 to 1967, he was the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. In 1969, MacLeish met Bob Dylan, and asked him to contribute songs to Scratch, a musical MacLeish was writing, based on the story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benét. The collaboration was a failure and Scratch opened without any music Dylan describes their collaboration in the third chapter of his autobiography Chronicles, Vol. 1.MacLeish greatly admired T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and his work shows quite a bit of their influence. He was the literary figure who played the most important role in freeing Ezra Pound from St. Elisabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC, where he was incarcerated for high treason between 1946 and 1958. MacLeish's early work was very traditionally modernist and accepted the contemporary modernist position holding that a poet was isolated from society. His most well-known poem, "Ars Poetica," contains a classic statement of the modernist aesthetic: "A poem should not mean / But be." He later broke with modernism's pure aesthetic. MacLeish himself was greatly involved in public life and came to believe that this was not only an appropriate, but also an inevitable role for a poet.
In 1969, MacLeish was commissioned by the New York Times to write a poem to celebrate the Apollo 11 moon landing, which he entitled "Voyage to the Moon" and appeared on the front page of the July 21, 1969, edition of the Times. A. M. Rosenthal, then-editor of the Times, later recounted: "We decided what the front page of The Times would need when the men landed was a poem. What the poet wrote would count most, but we also wanted to say to our readers, look, this paper does not know how to express how it feels this day and perhaps you don't either, so here is a fellow, a poet, who will try for all of us. We called one poet who just did not think much of moons or us, and then decided to reach higher for somebody with more zest in his soul – for Archibald MacLeish, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes. He turned in his poem on time and entitled it 'Voyage to the Moon.'"


Legacy
MacLeish worked to promote the arts, culture, and libraries. Among other impacts, MacLeish was the first Librarian of Congress to begin the process of naming what would become the United States Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress came from a donation in 1937 from Archer M. Huntington, a wealthy ship builder. Like many donations, it came with strings attached. In this case, Huntington wanted poet Joseph Auslander to be named to the position. MacLeish found little value in Auslander's writing. However, MacLeish was happy that having Auslander in the post attracted many other poets, such as Robinson Jeffers and Robert Frost, to hold readings at the library. He set about establishing the consultantship as a revolving post rather than a lifetime position. In 1943, MacLeish displayed his love of poetry and the Library of Congress by naming Louise Bogan to the position. Bogan, who had long been a hostile critic of MacLeish's own writing, asked MacLeish why he appointed her to the position MacLeish replied that she was the best person for the job. For MacLeish, promoting the Library of Congress and the arts was vitally more important than petty personal conflicts.In the June 5, 1972, issue of The American Scholar, MacLeish laid out in an essay his philosophy on libraries and librarianship, further shaping modern thought on the subject:

When he was 74 years old, the Cretan novelist Nikos Kazantzakis began a book. He called it Report to Greco . Kazantzakis thought of himself as a soldier reporting to his commanding officer on a mortal mission—his life. .
Well, there is only one Report to Greco, but no true book . was ever anything else than a report. . A true book is a report upon the mystery of existence . it speaks of the world, of our life in the world. Everything we have in the books on which our libraries are founded—Euclid's figures, Leonardo's notes, Newton's explanations, Cervantes' myth, Sappho's broken songs, the vast surge of Homer—everything is a report of one kind or another and the sum of all of them together is our little knowledge of our world and of ourselves. Call a book Das Kapital or The Voyage of the Beagle or Theory of Relativity or Alice in Wonderland or Moby-Dick, it is still what Kazantzakis called his book—it is still a "report" upon the "mystery of things."
But if this is what a book is . then a library is an extraordinary thing. .
The existence of a library is, in itself, an assertion. . It asserts that . all these different and dissimilar reports, these bits and pieces of experience, manuscripts in bottles, messages from long before, from deep within, from miles beyond, belonged together and might, if understood together, spell out the meaning which the mystery implies. .

The library, almost alone of the great monuments of civilization, stands taller now than it ever did before. The city . decays. The nation loses its grandeur . The university is not always certain what it is. But the library remains: a silent and enduring affirmation that the great Reports still speak, and not alone but somehow all together .
Two collections of MacLeish's papers are held at the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. These are the Archibald MacLeish Collection and the Archibald MacLeish Collection Addition. Additionally, more than 13,500 items from his papers and his personal library are held in the Archibald MacLeish Collection at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Mass.


Personal life
In 1916, he married Ada Hitchcock, a musician.
MacLeish had three children: Kenneth, Mary Hillard, and William, the author of a memoir of his father, Uphill with Archie (2001).

List of ambulance drivers during World War I


References
Grover Cleveland Smith (1971). Archibald MacLeish. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-0618-4.

Works written by or about Archibald MacLeish at Wikisource
Works by or about Archibald MacLeish in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
Archibald MacLeish's Grave
Benjamin DeMott (Summer 1974). "Archibald MacLeish, The Art of Poetry No. 18". The Paris Review. Summer 1974 (58).
The Fall of the City, Columbia Workshop, CBS radio, 1937
"Archibald MacLeish", Academy of American Poets
James Dickey (2004). "Archibald MacLeish". In Donald J. Greiner (ed.). Classes on modern poets and the art of poetry. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-528-9.
https://web.archive.org/web/20091007121253/http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/jb/progress/macleish_1
Archibald MacLeish papers at Mount Holyoke College
Archibald MacLeish Collection. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Archibald MacLeish Collection Addition. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Geographical origins

The map below shows the places where the ancestors of the famous person lived.


ARCHIBALD MACLEISH IS DEAD POET AND PLAYWRIGHT WAS 89

Archibald MacLeish, distinguished poet, playwright, statesman and man of letters, died last night at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which he entered March 20 for treatment of an undisclosed illness. He was 89 years old and had lived in Conway, Mass.

Few American writers achieved the occupational diversity that Mr. MacLeish did. He was a soldier, lawyer, magazine editor, Librarian of Congress, director of the Office of Facts and Figures, Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs a founder of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Harvard professor, television dramatist and gentleman farmer. Above all, though, he was a poet, who drew his themes from the large social and political issues of the day as well as from the more private emotions of daily life. It was an achievement recognized by three Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His latest book, a collection of letters edited by R.H. Winnick, will be published this summer by Houghton Mifflin.

When Mr. MacLeish was moved, he was passionate and engaged, and he gave his verse a whiplike quality designed to flick the conscience of his readers. In 'ɿrescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City,'' ''Public Speech'' and 'ɺmerica Was Promises,'' all written in the 1930's, he excoriated laissez-faire economics and declaimed the cause of the common man. In 'ɺmerica Was Promises'' he wrote: The Aristocracy of Wealth and Talents Turned its talents into wealth and lost them. Turned enlightened selfishness to wealth. Turned self-interest into bank books: balanced them. Bred out: bred to fools

In contrast, according to Mr. MacLeish in the same poem: The people had promises: theyɽ keep them. They waited their time in the world: they had wise sayings. They counted out their time by day to day. They counted it out day after day into history.

In the 1930's Mr. MacLeish not only championed the commonality but he also seemed to want to write for them. His ''Panic a Play in Verse,'' which dealt with the bank crisis and had some harsh words for financiers, was staged before a group of workers and the unemployed. They responded so enthusiastically that he said, ''Now I have found my audience.'' Writer Involvement Urged

At the same time Mr. MacLeish prodded his fellow writers to detach themselves from the ivory tower and become involved in the issues of the day. His urgings grew more pointed as Nazi Germany threatened the world with war, and he offended some intellectuals by accusing them of preaching pacifism to 'ɺ generation which would be obliged to face the threat of Fascism in its adult years.''

Although Mr. MacLeish's social consciousness was no less keen in the 50's and 60's, many of his poems in this period seemed to have more personal than political content, to be metaphysical and questing. In 'ɺutobiography,'' for example, published in 1968, he wrote: What do I know of the mystery of the universe? Only the mystery - that there was a mystery: Something opposite beneath the moon to this. But I who saw it - who was I? And who am I who say this to you? All I know now of that world, that time, is false. The poet also turned to vexatious philosophical questions that carried religious implications. These were explicated in ''J.B.,'' a verse drama based on the Book of Job, which won for its author his third Pulitzer Prize. His first two were for poetry. McCarthyism and War

In his application of moral philosophy, in both poetry and prose, Mr. MacLeish sought to avoid the abstract, and in so doing he was often a plain-speaking controversialist. Out of concern for the moral well-being of America he exhorted the nation against the McCarthyism of the 1950's, against military involvement in Southeast Asia, against the anti-Communist concepts of the cold war and against the Americanization of the world. He believed that these policies represented a false realism and that they were not in tune with the democratic and visionary idealism of most Americans.

Mr. MacLeish was a reclusive writer. For him the mechanics of creation involved hours of penciling in a crabbed hand in the solitude of his study on a farm in western Massachusetts.

What he was striving to do, he explained once, was ''to stop the flowing away of the world long enough so that you can grasp it for a moment.'' Commonly Known as Archie

Outside his study Mr. MacLeish was the most gregarious of men, informal and talkative. He was 'ɺrchie'' even to casual acquaintances. In the latter part of his life he lived much of the year as a gentleman farmer in Conway, a somnolently pastoral town where he had purchased a home in 1920.

He often dressed in cheap blue cotton trousers, a blue workshirt open at the throat, white socks and scuffed brown loafers. His dress in Antigua, where he spent the winters, was equally without pretension. Yet he carried about him a slightly aristocratic air, the result perhaps of moving in his youth among the socially privileged.

Born in Glencoe, Ill., on May 7, 1892, he was the son of Andrew and Martha Hillard MacLeish. Andrew, once described by his son as 'ɺ cold, tall, rigorous man of beautiful speech,'' was a Glaswegian who settled in Chicago and became one of its leading department-store magnates.

After attending grammar school in Glencoe, Archibald was sent east to the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., and from there he entered Yale and took his bachelor of arts degree in 1915. He was on the swimming and football teams, edited a literary magazine and studied hard enough to win a Phi Beta Kappa key. Poetry and Breadwinning

He was already writing verse and had decided that he wanted to be a poet, but he also realized that poetry was unlikely to support him and Ada Hitchcock, his childhood sweetheart, whom he married in 1916.

And, although he said he could never believe in the law, he entered the Harvard Law School and took his degree in 1919 at the head of his class. His student days were interrupted by World War I, in which he served in the field artillery, first as a private, then as a captain.

Meawhile, in 1917, ''Tower of Ivory,'' a collection of poems Mr. MacLeish had written as an undergraduate, was published by the Yale University Press. These were mostly consciously literary lyrics, detached and somewhat romantic in tone. In his final appraisal for his collected works, only a few of them survived.

After the war (''My own experience of it was neither heroic nor particularly hard, but it destroyed my brother, many of my friends, two years of my life'') Mr. MacLeish practiced law from 1920 to 1923 in the Boston office of Charles F. Choate Jr. In a later poem he summed up his feelings: Adjudicated quarrels of mankind, Brown row on row! - how well the lawyers bind Their records of dead sin.

His single wish in these years was ''to write the poems I wanted to write, and not the poems I was writing.'' So with his wife and two children he departed for Europe in the winter of 1923, ''the beginning of my more or less adult life.'' And for the next five years he lived in Paris, on the Mediterranean, in Normandy and, briefly, in Persia. Joining 'Lost Generation'

Join Times theater reporter Michael Paulson in conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, catch a performance from Shakespeare in the Park and more as we explore signs of hope in a changed city. For a year, the “Offstage” series has followed theater through a shutdown. Now we’re looking at its rebound.

Mr. MacLeish quickly became a part of the literary coterie of American expatriates that revolved around Gertrude Stein and that included T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

As one of ''the lost generation,'' he sat in cafes, read the French poets, learned metrics and fashioned a rhythm and cadence of his own. He was quite candid about what these years meant to his development as a poet by saying once:

'ɺ real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard - by stealing what he has taste for and can carry off.''

The major fruit of Mr. MacLeish's expatriate years was ''The Hamlet of A. MacLeish,'' published in 1928 to considerable acclaim. The long poem was compared by a number of critics to Eliot's ''The Waste Land.'' Off to Mexico

When Mr. MacLeish returned to the United States in 1928, it was only for a brief period. He set off after a few months for Mexico, where, by mule pack, he retraced the route of Cortes from San Juan de Ulua to Tenochtitlan. The result was 'ɼonquistador,'' a long poem in terza rima (Dante's rhyme scheme for 'ɽivine Comedy'') that narrated the Conquest of Mexico through the eyes of a Spanish soldier.

Published in 1932, the poem won Mr. MacLeish a wide audience and his first Pulitzer Prize. It was an epic in the heroic mold and it marked the poet's emergence into areas of social concern. This was also an area that the poet was himself occupying as a writer (and later an editor) of Henry Luce's Fortune magazine, which he joined in late 1929.

His almost nine years with Fortune coincided with the Depression, and he was able to see firsthand the enormous dislocations associated with it. His articles for Fortune, then a sort of gadfly to the business world, dealt, among other topics, with Albert Henry Wiggins, the banker such advertising symbols as the Old Dutch Cleanser Girl and the Uneeda Biscuit Boy skyscrapers Samuel Insull, the utilities tycoon housing charity inflation the New Deal President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Japan. His work obliged him to observe intimately life in America, and this circumstance was largely responsible for his humanistic and liberal views. Writing for Other Magazines

At the same time that he was writing for Fortune, Mr. MacLeish was thinking out his attitudes toward the machine and the nature of poetry in a democratic society through articles in such magazines as The Saturday Review of Literature, The Nation and The New Republic. He was also articulating his concepts in poetry in such works as 'ɿrescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City,'' '�'' and ''Public Speech.''

As a poet-activist in the mid-30's, Mr. MacLeish served as chairman of the League of American Writers, a liberal anti-Fascist organization. And in 1938 he became, for a year, curator of the Nieman Collection of Contemporary Journalism at Harvard and adviser to the Nieman Fellows (working journalists on leave) there.

Then, in 1939, President Roosevelt appointed him Librarian of Congress, a post to which he was confirmed by the Senate after some debate over his liberal political stances and his lack of professional library experience. Changes Over Five Years

In his five years as head of the Library of Congress Mr. MacLeish proved industrious and able. Among other things, he reorganized the library, began a permanent film collection and instituted a Slavic collection.

Concurrently, from 1941 to 1944, when the United States was fighting in World War II, he served first as director of the Office of Facts and Figures and then as assistant director of the Office of War Information. And during most of this period he was a functioning poet.

In 1939 he published 'ɺmerica Was Promises,'' perhaps his strongest and most explicit social statement. In it he wrote: Tom Paine Knew. Tom Paine knew the People. The promises were spoken to the People. History was voyages toward the People. Americas were landfalls of the People. Stars and expectations were the signals of the People. His other major poem in this period was 'ɼolloquy for the States,'' an evocation of national unity, which was published in 1943. However, in the war years, Mr. MacLeish was primarily a public figure who sought to rally his fellow writers against Fascism and for the war. In doing so, he got into several acerbic disputes, his antagonists being writers he accused of fostering pacifism. He was charged with implying a need for censorship. Getting Unesco Started

In 1944-45 Mr. MacLeish was Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, a post in which he helped to plan Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He was chairman of the American delegation to its first conference in 1946 and an executive member of its general council.

Out of Mr. MacLeish's Government experience came '➬t-five,'' published in 1948. Written as a play in three scenes, the poem mirrored its author's disillusionment with American politics in action and his feeling that the American dream was being turned into a nightmare. He spared neither ''the Boyos'' of industry (the 'ɻoyos'' was his pejorative coinage), nor the politicians, nor those on the left who advocated revolution.

In 1949 Mr. MacLeish began one of the most pleasant periods of his life when he was appointed Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. While in that prestigious post for 13 years he mellowed noticeably, perhaps from contact with undergraduates and perhaps also from the opportunity that academic life gave him to reflect on himself. In Harvard Yard and among students less than half his age, he was greeted as Archie, and in this ambience his aptitude for teaching blossomed.

Mr. MacLeish's second Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1953 for 'ɼollected Poems, 1917-1952.'' Richard Eberhart, the poet and critic, writing in The New York Times, hailed the volume as 'ɺ major achievement in American letters.'' ''There is,'' he added, ''something basically lithe, wiry, direct and clear-seeing about his talent.''

The book also won its author two other prizes - the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Award. Criticism of Cold War

Some of the new poems in the volume, those written after the war, were abstractions others dealt directly with what the poet considered the sickness of the anti-Communist cold war. ''The Black Day,'' for example, contained these lines: God help that country where informers thrive! Where slander flourishes and lies contrive To kill with whispers! Where men lie to live! In the heyday of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Mr. MacLeish was as outspoken in prose as he was in poetry against the hunt for alleged Communists in Government and the fears that it, in his view, engendered.

Mr. MacLeish's stand against persecution was broad enough to include a defense of Ezra Pound, who had been tried for wartime treason and then committed to a mental institution in Washington. Mr. MacLeish went to Mr. Pound's defense as a poet, although not as politician, and urged his release, which was ultimately accomplished.

In both his attack on McCarthyism (he described it as ''like the snail's corrosive track on a clean leaf'') and his support of Mr. Pound, Mr. MacLeish stirred controversy. But this he relished, for he struck back without flinching in articles and speeches in which he called for an understanding of ''the meaning of the principle of freedom.'' Controversy Over 'J.B.'

He was the center of more controversy, though less personal, for his play ''J.B.,'' the drama of a 20th-century Job. The play was applauded by Brooks Atkinson of The Times as 'ɺn epic of mankind'' and he said that its author ''has imposed his own sense of order on the chaos of the world.'' John Ciardi, the poet, was equally affirmative. He saw the play as ''great poetry, great drama and great stagecraft.''

Other critics were more reserved, among them Kenneth Tynan, who said the play was flawed by some ''pompously hollow lines'' and an unclear conclusion. ''I was bored to exasperation by the lack of any recognizable human response to calamity,'' he said.

The play divided many theatergoers, too, and members of the clergy who questioned Mr. MacLeish's assessment of theological matters. In addition to ''J.B.'' Mr. MacLeish wrote a verse play for radio, ''The Trojan Horse,'' and several short verse plays for television. He was, moreover, the librettist for ''Union Pacific,'' a verse ballet. Worked on Roosevelt Film

After his retirement from Harvard in 1962, Mr. MacLeish worked on the film ''The Eleanor Roosevelt Story,'' which won an Academy Award in 1966. He produced a verse play, ''Herakles,'' and a pageant-play for his hometown, 'ɺn Evening's Journey to Conway, Massachusetts.'' '' 'The Wild Old Wicked Man' and Other Poems'' was published in 1968.

Despite one poem in the collection about black humor, Mr. MacLeish seemed saddened by old age, writing: Too old for love and still to love! Yeats' predicament and mine - all men's the aging Adam who must strut and shove and caper his obscene pretense .

Although he turned more and more to prose in his later years, Mr. MacLeish was certain of a bright future for poetry. Chatting with a reporter in the summer of 1968, he said with careful conviction:

'⟺r from being an extinguished form of decorative writing that is going out of use, poetry is going to become an increasingly vital part of contemporary life. I think you have to deal with the situation we're faced with by seizing on the glimpses and particles of life, seizing on them and holding them and trying to make a pattern of them.''


Archibald MacLeish

A poet, playwright, lawyer, and statesman, Archibald MacLeish&rsquos roots were firmly planted in both the new and the old worlds. His father, the son of a poor shopkeeper in Glasgow, Scotland, was born in 1837&mdashthe year of Victoria&rsquos coronation as Queen of England&mdashand ran away first to London and then, at the age of 18, to Chicago, Illinois. His mother was a Hillard, a family that, as Dialogues of Archibald MacLeish and Mark Van Doren reveals, MacLeish was fond of tracing back through its New England generations to Elder Brewster, the minister aboard the Mayflower. MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois, attended Hotchkiss School from 1907 to 1911, and from 1911 to 1915 studied at Yale University, where he edited and wrote for the Yale Literary Magazine, contributed to the Yale Review, and composed Songs for a Summer&rsquos Day, a sonnet sequence that was chosen as the University&rsquos Prize Poem in 1915. MacLeish married Ada Hitchcock in 1916. Two years later he saw service in France and published his first collection of poems, Tower of Ivory (1917).

MacLeish viewed World War I as the ending of an old world and the beginning of a new one that was sensed rather than understood. His early poetry was his attempt to understand this new world MacLeish would later say that his education regarding this world began not in his undergraduate years at Yale, but in years after the war at Harvard Law School. As he declared in Riders on the Earth: Essays and Recollections (1978), Harvard sparked in him a sense of the human tradition, &ldquothe vision of mental time, of the interminable journey of the human mind, the great tradition of the intellectual past which knows the bearings of the future.&rdquo

MacLeish&rsquos personal dilemma, and the constant theme of his early writings, was the reconciliation of idealism with reality. This theme had run through his undergraduate short stories and through his first long poem, &ldquoOur Lady of Troy,&rdquo which was published in Tower of Ivory. In his own life, he resolved this dilemma by turning from his promising career as a lawyer to pursue the vocation for which the law courts had left him little time&mdashthat of poet. In the summer of 1923, MacLeish announced his commitment to poetry by moving from Boston with his wife and two children, into a fourth-floor flat on the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris, France.

The first major period of MacLeish&rsquos poetic career&mdashsome would say the only major one&mdashthus began in the early 1920s, when he gave up the law and moved abroad, and closed in the later 1930s, when he took on a succession of &ldquopublic&rdquo obligations. During these years, MacLeish&rsquos work was made up of nine longer poems or sequences of poems, accompanied by lyric meditations and statements in various forms on diverse but characteristic themes: doubt, loss, alienation, art, aging, the quest. The shorter poems, some of them very successful, have by anthologizing and other emphases become better known than the longer ones. MacLeish&rsquos collection, New and Collected Poems, 1917&ndash1984, however, emphasizes the interrelation of his longer and shorter poems, as did his first major collection, Poems, 1924&ndash1933.

The &ldquoother poems&rdquo of 1924&rsquos The Happy Marriage, and Other Poems, still late Victorian prentice-work, are often reminiscent of Edwin Arlington Robinson &mdashwhom MacLeish admired&mdashand are justly forgotten. But the title poem, with its more complex, more contemporary subject, alternates skilled imitation of major predecessors with accents of personal authority. It could even be argued that this mixed transitional style fits, if only by chance, the protagonist&rsquos own confusion between trite attitudes and existential authenticity. By Part Four of The Happy Marriage, the protagonist&rsquos recognition of marital reality has found its poetic voice, what Grover Smith called in Archibald MacLeish &ldquoconscious symbolism witty, almost metaphysical strategies of argument compressed and intense implications.&rdquo

The Pot of Earth tells the very different story of a very different figure, a young woman deeply affected psychologically or culturally by archetypal myths of woman&rsquos fertility and its transformative powers as seen through &ldquothe figure of the dying god whose imaginative presence is at the core of cultural vitality,&rdquo according to John B. Vickery in The Literary Impact of the Golden Bough. Obsessed by symbolic mythical images&mdashexcessively so in the unrevised version&mdashshe dies in childbirth, sought by or seeking a death dictated by myth, the unconscious, or simple biology. To tell her moving story, MacLeish interweaves narrative and lyric forms, regular and irregular verse of great eloquence that reinforces the pathos, irony, and mystery of her fate.

Besides marking the first publication of Einstein, 1926&rsquos Streets in the Moon has some of MacLeish&rsquos best and best-known shorter poems. In &ldquoMemorial Rain&rdquo (directly) and in &ldquoThe Silent Slain&rdquo (indirectly) MacLeish came to what terms he could with concerns identified in Paul Fussell&rsquos The Great War and Modern Memory. &ldquoThe Farm&rdquo illustrates the search for New England roots that ran through MacLeish&rsquos career and his writings in prose and verse. Other poems reflect the varying expatriate moods that came together after a few years in &ldquoAmerican Letter.&rdquo And the well-known, too often misunderstood &ldquo Ars Poetica &rdquo conveys in its images, imitative form, and self-contradictions MacLeish&rsquos permanent conviction that a poem should both mean and be.

In Einstein, published separately in 1929, MacLeish presented a day&rsquos meditation that recapitulates the major stages in Einstein&rsquos physical and metaphysical struggle to contain and comprehend the physical universe, from classical empiricism through romantic empathy to modern, introspective, analytic physics. In flexible, elaborate, evocative blank verse, with an epigrammatic literal/allegorical prose gloss, and in a rich texture of spatial imagery the poem &ldquonarrates&rdquo Einstein&rsquos quest for knowledge. To Frederick J. Hoffman in The Twenties, this quest is shown as &ldquopathetic and futile,&rdquo but to Lauriat Lane Jr., in an Ariel essay, it is &ldquopotentially tragic&rdquo and an example of &ldquomodern, existential Man Thinking.&rdquo

Citing The Hamlet of A. MacLeish, Leslie Fiedler in Unfinished Business identified four appeals of the story of Hamlet to the American imagination: 1) &ldquoanguish and melancholy,&rdquo 2) &ldquothe notion of suicide,&rdquo 3) &ldquothe inhibitory nature of conscience,&rdquo and 4) &ldquoan oddly apt parable of our relationship to Europe.&rdquo This poem, MacLeish&rsquos most complex and elaborate, addresses all four subjects. Combining and contrasting what Fiedler elsewhere called signature and archetype, autobiography and myth, the work, which contains fourteen sections and a Shakespearean gloss, juxtaposes dialectically Hamlet, MacLeish&rsquos personal and poetic autobiographical uncertainties, and two fulfilled quests&mdasha medieval Grail romance and tribal migrations out of the Anabase of Saint-John Perse, whose fulfillment only intensifies the doubts and despairs of Hamlet/MacLeish. As he recorded in A Reviewer&rsquos ABC, Conrad Aiken , who had found Einstein &ldquoa long poem which any living poet might envy, as rich in thought as it is in color and movement,&rdquo labeled The Hamlet of A. MacLeish &ldquoa kind of brilliant pastiche,&rdquo although &ldquofull of beautiful things.&rdquo Aiken went on, however, to pose the unanswered question of &ldquowhether [MacLeish&rsquos] &lsquoechoes&rsquo might not, by a future generation, be actually preferred to the things they echo.&rdquo Often, in MacLeish&rsquos work, such &ldquoechoes&rdquo are a form of brilliant, purposeful parody, an additional stylistic power finally recognizable 50 postmodern years later for what it is.

As its title implies, MacLeish published New Found Land after he had returned to America for good. Less varied and experimental in form than the short poems of Streets in the Moon (1926), the poems in the slender New Found Land (1930) share the moods and concerns of The Hamlet of A. MacLeish. Along with &ldquoAmerican Letter,&rdquo the book has one of MacLeish&rsquos most famous &ldquointernational&rdquo poems, &ldquo You, Andrew Marvell ,&rdquo and one of his greatest regional ones, &ldquo Immortal Autumn .&rdquo For Signi Falk in Archibald MacLeish, New Found Land reveals &ldquoa poet torn between the old world and the new.&rdquo

Conquistador (1932), too, combines the old world and the new, but by the year of the book&rsquos publication, the choice had become clear if often tragic in its outcome. In the conquerors of Central American native civilization MacLeish found a romantic, exotic history that could also serve as a myth, a metaphor, for closer, more familiar history and concerns. In Montezuma, Cortez, and Diaz, the poem offers three figures&mdashgod, hero, and man&mdashwho share the reader&rsquos attention and good will and who are examined in an ironic context of human blood and natural beauty, greed for gold and sun-worship, political intrigue and heroic quest. Seeing the poem wholly through its narrator, Diaz, Allen Tate praised the poem for its &ldquofinely sustained tone,&rdquo its &ldquoclarity of sensuous reminiscence,&rdquo and its &ldquotechnical perfection,&rdquo but found in its sentimentality &ldquoone of the examples of our modern sensibility at its best it has the defect of its qualities,&rdquo as Tate recorded in Essays of Four Decades.

In their many interrelations, The Pot of Earth, Einstein, The Hamlet of A. MacLeish, and Conquistador form a tetralogy of four major high modernist poems. With &ldquoElpenor&rdquo&mdashoriginally &ldquo1933&rdquo&mdashwhich appeared in Poems, 1924&ndash1933 and which has subsequently been republished under each title, MacLeish moved toward the &ldquopublic speech&rdquo of the post-Depression, Rooseveltian 1930s. Both a vivid retelling and sequel to Homer and Dante, this compressed little epic populates a modern Hell in the manner of Ezra Pound &rsquos poetry and points &ldquothe way on,&rdquo in MacLeish&rsquos characteristic symbolic topographical imagery, where its readers can &ldquobegin it again: start over.&rdquo

Among the other new poems in Poems, 1924&ndash1933, &ldquoFrescoes for Mr. Rockefeller&rsquos City&rdquo (also published separately in 1933) dealt with a public controversy and caused additional public excitement. Although praised by Cleanth Brooks in Modern Poetry and the Tradition, it has &ldquonot only ideological but functional problems,&rdquo as Grover Smith declared and some of its sections, like several of MacLeish&rsquos other public poems of the 1930s, reveal &ldquothe absence of arresting images and the slackness of the rhythm&rdquo that troubled David Luytens in The Creative Encounter. However, as recorded in Literary Opinion in America, Morton D. Zabel also found in these public poems &ldquoa signal of profitable intentions&rdquo and discovered &ldquoa very moving beauty&rdquo in the very unpublic set of lyrics, &ldquoThe Woman on the Stair,&rdquo in Public Speech.

The last of MacLeish&rsquos longer poems of the 1930s was America Was Promises. In an essay collected in A Poet&rsquos Alphabet, Louise Bogan attacked it as &ldquoMacLeish&rsquos saddest and most conglomerate attempt at &lsquopublic speech&rsquos&rsquo to date &hellip political poetry, even a kind of official poetry,&rdquo but Grover Smith later reassessed it as &ldquothe most eloquent of the &lsquopublic&rsquo poems &hellip much better as a poem than as a message: for once, MacLeish&rsquos adaptation of St.-J. Perse&rsquos geographic evocations seems precisely right.&rdquo America Was Promises combines such &ldquogeographic evocations&rdquo with a quasi-allegorical, populist history of Jefferson and Man, Adams and the Aristocracy, Paine and the People. For The Human Season: Selected Poems, 1926&ndash1972 MacLeish cut from America Was Promises almost all its &ldquoofficial&rdquo poetry and possibly made it a much better poem.

Looking back over these first two decades of MacLeish&rsquos poetry, Karl Shapiro declared in Essay on Rime &ldquoa special speech is born / Out of this searching, something absolute, &hellip a linguistic dream &hellip an influential dialect.&rdquo In this poetry, said Hyatt H. Waggoner in The Heel of Elohim, &ldquoThe will to believe is certainly present, but so also are the vacant lights, the bright void, the listening, idiot silence&rdquo yet in North American Review, Mason Wade saw in the same poetry a &ldquomoving &hellip intellectual anabasis,&rdquo and in Sewanee Review Reed Whittemore praised some of it as &ldquoDemocratic Pastoral.&rdquo

In 1924 The Happy Marriage had explored the idea that out of the union of the ideal and the real must emerge a more mature sense of individual identity. This same theme carried through MacLeish&rsquos 1926 poetic drama, Nobodaddy, a verse play that uses the Adam and Eve story as &ldquothe dramatic situation which the condition of self-consciousness in an indifferent universe seems to me to present.&rdquo MacLeish would affirm, a few years later, that the poet&rsquos role was &ldquothe restoration of man to his position of dignity and responsibility at the centre of his world.&rdquo Nobodaddy provided its author with the opportunity to return to humankind&rsquos origins, to explore the human condition in terms of its myths and mysteries. To MacLeish, the work was a simple and forthright play of the beginnings of human consciousness.

In the resolution of his own sense of self-consciousness, symbolized by his move to Paris in 1923, MacLeish showed a certain kinship with his character Cain. Both had found the strength necessary to sever&mdashin Cain&rsquos words&mdashthe thick vein &ldquothat knots me to the body of the earth,&rdquo and to grab control of the centers of their own worlds. Nobodaddy is the story of humankind attempting to make sense of the chaos of its life. It can also be read as the apologia for its author. And its theme of a world in which humankind is bewildered and bored, a world in which its knowledge is not matched by its understanding, is one that would run through much of MacLeish&rsquos writing during the 1920s.

When MacLeish returned from Europe in 1928 and settled in Conway, Massachusetts, he had obviously &ldquore-viewed&rdquo America. The country&rsquos idealism, reflected especially in the philosophies of its founders, supplied him with a sense of identity and place that existential angst had failed to engender. The questor had reached this personal goal only to find the obvious truth that each goal is a new beginning and that his search had been only his initiation into what would be a lengthy continuing journey. While the writer was now set to move in new directions, George Dangerfield asserted in a 1931 Books essay that &ldquoif [MacLeish] were never to write another word, he would still be a poet of definite importance.&rdquo

MacLeish&rsquos first produced stage play, Panic: A Play in Verse (1935), is a variation on the Cain story set against the background of the American Depression and a generation of capitalists he felt were in the process of leaving capitalism &ldquointellectually defenseless and unarmed.&rdquo The conflict of the play is between the will of a man (McGafferty, played in the original production by Orson Welles) and a fatalistic concept of human life (dialectical materialism). McGafferty surrenders to the delphic oracle of Marxist determinism and thus falls victim to it. As the Blind Man in the play observes, the financier fails because (unlike Cain) he will not trust his own freedom.

The play was MacLeish&rsquos attempt to comprehend the real sense of panic in a country where individualism had turned into individual greed and freedom had been replaced by a failing &ldquofree enterprise.&rdquo US communists found the play particularly frustrating, as MacLeish (who was on the editorial board of Fortune) refused to view what they took to be the imminence and inevitability of the Marxist revolution as anything more than a delphic prophecy that the crowd chorus was free to reject. Various other reviews of the production centered on the poet&rsquos attempt to create a verse line for the modern stage. Malcolm Cowley declared in a 1935 New Republic assessment that the play brought &ldquoa new intelligence to the theatre and [embodied] the results of the experiments made by modern poets.&rdquo

In the late 1930s, speaking with the &ldquopublic voice&rdquo that characterized his writings from the beginning of the decade, MacLeish wrote two verse plays for radio: The Fall of the City, broadcast in April, 1937, and Air Raid, broadcast in October, 1938. The first of these was the poet&rsquos exploration of his sense of a developing worldwide change in the commitment of human consciousness to human freedom. It was a change that MacLeish&rsquos own hero and friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, had addressed at his first inauguration: &ldquoWe have nothing to fear but fear itself.&rdquo Air Raid grew out of the German bombing of Guernica and Pablo Picasso&rsquos response to that slaughter through his painting, &ldquoGuernica.&rdquo Air Raid is a play for voices dealing with the changes in the nature of war and with the alterations in the human spirit that had permitted such changes. MacLeish intended neither script to be primarily a political statement he looked upon both as poems, as creations that explored what he perceived to be these changes rather than as attempts to persuade. Still, the closeness of MacLeish&rsquos sympathies to Roosevelt&rsquos has led Luytens to call MacLeish &ldquothe poet laureate of the New Deal.&rdquo

The Trojan Horse, a verse drama first presented on the BBC in 1952, is in many ways a return to earlier decades and earlier characters. Helen of Troy had been earlier seen in a closet drama titled Our Lady of Troy and collected in MacLeish&rsquos Tower of Ivory. She had later appeared in The Happy Marriage as the symbol of Beauty. The Blind Man, who earlier laid the future before McGafferty in Panic, has the same function here. Paul Brooks, in a note accompanying the first edition of The Trojan Horse, tied the play to the McCarthy era, but the script was intended more generally to explore in myth the sense of deception the poet had perceived in his own century. The poetic sense of awareness itself is presented in a 1953 play, This Music Crept by Me upon the Waters, where Elizabeth, as did Cain before her, experiences the discovery of her own place in the cosmos.

The public voice that found its way into MacLeish&rsquos poetry in the 1930s was a reflection of the sense of public responsibility he had come to accept on his return from Paris. Harriet Monroe in a 1931 issue of Poetry, wrote that she has &ldquomuch faith in the ability of this poet to interpret his age: he has the thinking mind, the creative imagination, the artistic equipment of beautiful words and rhythms.&rdquo This voice was heard most directly in the many articles and speeches MacLeish wrote on the role of the poet and, through the political chaos of the western world in the 1930s and 1940s, on the direction he felt America should be pursuing. Much of this material has been collected in A Time to Speak (1941), A Time to Act (1943), and A Continuing Journey (1968). Also, as Falk points out, MacLeish committed himself to such public offices as Librarian of Congress from 1939 to 1944, assistant director of the Office of War Information in 1942, Assistant Secretary of State from 1944 to 1945, and chair of the US delegation to the founding conference of UNESCO in 1945.

MacLeish said several times that in the long poem &ldquoActfive,&rdquo published in Actfive and Other Poems in 1948, he tried to come to terms with his and the world&rsquos experiences in the immediately preceding years: the challenge and suffering of World War II, the opportunities and failures of the peace, the loss of so many faiths. Conquistador had offered an implicit choice between god, hero, and man &ldquoActfive,&rdquo in its three scenes, redefines and makes that choice. With the God gone, the King dethroned, and Man murdered&mdashall in elegiac, characteristically despairing lines&mdashthe heroes of the age are then thrust forward in their emptiness through sardonically abrupt rhythms. They give way, in turn, to &ldquothe shapes of flesh and bone,&rdquo in whose moving, subtly musical, indirect voices MacLeish&rsquos long involvement with Matthew Arnold is fulfilled. The result is a poetic affirmation, &ldquohumanist and existentialist,&rdquo according to Luytens, for an even darker, more confused, post-Arnoldian time.

&ldquoActfive&rdquo was MacLeish&rsquos last poem to interweave lyric statement and emblematically condensed narrative within an extended structure of feeling and idea. In the period from 1944 to 1954, called by Grover Smith &ldquohis second renaissance,&rdquo he published over 80 short poems, half of them, apparently, written in two very creative years after he began teaching poetry at Harvard, where he was Boylsten Professor from 1949 to 1962. In style these poems, having many forms and treating a great variety of subjects, might be called neo-modernist, embodying a riper, wiser Imagism, for example. But their combination of immediate, personal concern with impersonal form, image, and language is not easily labeled. Poets Hayden Carruth in Effluences from the Sacred Cave, Richard Eberhart in Virginia Quarterly Review, John Ciardi in Atlantic, and Kimon Friar in New Republic have all praised these poems.

The best of these short works succeed, not surprisingly, in the terms of MacLeish&rsquos Poetry and Experience, which defines the &ldquomeans&rdquo by which and the &ldquoshapes&rdquo in which poetry finds its &ldquoend&rdquo meaning. In brief, MacLeish contended, poetry combines sounds, signs, images, and metaphor to give meaning to the private world ( Emily Dickinson ), the public world ( William Butler Yeats ), the anti-world ( Arthur Rimbaud ), and the arable world ( John Keats ).

Among the lyrics of the private world, which record recognizable and therefore meaningful experience spoken in a living, personal voice, are such fine love poems as &ldquoEver Since,&rdquo &ldquoCalypso&rsquos Island,&rdquo &ldquoWhat Any Lover Learns,&rdquo and such testaments of poetic and humanist faith as &ldquoA Man&rsquos Work,&rdquo &ldquoThe Two Priests,&rdquo &ldquoThe Infinite Reason,&rdquo and &ldquoReasons for Music,&rdquo some of which also look outward to the public world. MacLeish&rsquos poetic statements of and for the world of public affairs are designed both &ldquoto lash out&rdquo and to try to &ldquomake positive sense of the public world,&rdquo as he asserted in Poetry and Experience. &ldquoBrave New World,&rdquo for example, &ldquolashes out&rdquo in tight, cutting quatrains at the loss of Jefferson&rsquos vision of human freedom. &ldquoThe Danger in the Air&rdquo and &ldquo The Sheep in the Ruins &ldquo move meditatively toward making some sense against the danger, amid the ruins. Very few of these short poems look toward Rimbaud&rsquos anti-world. For MacLeish, as for Rimbaud, the sea was the great image of the Unknown: over the sea in &ldquoVoyage West,&rdquo beneath it in &ldquoThe Reef Fisher.&rdquo MacLeish declared in Poetry and Experience that &ldquoRimbaud&rsquos anti-world was not a rejection of the possibility of the world&rdquo nor were MacLeish&rsquos own few visions of that anti-world. Poems of the arable world try to make familiar yet tragic &ldquotruth of the passing-away of the world.&rdquo In his Dialogues with Mark Van Doren, MacLeish testified how much the arable world of Uphill Farm in Massachusetts meant to him, as did &ldquoThe Two Trees,&rdquo &ldquoThe Snow Fall,&rdquo and &ldquoThe Old Men in the Leaf Smoke.&rdquo From Caribbean Antigua, on the other hand, probably came &ldquoThe Old Man to the Lizard&rdquo and &ldquoVicissitudes of the Creator.&rdquo And the truth of the passing-away of the world took another, more direct, even more moving form in &ldquoFor the Anniversary of My Mother&rsquos Death&rdquo and &ldquoMy Naked Aunt.&rdquo

Several volumes of MacLeish&rsquos prose&mdashPoetry and Experience (1960), a section of A Continuing Journey (1968), and Poetry and Opinion: The Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound (1950), on the controversy surrounding Ezra Pound&rsquos support for Mussolini during World War II&mdashgrew out of his teaching. His two earliest collections of literary and political statements were A Time to Speak and A Time to Act&mdash&ldquoa couple of books of speeches,&rdquo as he labeled them in Letters of Archibald MacLeish, 1907 to 1982. Some of these prose pieces, most notoriously &ldquoThe Irresponsibles,&rdquo strayed dangerously close to propaganda&mdashadmittedly in a time of great public danger&mdashand were attacked for this failing by critics like Edmund Wilson in Classics and Commercials and Morton D. Zabel in Partisan Review. In still another vein, Champion of a Cause: Essays and Addresses on Librarianship reprinted MacLeish&rsquos deliberately nonprofessional, nontechnical &ldquoessays and addresses on librarianship.&rdquo

MacLeish&rsquos prose, for the most part, bore public witness to familiar but important ideas and beliefs. The editors of Ten Contemporary Thinkers included four MacLeish essays that represent well the range of his prose: &ldquoThe Writer and Revolution,&rdquo &ldquoHumanism and the Belief in Man,&rdquo &ldquoThe Conquest of America,&rdquo and &ldquoThe Isolation of the American Artist&rdquo his essays and books specifically on poetry and poets eloquently and even more significantly witness to the broadly defined powers of poems to move their readers. And even the most topical of MacLeish&rsquos political essays keep their relevance. In 1949 he first published &ldquoThe Conquest of America&rdquo on the dangers of mindless anti-Communism and failure to reaffirm the American &ldquorevolution of the individual.&rdquo In 1980 the Atlantic felt obliged by events to reprint MacLeish&rsquos warning. To the end of his long life he continued, in prose and in poetry, to praise and to warn &ldquothe Republic.&rdquo

Having left public life and moved to Harvard by the late 1940s, MacLeish refocused his attention from the social and political themes of the preceding two decades toward an earlier poetic interest: the place and value of man in the universe. In his longer postwar poetic works, he followed his own exhortation to invent the metaphor for the age. His series of poems collected as Songs for Eve returned again to the setting of Nobodaddy to emphasize once more the fundamental importance of self-consciousness in an indifferent universe. Despite his various attempts to find in Adam and Eve the metaphor for the age, the poet&rsquos most successful image of the human spirit appeared four years later on the stage of New York&rsquos ANTA Theatre in the character of J.B. J.B.&rsquos structure, in the acting edition of the play, differs substantially from the original version published by Houghton Mifflin in 1958, but the main characters remain basically the same. J.B. comes across both the footlights and the page not as a character in a morality play&mdashfor the play, despite its early scenes, is not a morality play&mdashbut as a flesh-and-blood common man beset by sufferings to which all flesh is heir. And in J.B.&rsquos struggle and success against an inexplicable, brutal, and unjust universe, MacLeish presented what he hoped would be the metaphor for humankind&rsquos next era. Like Job, J.B. is not answered, yet his love for Sarah affirms, in the playwrights phrase, &ldquothe worth of life in spite of life.&rdquo That worth is found in a love that paradoxically answers nothing but &ldquobecomes the ultimate human answer to the ultimate human question.&rdquo

After receiving a Pulitzer Prize, his third, for J.B. (1958), MacLeish returned to man&rsquos quarrels with the gods in Herakles, first produced in 1965 and published in 1967. During the first part of the play, Professor Hoadley is drawn to Greece, the patria of the intellectual life, in search of the spirit of Herakles, the half-man, half-god who dared to struggle with the unanswered questions of the universe. Balancing Hoadley&rsquos search for intellectual perfection is his wife&rsquos conviction that life is a concrete reality including the human imperfection her husband would transcend. In the second half of the play, a frustrated Herakles fails to receive a sign from Apollo and angrily ascends to the temple door threatening to answer his own oracle. But, despite the merits of his deeds, he is unable to perform the god-like act of pronouncing his own destiny. In the end, Hoadley&rsquos wife and Herakles&rsquos Megara refocus the human spirit where J.B. had earlier found it&mdashon the day-to-day occupation of living, not in glorious myth, but in concrete reality.

If J.B. and Herakles raise still-unanswered questions, they also affirm that all questions need not be answered. MacLeish&rsquos last full-length play, Scratch (1971), finds its source in &ldquoThe Devil and Daniel Webster,&rdquo Stephen Vincent Benet&rsquos treatment of the mythical American confrontation between man and the Devil. Alone of the final three plays, it explores questions that, because of their American roots, could move closer to resolution within the text. MacLeish felt there were three reasons that Benet&rsquos story had widened into myth: that the Republic had become full of men and women who had sold their souls &ldquofor its comforts and amenities&rdquo that &ldquobelief in hell was reviving everywhere and that, if only love of life could be turned into contempt for living, hope into despair, the entire planet would dissolve into that cistern of self-pity where [Samuel Beckett&rsquos] Godot never comes&rdquo and that Daniel Webster&rsquos concern for Liberty and Union, or freedom and government, was as contemporary as it had ever been.

During the 1960s and 1970s, MacLeish also wrote three shorter scripts: a highly polemical television play, The Secret of Freedom (1960) an &ldquooutdoor play&rdquo for the bicentennial of Conway titled An Evening&rsquos Journey to Conway, Massachusetts (1967) and The Great American Fourth of July Parade (1975), a verse play for radio. All three works reflect their author&rsquos continual concern for the central values of America&rsquos founders, as does his dramatic monologue, &ldquoNight Watch in the City of Boston.&rdquo

MacLeish would grant a series of interviews between 1976 and 1981 that he considered an accurate reflection of his life as a poet. Published as Archibald MacLeish: Reflections in 1986, these interviews portray a writer who was, in the words of Choice reviewer J. Overmyer, &ldquometiculous about the truth, outspoken, and delightful.&rdquo Full of details about his stay in Paris, his management of the Library of Congress, his law and teaching experiences, and including many reminiscences of family and friends, MacLeish initiated the interviews, which were given to Bernard A. Drabeck and Helen Ellis, teachers from a community college near the aged poet&rsquos Massachusetts home. While noting that MacLeish&rsquos descriptions of his involvement in Washington politics contained &ldquodramatic moments,&rdquo William Pratt commented in World Literature Today that &ldquonothing reverberated in his memory with the passion of Paris in the twenties, the time when he found himself as a poet and the foundation on which the rest of his distinguished public career was built.&rdquo Characterizing Reflections as &ldquoa gifted writer&rsquos purely spoken autobiography,&rdquo New York Times Book Review critic Robert Gorham Davis maintained that &ldquoIn this genial, relaxed book we have a golden view of the candidly retrospective statesman-poet in his old age as he really was, with most pretension and all rhetoric abandoned.&rdquo

Retiring from public life during his last decades, MacLeish became not so much an elder statesman as an elder of various churches: the churches of friendship, of patriotism, of poetry, of love, of death. His talks, interviews, letters, essays, and poems, and his parable-play for radio, The Great American Fourth of July Parade, all voice the recurring, autumnal concerns of &ldquothe human season&rdquo in a quiet, personal, &ldquoelderly&rdquo voice. Almost 90 years old, MacLeish died on April 20, 1982, the day after Patriot&rsquos Day.


The information we provided is prepared by means of a special computer program. Use the criteria sheet to understand greatest poems or improve your poetry analysis essay.

  • Rhyme scheme: aXXXXaXbaXacacddcbeae
  • Stanza lengths (in strings): 21,
  • Closest metre: trochaic pentameter
  • Сlosest rhyme: limerick
  • Сlosest stanza type: sonnet
  • Guessed form: unknown form
  • Metre: 111110001100 1011111100101 111010110100 11100110010 11010010011 1110101010110 010111010001 1011001101 01101110110 111110010010110 1001011000010 111110111010 11110111110 01010011010010 1011101101110 1101011111 11111111010 1111010111 11100101101 011101111010 10011011111
  • Amount of stanzas: 1
  • Average number of symbols per stanza: 1053
  • Average number of words per stanza: 217
  • Amount of lines: 21
  • Average number of symbols per line: 49 (strings are more long than medium ones)
  • Average number of words per line: 10

The punctuation marks are various. Neither mark predominates.

The author used lexical repetitions to emphasize a significant image in, and, we are repeated.

If you write a school or university poetry essay, you should Include in your explanation of the poem:

  • summary of Unfinished History
  • central theme
  • idea of the verse
  • history of its creation
  • critical appreciation.

Good luck in your poetry interpretation practice!

Pay attention: the program cannot take into account all the numerous nuances of poetic technique while analyzing. We make no warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability and suitability with respect to the information.


Watch the video: 2012 Annual Tribute to Archibald MacLeish


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