LOWELL, ROBERT (1917-1977, American Poet)
Lot 296
LOWELL, ROBERT (1917-1977, American Poet) AUTOGRAPH AND TYPESCRIPT DRAFTS WITH AUTOGRAPH REVISIONS FOR HIS POEM 'SQUARE OF BLACK', [1977]
Sold for £6,875 (US$ 11,555) inc. premium
Lot Details
LOWELL, ROBERT (1917-1977, American Poet)
AUTOGRAPH AND TYPESCRIPT DRAFTS WITH AUTOGRAPH REVISIONS FOR HIS POEM 'SQUARE OF BLACK', which was originally titled herein 'Failure at Sixty', some 160 lines autograph and typescript, covering much of the process of composition, including deletions preserving reconsidered readings, and with 10, 34 and 37 line autograph manuscripts and a 56 line revised typescript for sections of his verse translation of The Eumenides of Aeschylus, some 297 lines in all, written in red and black, 8 pages, folio [1977]

[One draft begins:]

On this book, large enough to write on,
is a sad, black, actual photograph
of Abraham Lincoln and Tad in 1861,
father and son,
their almost matching silver watchchains,
as they stare into the black ledger -
its murders and failures, they.
Old Abe, old though not nearly sixty --
in life, in office, no lurking illusion,
clad for the moment in robes of splendor,
passed him unchallenged -
only in a dream was he able to hear
his voices in the east room of the White House
saying over his own laid-out body,
"Lincoln is dead."

Dreams, they've had their vogue,
so alike in their modernist invention,
so dangerously distracted by commonplace,
their literal insistence on the letter,
trivia indistinguishable from tragedy...

'Square of Black' was published in Day by Day, which appeared only a few weeks before Lowell's sudden death of a heart attack in 1977 in the back of a taxicab at just sixty years of age. In his review of it, John Symons wrote that 'these reflections on age and madness...and his own approaching death, contain a flowering of Lowell's genius, comparable only with that of Yeats's last poems.' Alvarez wrote that it was 'his own best elegy.'

REFERENCES: Robert Lowell, Complete Prose, edited by Robert Giroux, 1987, pp. 165-166, 192-193; Collected Poems, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter, 2003.
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