T.S. Eliot: The Harvard Advocate Poems


The following ten poems by T.S. Eliot were published between 1907 and 1910 in The Harvard Advocate, the student run literary magazine at Harvard University (the 1950 John Hayward emendations are used.) Eliot was attending Harvard during these years and he served on the magazine's Board of Editors for part of this time. These poems do not appear in Eliot's Collected Poems or even in his Complete Poems and Plays.

The "Notes" section below contains more information about the poems and books in which they are published.

The Poems


When we came home across the hill
No leaves were fallen from the trees;
The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.

The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
No withered petals lay beneath;
But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.


If space and time, as sages say,
Are things which cannot be,
The fly that lives a single day
Has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
While love and life are free,
For time is time, and runs away,
Though sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
Was trembling on the vine,
Were withered ere the wild bee flew
To suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
Nor mourn to see them pine,
And though the flowers of love be few
Yet let them be divine.

Before Morning

While all the East was weaving red with gray,
The flowers at the window turned toward dawn,
Petal on petal, waiting for the day,
Fresh flowers, withered flowers, flowers of dawn.

This morning's flowers and flowers of yesterday
Their fragrance drifts across the room at dawn,
Fragrance of bloom and fragrance of decay,
Fresh flowers, withered flowers, flowers of dawn.

Circe's Palace

Around her fountain which flows
With the voice of men in pain,
Are flowers that no man knows.
Their petals are fanged and red
With hideous streak and stain.
They sprang from the limbs of the dead.--
We shall not come here again.

Panthers rise from their lairs
In the forest which thickens below,
Along the garden stairs
The sluggish python lies;
The peacock's walk, stately and slow
And they look at us with the eyes
Of men whom we knew long ago.

On a Portrait

Among a crowd of tenuous dreams, unknown
To us of restless brain and weary feet,
Forever hurrying, up and down the street,
She stands at evening in the room alone.

Not like a tranquil goddess carved of stone
But evanescent, as if one should meet
A pensive lamia in some wood-retreat,
An immaterial fancy of one's own.

No meditations glad or ominous
Disturb her lips, or move the slender hands;
Her dark eyes keep their secrets hid from us,
Beyond the circle of our thoughts she stands.

The parrot on the bar, a silent spy,
Regards her with a patient curious eye.


The moonflower opens to the moth,
The mist crawls in from sea;
A great white bird, a snowy owl,
Slips from the alder tree.

Whiter the flowers, love, you hold,
Than the white mist on the sea;
Have you no brighter tropic flowers
With scarlet life, for me?


Romeo, grand sérieux, to importune
Guitar and hat in hand, beside the gate
With Juliet, in the usual debate
Of love, beneath a bored but courteous moon;
The conversation failing, strikes some tune
Banal, and out of pity for their fate
Behind the wall I have some servant wait,
Stab, and the lady sinks into a swoon.

Blood looks effective on the moonlit ground--
The hero smiles; in my best mode oblique
Rolls toward the moon a frenzied eye profound,
(No need of "Love forever?"--"Love next week?")
While female readers all in tears are drowned:--
"The perfect climax all true lovers seek!"


(After J. Laforgue)

One of my marionettes is dead
Though not yet tired of the game--
But weak in body as in head,
(A jumping-jack has such a frame).

But this deceaséd marionette
I rather liked: a common face,
(The kind of face that we forget)
Pinched in a comic, dull grimace;

Half bullying, half imploring air,
Mouth twisted to the latest tune;
His who-the-devil-are-you stare;
Translated, maybe, to the moon.

With Limbo's other useless things
Haranguing spectres, set him there;
"The snappiest fashion since last spring's,
"The newest style, on Earth, I swear.

"Why don't you people get some class?
(Feebly contemptuous of nose),
"Your damned thin moonlight, worse than gas--
"Now in New York"--and so it goes.

Logic a marionette's, all wrong
Of premises; yet in some star
A hero!--Where would he belong?
But, even at that, what mask bizarre!


Sunday: this satisfied procession
Of definite Sunday faces;
Bonnets, silk hats, and conscious graces
In repetition that displaces
Your mental self-possession
By this unwarranted digression.

Evening, lights, and tea!
Children and cats in the alley;
Dejection unable to rally
Against this dull conspiracy.

And Life, a little bald and gray,
Languid, fastidious, and bland,
Waits, hat and gloves in hand,
Punctilious of tie and suit
(Somewhat impatient of delay)
On the doorstep of the Absolute.


For the hour that is left us Fair Harvard, with thee,
Ere we face the importunate years,
In thy shadow we wait, while thy presence dispels
Our vain hesitations and fears.
And we turn as thy sons ever turn, in the strength
Of the hopes that thy blessings bestow,
From the hopes and ambitions that sprang at thy feet
To the thoughts of the past as we go.

Yet for all of these years that to-morrow has lost
We are still the less able to grieve,
With so much that of Harvard we carry away
In the place of the life that we leave.
And only the years that efface and destroy
Give us also the vision to see
What we owe for the future, the present, and past,
Fair Harvard, to thine and to thee.


T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

These ten poems by T.S. Eliot were published between 1907 and 1910 in The Harvard Advocate, the student run literary magazine at Harvard University. Eliot worked on his A.B. degree at Harvard from 1906-1909 and received his A.M. degree there in 1910. Eliot served on The Harvard Advocate's Board of Editors for part of this time.

Eliot was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri but his family had New England roots and he spend summers at the rock-bound seashore of Eastern Point, Gloucester, Massachusetts, north of Boston. Prior to studying at Harvard University he attended Smith Academy in Saint Louis and Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts. After receiving his A.M. degree Eliot worked toward a doctorate in Philosophy, again at Harvard. During the 1910-1911 term he studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris and in 1914 went to study at Merton College, Oxford. In 1915 he married his first wife, an English woman, Vivienne Haigh-Wood, and decided to remain in England (becoming a British subject in 1927.) Although he subsequently completed his dissertation he never went back to Harvard to defend his thesis. Between 1917 and 1925 he worked at Lloyds Bank and then joined the publishing house Faber and Gwyer (later to become Faber & Faber) where he spent the rest of his career.

His first poem printed in a major literary magazine was 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.' Although it was published by Poetry magazine in 1915 it was completed in 1911 and much different from the near contemporary Harvard poems. Eliot's first book of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917. Other major works of Eliot's poetry are The Waste Land (1922) and the poems collected in 1943 as Four Quartets. In addition to his own poetry, as editor and Director at the publishing firm of Faber & Faber, Eliot played a large part in the success of poets such as W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender and Ted Hughes. Eliot also wrote criticism and a number of plays. Between the wars he edited The Criterion magazine, which he founded. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Eliot on his early poetry

In a 1959 interview for The Paris Review magazine* Eliot spoke about his early poetry (with a small emphasis on the poem 'Song' which appeared in The Smith Academy Record and then in a variant form in The Harvard Advocate:

Interviewer: Perhaps I can begin at the beginning. Do you remember the circumstances under which you began to write poetry in St. Louis when you were a boy?

Eliot: I began I think about the age of fourteen, under the inspiration of Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam, to write a number of very gloomy and atheistical and despairing quatrains in the same style, which fortunately I suppressed completely--so completely that they don't exist. I never showed them to anybody. The first poem that shows is one which appeared first in the Smith Academy Record, and later in The Harvard Advocate, which was written as an exercise for my English teacher and was an imitation of Ben Jonson. He thought it very good for a boy of fifteen or sixteen. Then I wrote a few at Harvard, just enough to qualify for election to an editorship on The Harvard Advocate, which I enjoyed. Then I had an outburst during my junior and senior years. I became much more prolific, under the influence first of Baudelaire and then of Jules Laforgue, whom I discovered I think in my junior year at Harvard.

* Reprinted in Poets at Work: The Paris Review Interviews.   George Plimpton, ed.   Viking Penguin, New York.   (1989)   pp. 27-45 (the quoted text appears on pp. 28-29.) The interviews in this collection [Poets at Work] are selected from Writers at Work, Series 1-8, published by Viking Penguin Inc.

The poems' publishing history:

Poem citations

This is a listing of The Harvard Advocate poems and citations. Also listed for each poem is the HTML anchor that, if used in with a URL, will request a browser to show the poem at the top of the display. For example, hover over or select the hyperlinked poem titles below:



Before Morning

Circe's Palace

On a Portrait



Humouresque (after J. Laforgue)



Besides the ten Harvard Advocate poems listed above there are four more poems included in the book Poems Written in Early Youth:

A Fable for Feasters

[A Lyric]

[At Graduation 1905]

The Death of Saint Narcissus

Copyright information

United States copyright law accords public domain status to works published prior to 1923. This allows the republishing of Eliot's poems first printed in The Smith Academy Record and The Harvard Advocate. The poem recited at Smith Academy's 1905 commencement was not published until Poems Written in Early Youth and its copyright status is left for others to decide. 'The Death of Saint Narcissus' was first published in Poems Written in Early Youth and so is likely to still enjoy copyright protection. Thus, for copyright reasons only The Harvard Advocate poems have been published here.

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Revision date (y/m/d h:m:s):
$Date: 2005/02/12 14:33:25 $
Rickard A. Parker    (raparker@theworld.com)


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