Cecil Day-Lewis


'Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say.
Ask my song'


C. Day-Lewis is buried in St. Michael's Churchyard, Stinsford, Dorset, England. Also buried here is Thomas Hardy. (Day-Lewis' poetry was greatly influenced by Hardy - hence his desire to be buried near him.) 

Gravestone of Cecil Day-Lewis
Photograph by David Conway

Day-Lewis was educated at Sherborne and Wadham College, Oxford. While at Oxford he encountered W.H.Auden and became part of the group of  left wing poets. In particular, he is linked with Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender; the four poets are often referred to jointly as MacSpaunday. Day-Lewis' name is also synonymous with Pylon Poetry. In fact, in his poem addressed to Auden, Look west, Wystan, lone flyers he referred to both pylons and skyscrapers.

After leaving Oxford he worked as a school teacher and was active in left wing politics - joining the Communist Party in 1936. During this decade he also began to write detective stories under the pen-name Nicholas Blake, featuring the detective Nigel Strangeways.

In 1951 he was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, serving until 1956. Then in 1968 he became Poet Laureate after the death of John Masefield

Day-Lewis was an inveterate womaniser and had extra-marital relationships with a number of women including the model Jane Howard and the novelist A,S. Byatt. The actor, Daniel Day-Lewis was his son by his second wife Jill Balcon. His first wife was Mary King, the daughter of one of the masters at Sherborne.

His poetry collections include: A Time to Dance (1935), Overtures to Death (1938) and Poems in Wartime (1940).  Day-Lewis also under took a number of translations of Virgil including: The Aeneid, The Eclogues and  Georgics.

Later in life he became an increasingly public figure - sitting on many committees, delivering lectures and making broadcasts. His work become less political and more concerned with pastoral and personal themes. Today unfortunately, his work is not held in the same regard as that of  Auden or MacNeice. He was refused a plaque in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey.

But it's useless to argue the why and wherefore.
       When a crop is so thin,
There's nothing to do but set the teeth
        And plough it in.

From  A Failure


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