Rolfe Humphries

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George Rolfe Humphries (November 20, 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – April 22, 1969 in Redwood City, California) was a poet, translator, and teacher.


He attended Towanda High School, and graduated cum laude from Amherst College in 1915. He was a first lieutenant machine gunner in World War I, from 1917-1918.[1] In 1925 he married Helen Ward Spencer.

He taught Latin in secondary schools in San Francisco, New York City, and Long Island through 1957. From 1957 to 1965, he taught at Amherst College.

He taught at many poetry and creative writing workshops, including the University of New Hampshire Writers' Conference and the University of Colorado Writers' Conference.[2]

He was a mentor to many poets, including Theodore Roethke.[3] Among his literary friendships were those with Louise Bogan,[4] Edmund Wilson, and Elizabeth Bishop.[5]

His work appeared in Harper's,[6] The New Yorker,[7]

His papers are held at Amherst College.[8]

He is known for a notorious literary prank. Asked to contribute a piece to Poetry in 1939, he penned 39 lines containing an acrostic. The first letters of each line spelled out the message: "Nicholas Murray Butler is a horses ass." The editor printed an apology and Humphries was banned from the publication.[9] The ban was lifted in 1941.[citation needed]


Like many American intellectuals, Humphries supported the Republican (left-wing) side in the Spanish Civil War. He was the main organizer of a fund-raising volume, ...And Spain Sings. Fifty Loyalist Ballads (1937). He translated two volumes of poetry of Federico García Lorca, a Spanish homosexual poet assassinated at the beginning of that war and an icon of what Spain lost. Because of controversy surrounding the text of the first of those books, Humphries' correspondence with William Warder Norton, Louise Bogan, and others was published by Daniel Eisenberg (es) (in Spanish translation). Eisenberg praises Humphries as a textual scholar.[10]




  • "Coming Home". Casa Poema. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  • Don Johnson (1991). "Night Game". Hummers, knucklers, and slow curves: contemporary baseball poems. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-06183-7. 
  • Europa and Other Poems and Sonnets. Crosby Gaige. 1929. 
  • Out of the Jewel. C. Scribner's sons. 1942. 
  • The Summer Landscape. Scribner's Sons. 1945. 
  • Forbid Thy Ravens. C. Scribner's Sons. 1947. 
  • The Wind of Time. C. Scribner's Sons. 1949. 
  • Poems Collected and New. Scribner. 1954. 
  • Green armor on green ground: poems in the twenty-four official Welsh meters. Scribner. 1956. 
  • Collected poems. Indiana University Press. 1965. 
  • Coat on a stick: late poems. Indiana University Press. 1969. 



  • Richard Gillman, Michael Paul Novak (ed.). America's Literary Community Viewed from the Letters of Rolfe Humphries, 1910–1969. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-0589-7. 
  • "Inside Story". The New Republic. 105 (1): 62. July 14, 1941. 
  • Grant, Michael (March 1942). "Salvation from Sand in Salt". Poetry. lix: 228–229. ISBN 978-0-415-15948-7. 


  • Adelante, 1939 [13]



W.H. Auden called Humphries' translation of Virgil's Aeneid "a service for which no public reward could be too great."


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