Allen Tate

Allen Tate (1899-1979). Courtesy Wikipedia.

Allen Tate
Born November 19, 1899 19 1899(1899-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19)
Winchester, Kentucky, United States
Died February 9, 1979 (aged 79)
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Occupation Poet, essayist
Nationality United States United States

John Orley Allen Tate (November 19, 1899 - February 9, 1979) was an American poet, essayist, and social commentator, who briefly served as Poet laureate of the United States.


Tate was born near Winchester, Kentucky to John Orley Tate, a businessman, and Eleanor Parke Custis (Varnell). In 1916 and 1917 Tate studied the violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

He began attending Vanderbilt University in 1918, where he met fellow poet Robert Penn Warren. Warren and Tate were invited to join a group of young Southern poets under the leadership of John Crowe Ransom; the group were known as the Fugitive Poets and later as the Southern Agrarians. Tate contributed to the group's magazine The Fugitive and to the agrarian manifesto I'll Take My Stand published in 1930, and this was followed in 1938 by Who Owns America? Tate also joined Ransom to teach at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

In 1924, Tate moved to New York City where he met poet Hart Crane, with whom he had been exchanging correspondence for some time. During a summer visit with Warren in Kentucky, he began a relationship with writer Caroline Gordon. They married in New York in May 1925. Their daughter Nancy was born in September. In 1928, along with others of the Village crowd, he went to Europe. In London he paid homage to T.S.Eliot, 'who had for him by now the status of a demi-god' and he visited Paris. After two years abroad, he returned to the United States, and in 1930 was back in Tennesseee. Here he took up residence in an antebellum mansion with 85 acre estate attached, that had been bought for him by one of his brothers, 'who had made a lot of northern money out of coal.' [1] He resumed his senior position with the Fugitives. He devoted most of his time to promoting 'the principles of Agrarianism'.

He and Gordon were divorced in 1945 and remarried in 1946. Though devoted to one another for life, they could not get along and later divorced again.

In 1950, Tate converted to Roman Catholicism.[2]

Tate married the poet Isabella Gardner in the early fifties. While teaching at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he met Helen Heinz, a nun enrolled in one of his courses, and began an affair with her. Gardner divorced Tate.

He married Heinz in 1966. They moved to Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1967 Tate became the father of twin sons, John and Michael. Michael died at eleven months from choking on a toy. A third son Benjamin was born in 1969.


In 1924, Tate began a four-year sojourn in New York City where he worked freelance for The Nation, contributed to the Hound and Horn, Poetry magazine, and others. He worked as a janitor, and lived la vie boheme in Greenwich Village with Caroline Gordon, and when urban life proved too overwhelming, repaired to "Robber Rocks", a house in Patterson, New York, with friends Slater Brown and his wife Sue, Hart Crane, and Malcolm Cowley. He would, some years later, contribute to the conservative National Review as well.

1928 saw the publication of Tate's most famous poem, "Ode to the Confederate Dead",[3]

In 1928, Tate also published a biography Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier. In 1929 he published a second biography Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall.

By the 1930s, Tate had returned to Tennessee, where he worked on social commentary influenced by his agrarian philosophy. In addition to his work on I'll Take My Stand, he published Who Owns America?, which was a conservative response to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. During this time, Tate also became the de facto associate editor of The American Review, which was published and edited by Seward Collins. Tate believed The American Review could popularize the work of the Southern Agrarians. He objected to Collins's open support of Fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and condemned fascism in an article in The New Republic in 1936. According to the critic Ian Hamilton however, Tate and his co-agrarians had been more than ready at the time to overlook the anti-Semitism and pro-Hitlerism of the American Review in order to promote their 'spiritual' defence of the Deep South's traditions. And when leftist New York critics pointed out that those traditions included slavery and lynching, Tate was untroubled: "I belong to the white race, therefore I intend to support white rule...lynching will disappear when the white race is satisfied that its supremacy will not be questioned in social crises." [4]

In 1938 Tate published his only novel, The Fathers, which drew upon knowledge of his mother's ancestral home and family in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Tate was a poet-in-residence at Princeton University until 1942. He founded the Creative Writing program at Princeton, and mentored Richard Blackmur, John Berryman, and others. In 1942, Tate assisted novelist and friend Andrew Lytle in transforming The Sewanee Review, America's oldest literary quarterly, from a modest journal into one of the most prestigious in the nation. Tate and Lytle had attended Vanderbilt together prior to collaborating at The University of the South.

Tate died in Nashville, Tennessee. His papers are collected at the Firestone Library at Princeton University.


Tate served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1943 to 1944.[5]

Publications Edit


  • The Golden Mean, and other poems (with Ridley Wills). privately printed, 1923.
  • Mr. Pope, and other poems. New York: Minton Balch, 1928.
  • Three Poems: Ode to the Confederate dead, Message from abroad, The cross. New York: Minton Balch, 1930.
  • Poems, 1928-1931. New York: Scribner, 1932.
  • The Mediterranean, and other poems. New York: Alcestis Press, 1936.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Scribner, 1937.
  • Sonnets at Christmas. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1941.
  • The Winter Sea. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1944.
  • Fragment of a Meditation/ MCMXXVIII. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1947.
  • Poems, 1920-1945. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1947.
  • Poems, 1922-1947. New York: Scribner, 1948;
    • enlarged edition, 1960.
  • Two Conceits for the Eye to Sing, if Possible. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1950; Norwood, PA: Norwood Editions, 1977.
  • Poems. New York: Scribner, 1960.
  • The Swimmers, and other selected poems. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1970; New York: Scribner, 1971.
  • Collected Poems, 1919-1976. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1977.


  • The Governess (with Anne Goodwin Winslow), produced 1962.


  • The Fathers (novel). New York: Putnam, 1938;
    • revised edition, Denver, CO: A. Swallow, 1960;
    • (with introduction by Arthur Mizener), Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 1984.
  • The Fathers, and other fiction. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1977


  • Stonewall Jackson: The good soldier: A narrative. New York: Minton Balch, 1928,
    • (with preface by Thomas Landess,). Nashville, TN: J.S. Sanders, 1991.
  • Jefferson Davis: His rise and fall: A biographical narrative. New York: Minton Balch, 1929; Nashville, TN: J.S. Sanders, 1998.
  • The Critique of Humanism (with others). New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1930.
  • I'll Take My Stand: The south and the agrarian tradition, by twelve Southerners (with others). New York: Harper, 1930.
  • Robert E. Lee, 1932.[6]
  • Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas. New York: Scribner, 1936.
  • Reason in Madness: Critical essays. New York: Putnam, 1941.
  • Invitation to Learning (with Huntington Cairns and Mark Van Doren). New York: Random House, 1941.
  • Recent American Poetry and Poetic Criticism: A selected list of references. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1943.
  • On the Limits of Poetry: Selected essays, 1928-1948. New York: Swallow Press, 1948.
  • The Hovering Fly, and other essays. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1948.
  • The Forlorn Demon: Didactic and critical essays. Chicago: Regnery, 1953.
  • The Man of Letters in the Modern World: Selected essays, 1928-1955. New York: Meridian Books, 1955.
  • Collected Essays. Denver, CO: A. Swallow, 1959;
    • revised and enlarged as Essays of Four Decades. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1968; Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 1999.
  • Christ and the Unicorn: An address. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1948.
  • Mere Literature and the Lost Traveller. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1968.
  • The Translation of Poetry. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1972.
  • Memoirs and Opinions, 1926-1974. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975;
    • published in UK as Memoirs & Essays Old and New, 1926-1974. Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1976.
  • The Poetry Reviews of Allen Tate, 1924-1944 (edited by Ashley Brown & Frances Neel Cheney). Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.


  • The Literary Correspondence of Donald Davidson and Allen Tate (edited by John Tyree Fain & Thomas Daniel Young). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1974.
  • The Republic of Letters in America: The correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate (edited by Thomas Daniel Young & John J. Hindle). Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1981.
  • The Lytle / Tate Letters, with Allen Tate (edited by Thomas Daniel Young & Elizabeth Sarcone). Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.
  • Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate: Collected letters, 1933-1976 (edited by Alphonse Vinh). Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1998.


  • Pervigilium Veneris, Vigil of Venus. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1943.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[7]

Audio / video Edit

Ode to the Confederate Dead read by its author Allen Tate05:05

Ode to the Confederate Dead read by its author Allen Tate

  • Allen Tate: Reading his own poems (78). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1949.
  • Allen Tate Reads His Works (LP). Carillon Records, 1961.
  • The Poetry of Allen Tate (cassette). New York: Jeffrey Norton, 1964.
  • Allen Tate: The distinguished poet and critic assesses his contemporaries (cassette). North Hollywood, CA: Center for Cassette Studies, 1974.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

See alsoEdit



  1. Ian Hamilton, p.134, Against Oblivion
  2. Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. "Three Catholic Writers of the South", THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY, 26 February 1986, 216-7
  3. Not to be confused with "Ode to the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery" by American Civil War poet Henry Timrod.
  4. Ian Hamilton, Against Oblivion, p.135-136
  5. * "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1953-1960". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  6. "Allan Tate," Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Web, June 23, 2012.
  7. Allen Tate 1899-1979, Poetry Foundation, Web, June 23, 2012.
  8. Search results = au:Allen Tate + Audiobooks, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Mar. 19, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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