America Was Promises


Yes. The French wanted me very much to become Director General of UNESCO. The British were willing if I would make up my mind once and for all, and not change it. But I had to get back to my own life. I was absolutely flabbergasted when, in 1949, the English Department at Harvard offered me the Boylston professorship. I thought I was not going to take on any more jobs. But I am so glad that I did. Those were the best thirteen years of my life.

The last poem you wrote before you entered public life was America Was Promises. Do you think America is still promises?

America will always have been promises. Columbus’s voyage ended with those promises on the sea—those branches with green leaves, those singing birds. Everything about America is based on a beginning which was all promises. We certainly have buggered them, but I guess that’s what mankind does, bugger the promises, and maybe save a few.