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Frank Prince

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 7 AUGUST

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UPDATED: 07/08/2017

7 August 1873, Thespian band enliven cricket match at Barkly West with music.
7 August 1889, Pirate King George Danford, founder of the Pirates Club, leaves Kimberley.
7 August 2003, World renowned poet and former CBC pupil Frank Prince (pictured) dies.

DID YOU KNOW

Frank Templeton Prince (13 September 1912 – 7 August 2003) was a British poet and academic, known generally for his best-known poem Soldiers Bathing, written during the Second World War in 1942, which has been frequently included in anthologies. He was born in Kimberley, South Africa. His father Henry (Harry) Prince (formerly Prinz) was from the East End of London, of Dutch-Jewish descent, while his mother was Scottish. He was educated at the Christian Brothers College in Kimberley, Wits University, then Balliol College, Oxford. He had a visiting position at Princeton University. In World War II he was involved in intelligence work at Bletchley Park.

He married Elizabeth Bush in 1943, the union producing two daughters, Rosanna and Caryll. Reserved, conservative, demanding, dry as he was, his outer character was offset and counterbalanced by his ebullient, liberal and talkative partner.

He took an academic position after the war at the University of Southampton, where he settled. In the mid-1970s, he taught at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, as well as Brandeis University in the United States and Sana’a University, Yemen.

Prince’s early work drew praise from T.S. Eliot, who was then editor at Faber and Faber. Eliot published some of his poetry in The Criterion before publishing Prince’s first book Poems in 1938. In work such as the Afterword on Rupert Brooke his interest in the metrical ideas of Robert Bridges is evident.

In addition to his later volumes of poetry—notably The Doors of Stone: Poems, 1938–1962 (1963), and Collected Poems, 1935–1992 (1993)—he produced two autobiographical works in verse, Memoirs in Oxford (1970) and Walks in Rome (1987). His many critical works include an erudite book on John Milton, The Italian Element in Milton’s Verse (1954).

In 1982 Prince was given the EM Forster Award, a literary prize, by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

F. T. Prince died in Southampton in 2003.

(From various sources).

7 August 1873, Thespian band enliven cricket match at Barkly West with music.
7 August 1889, Pirate King George Danford, founder of the Pirates Club, leaves Kimberley.
7 August 2003, World renowned poet and former CBC pupil Frank Prince (pictured) dies.

DID YOU KNOW

Obituary: Frank Templeton Prince. (Daily Telegraph 8 August 2003)

F T Prince, who died yesterday aged 90, was one of the most interesting and underrated poets of the 20th century.

During the Second World War he worked as an Intelligence officer at Bletchley Park and in the Middle East, and composed what came to be his best-known poem, Soldiers Bathing, a moving meditation in rhyming couplets on the “bitterness and pity that engage / Blood, spirit, in this war.”

It concludes with a mysteriously resonant image of sacrifice, one which contrasts absolutely with the deft ironies of more cynical Second World War poets such as Keith Douglas: “I feel a strange delight that fills me full, / Strange gratitude, as if evil itself were beautiful, / And kiss the wound in thought, while in the west / I watch a streak of red that might have issued from Christ’s breast.”
Prince was a poet whose work critics found particularly difficult to classify. His first collection, austerely entitled Poems, was published by Faber in 1938.

It is not hard to see why this manuscript from an unknown 25-year-old South African should have impressed Faber’s then editor, T S Eliot. The poems fuse an extraordinary literary sophistication with an elusive, subtle lyricism and oblique, ever-shifting angles of vision.

Nothing could have been further from the political tub-thumping or knockabout farce of the dominant English poet of the 1930s, W H Auden. Prince explored the language of his various speakers, such as Edmund Burke, or the Zulu prince Chaka, or an invented 17th-century artist appealing for funds to his patron, with a disinterestedness that is particularly astonishing given that the poems were composed on the eve of the Second World War.

Despite this auspicious debut, Prince’s next volume, Soldiers Bathing, did not appear until 1954, and then with a different publisher (Fortune Press). The poems collected here were again intensely literary and self-conscious. Prince made brilliant use of the dramatic monologue developed in the mid-19th century by Tennyson and Browning to give the thoughts of Michelangelo in old age and of the Sybil.

Prince’s retelling of this myth is one of his most successful long poems. According to the Ancient Greek legend, the god of the sun, Apollo, fell in love with the Sybil and agreed to grant her any wish. She asked to live as many years as there were grains in a certain heap of dust, but forgot to ask for enduring youth. Apollo and the Sybil reveals with particular clarity Prince’s immaculate control of sound, rhythm, and the energies of syntax. Radiant land and seascapes are played off the Sybil’s physical decrepitude and insistent self-doubts:

And now a low brown person, shrinking slowly to a bag of skin, / I wonder at myself, and even more that, were I to begin, // I think that I should do what I have done. // And gulls, swallows, turn down wind, / The sea toils, grinds and crushes / Marble to milk at cliff-base …

Prince’s poems had attracted by this time an eclectic band of fervent admirers. This small but select fan-club included poets as dissimilar from one another as Geoffrey Hill and John Ashbery, both of whom contributed to a special issue of P N Review dedicated to the work of Prince that was published last year. It was Ashbery who successfully sponsored Prince’s candidacy for the E M Forster award he received from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Frank Templeton Prince was born in the mining town of Kimberley, South Africa, on September 13 1912, and educated at the Christian Brothers’ College in Kimberley. He went on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read English, and continued his literary studies at Princeton.

Prince was an academic scholar as well as a poet. His study of Italian influences on Milton’s poetry was published in 1954, and is still one of the standard works on this subject.

From 1957 to 1974 Prince was a Professor of English at Southampton University, and after his retirement he accepted a number of professorships at a diverse array of institutions: the University of Jamaica (1975-78); Brandeis University in America (1978-80); and Sana’a University, North Yemen (1981-83).

Aside from his monograph on Milton, his other most significant scholarly publications were an edition of Shakespeare’s poems for Arden, published in 1960, and a critical study of Shakespeare’s poetry, which came out three years later.

Although his poetry never received the attention its qualities might have expected, Prince was honoured by the British academic establishment: in 1968-69 he was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and in 1972-73 he delivered the Clark lecture series at Cambridge.

For the academic year 1985-86, he was elected President of the English Association, a body he surprised by delivering his annual address in verse.

Many critics thought Prince a “poet’s poet” – though this sloppy judgment often meant no more than saying that his poetry does not fit in neatly to existing critical orthodoxies.

Certainly, his work was resolutely indifferent to poetic fashions, and his maverick nature was indicated by the variety of his publishers: Faber, Fortune Press, Rupert Hart-Davis, Fulcrum, Menard (whose current editor, Anthony Rudolf, has been one of Prince’s most energetic champions), Anvil, and, most recently, Carcanet, who published his final Collected Poems in 1993.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth (née Bush), whom he married in 1943, and two daughters.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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