Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Alexis Saint-Léger Léger, who wrote under the name of Saint-John Perse, was born in Guadeloupe and had a long and very distinguished career in both the prewar and postwar French diplomatic service. He thus represents that peculiarly French combination of the public servant and the man of letters. Though his Anabase (1924; Anabasis, 1930) was translated by so famous a writer as T. S. Eliot, he remained little known outside Europe. It is improbable that his work will ever achieve any wide degree of popularity; nevertheless, because of his marked influence on twentieth century poetry, he remains an important figure.
“Pictures for Crusoe,” the earliest of the poems included in the volume, should be read first; they are the clearest and, once understood, provide a sort of key to the other sections. In them, the reader is made immediately aware of the author’s childhood spent in the tropics; there is a succession of luxuriant images from the island left behind by Robinson Crusoe and the expression of nostalgia for clean wind, sea, and sand, and for the brilliant colors of dawn and sunset. It is the theme of this series of short poems that Crusoe’s real disaster occurs when he returns to the cities of men and leaves forever the lost tropic island. Everything he brings with him, every symbol of the island—the goatskin parasol, the bow, the parrot—decays in the sour dirt of the city; the seed of the purple tropic flower that he...
(The entire section is 1250 words.)
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