Read the First Poems of 10 Famous Poets

In conjunction with the recent publication of a new, gorgeous dual-language edition of The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust, this morning The Daily Beast shared the first poem ever written by Marcel Proust (as far as anyone knows). The poem, penned when the legendary author was a mere 17 years old, reflects his struggle with homosexuality and his blossoming talent. After the jump, read Proust’s debut poem and a collection of nine other of the earliest known verses of now famous poets. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know about it in the comments.


Marcel Proust

Proust’s first known poem was written when he was just 17 years old, and dedicated to his friend Daniel Halévy, who had written to him, “Don’t treat me as a pederast, that wounds me. Morally I’m trying, if only out of a sense of elegance, to remain pure.”

“Pederasty” (1889) Translated by Richard Howard

To Daniel Halévy

If I had money from a boundless mint
and sinew enough in hands, lips, loins,
I’d shun the vanity of politics and print,
and leave—tomorrow? No, tonight!—for lawns
luminous with artificial green
(without the rustic flaws of frost and vermin),
where I’d forever be sleeping with one
warm child or other: François? Firmin? . . .
For what is manly mockery to me?
Let Sodom’s apples burn, acre by acre,
I’d savor still the sweat of those sweet limbs!
Beneath a solar gold, a lunar nacre,
I’d… languish (an ars moriendi of my own),
deaf to the knell of dreary Decency!

[Published in The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust, ed. Harold Augenbraum, via The Daily Beast]