The Writings of Robert Graves
Robert Graves considered himself a poet and his occupation, writer. “I breed pedigree dogs to feed my cats”. The dogs were his prose, the cats his poetry.
“Since the age of fifteen poetry has been my ruling passion and I have never intentionally undertaken any tasks or formed any relationship that seem inconsistent with poetic principles; which has sometimes won me the reputation of an eccentric. Prose has been my livelihood, but I have used it as a means of sharpening my sense of the altogether different nature of poetry, and the themes that I chose are always linked in my mind with outstanding poetic problems.” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess, 1948)
And thus it was. His fourteen novels are mostly historical: My Head! My Head!, I Claudius, Claudius the God, Count Belisarius, Homer’s Daughter, King Jesus, The Isles of Unwisdom, The Adventures of Sergeant Lamb, Wife to Mr Milton, or They Hanged My Saintly Billy all follow his somewhat eclectic interpretation of history. In them he generally holds somewhat unconventional views although supported by historical documents and sources. Antigua, Penny, Puce, set in the 30’s, deals with stamp collecting which he enjoyed; Seven Days in New Crete is an utopian novel base on the ideas he developed in the White Goddess.
An important part of his prose is investigative: The White Goddess deals with archaic religions and their connection with poetry and is by way of being his poetic testament; The Greek Myths is a compilation and an interpretation of these myths in a set out in an orderly fashion; The Hebrew Myths (with Raphael Patai) is a companion volume to The Greek Myths and is an authoritative study of the Book of Genesis. The Nazarene Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro) aims to show that the four Gospels of the New Testament are irresponsible piracies from an authentic tradition orally preserved in Aramaic by the Apostolic Church at Jerusalem. His bibliography also includes translations from Latin and Greek, Spanish, French, children’s books, collections of essays and talks, and short stories. And of course his memoir, written at the age of 34, Good-bye to All That.
His poetry developed from its school-boy beginnings, through his war poetry, through a somewhat metaphysical period, until he established himself as a love poet dedicated the The White Goddess as his muse. His Complete Poems contain over 1,200 poems.