Arthur Davison Ficke (1883 - 1945)

Arthur Ficke was a well-known poet. He was born in Iowa, his father was a prominent lawyer. John Cowper met him in 1914. They became great friends. It was Ficke who advanced the money for the house ($ 2000) in Upstate New York where John Cowper and Phyllis Playter finally came to live in 1930. They visited each other regularly, for Ficke lived nearby in a farm he had bought in 1927. Here are a few titles of his now forgotten volumes of verse: Sonnets of a Portrait-Painter, 1914; Chats on Japanese Prints, 1915 (prose interspersed with poems); Spectra (with Witter Bynner), 1916; Out of Silence, 1924 and Selected Poems, 1926.
(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
Carl Van Vechten collection)

Arthur Ficke is much more to me than what in this country is so quaintly called 'a warm personal friend.' He has been for years much more than 'a warm personal friend' of Edna St Vincent Millay and Eugene Boissevain. I mean he has been our friend in the European sense of sharing and exchanging sad, cheerful, whimsical, bitter, pure, impure, refined, gross, simple, sophisticated, highbrow, lowbrow, generalizations upon the stream of life as it flows! (Autobiography)

Extract from

King of Salamanders

To John Cowper Powys

Old salamander basking in the fire,
Winking your lean tongue at a coal or two,
Lolling amid the malstroms of desire,
And envying the lot of none or few -
Old serpent alien to the human race,
Immune to poison, apples, and the rest,
Examining like a microbe each new face
And pawing, passionless, each novel breast -
Admirer of God and of the Devil,
Hater of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell,
Skeptic of good, more skeptic yet of evil,
Knowing the sick soul sounder than the well -
We mortals send you greetings from afar -
Now very like a human being you are!

(from Arthur D. Ficke, Selected Poems, George H. Doran Company, New York, 1926)