Poetry Month @ Raab: A Celebration of Seven Centuries of Poets and Poetry

Every April, the Academy of American Poets marks National Poetry Month, an occasion to promote “the integral role that poets and poetry have in our culture.” To join in the celebration, we’re highlighting some of the poets and poetry currently in our collection–from Medieval and Renaissance poetry to some of America’s most beloved poets to England’s Poet Laureate under Queen Victoria–and debuting a new piece from Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Medieval Poetry

Medieval poetry is represented at Raab by two leaves from a fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript on parchment of “Roman de la Rose,” an allegorical French poem about love dating to the Middle Ages but enduring for centuries after. It was a ‘bestseller,’ if the term can be applied to manuscripts painstakingly created by scribes, and even so, copies of this important literary text are rare.

Renaissance Poetry

Inspired by Dante, the Italian poet Fazio degli Uberti set to work on his own allegorical poem in 1345. His “Dittamondo” emulated Dante’s Commedia in style and content, and it also forced his exile due to the underlying political critique. Though incomplete, the “Dittamondo” is a notable work of late medieval/Renaissance Italian literature and has survived in a handful of manuscript copies. The fifteenth-century bifolium Raab offers is from a larger humanist manuscript, written in Italian on parchment. 


Ralph Waldo Emerson was a philosopher, a poet, and the founder of the Transcendental Movement in American literature. In Concord, Massachusetts, he fostered a circle of intellectuals that included Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, and others. Raab offers a selection of Emerson’s autograph letters signed, the newest of which is a letter dated June 17, 1835, early in his career, agreeing to give a series of lectures–his first lecture series–on the subject of “modern literature.” Of great importance, we are showcasing it here for the first time:

Fireside Poets: Holmes & Lowell

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., a practicing physician and a professor at Harvard Medical School, was also an active novelist and poet. Inspired by the Romantics, his poetry often centered on nature, especially the sea. “Sun and Shadow,” written in the late 1850s, was a poem that Holmes himself adjudged one of his finest. Here at The Raab Collection, we have for sale an autograph quotation of the final stanza of that poem, signed and dated March 28, 1860. 

Holmes’s friend and fellow ‘Fireside Poet’ James Russell Lowell, pictured above in a scarce carte-de-visite photo available at Raab, encouraged his writing. Lowell variously served as editor of the Atlantic Monthly, professor of languages at Harvard, and in political appointments that included ambassador to Spain and Great Britain. He used his progressive voice to critique society, notably denouncing war and slavery in the book-length satire, “The Bigelow Papers.” 


Alfred Lord Tennyson long reigned as Poet Laureate under Queen Victoria. His career took off in 1850 after the publication of In Memoriam, followed by Maud, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” and Idylls of the King. He waited to marry until he felt financially and professionally secure. In a remarkable letter from 1852, available at Raab, Tennyson announces to a friend not only the birth of his first son, Hallam, but the fact that his wife is recovering through the use of mesmerism, a form of hypnosis popular at the time. 


As American poets go, Robert Frost, winner of four Pulitzer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal, ranks near the top of the list. He delivered a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, who said of the poet, “He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.” In addition to a signed etching of Frost by noted printmaker Richard Hood and a signed edition of his Collected Poems, The Raab Collection is proud to offer a signed program from one of the poet’s first public readings in November of 1915, the year that would be called his “Year of Triumph.” 


Perhaps best remembered for his novels, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, and Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence was also a poet and a painter. In a 1929 letter for sale with Raab, the author writes to his publisher about the controversial, limited edition art book then in production, Paintings of D.H. Lawrence.

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