The Lost Generation

Josephine Rotch Bigelow with whom Harry Crosby made a suicide pact.

Study For A Soul

By Harry Crosby (1898 – 1929)

the colors have begun to form
silvergray with cramoisy and gold
into an arrow carved by storm
beyond the fear of new and old
and where the arrow fits the bow
the untroubled darkness of her eyes
watches the red-gold target grow
strong is the sun that purifies

but I have sought in vain to find
the riddle of the bow and archer
there were no shadows left behind
after the heart’s departure.


Being from St. Paul, I have driven by the 4 story brownstone on Summit Avenue where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived as a young man many times.   Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s infamous hero of the Great Gatsby, was not based on Harry Crosby’s life, but tragedy and madness borne of love was common to both characters, one fictional and the other very real.   Harry Crosby is lesser known than other members of the group of writers called the Lost Generation; Hart Crane, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Elliot and Ezra Pound, all of which were ex-patriots who lived in Paris during the roaring twenties and pushed the bounds of literature and life.

Crosby was an heir to the J. P. Morgan fortune and after his harrowing experiences in W.W. I. decided to live his life to the fullest.  From that point forward, Crosby never played by the rules of polite society,  he was a rich playboy, who courted a married woman who would divorce her alcoholic husband to wed Crosby.  Mary, who also went by Polly, would re-invent herself as Caresse, and the two of them proceeded to dedicate their lives to art and poetry.  Harry and Caresse lived a hedonistic lifestyle, complete with intellectual endeavors unique to the salons of Paris of that time, replete with parties, excessive drinking, drug use and a famed open marriage that included affairs on both sides and rumors of wild orgies in their Paris apartment, in which a large bed stood in the middle of their living room as the focus of all that went on around it.

Harry became embroiled with an erratic and passionate young woman, named Josephine Rotch who was soon to be married to Albert Bigelow.   Harry and Josephine began a torrid affair while she was visiting Paris and it would continue when Harry would return to the United States the following year.

During a visit to New York City, Harry met Josephine at a friends apartment secretly, while Hart Crane and Caresse went to the theater.  For unbeknownst reasons, their passion turned to madness, and the two of them were found dead from an apparent murder suicide, both shot in the head, apparently by Harry’s hand.   Salome, or peace, is not something that Harry Crosby was to find in his lifetime….





by Harry Crosby

Proud panoply of fans and frankincense,
Gold blare of trumpets, flowered robes of state,
Unnumbered symbols of magnificence,
To lead Salome through the palace gate,
Where loud the prophet of the Lord blasphemes
The red abominations of her race
And chides her for her flesh-entangled dreams
and turns his back upon her painted face.

Thus do we turn from some red-shadowed lust
That through the broken forests of the brain
Weaves silently with tentacles out-thrust,
Groping in darkness, but for one in vain,
For like a sliding sun the soul has fled
Leaving a princess and a vultured head.

Hurled In Defiance At Our Blackest World

Harry Crosby

Invocation To The Mad Queen

by Harry Crosby

I would you were the hollow ship
fashioned to bear the cargo of my love
the unrelenting glove
hurled in defiance at our blackest world
or that great banner mad unfurled
the poet plants upon the hill of time
or else amphora for the gold of life
liquid and naked as a virgin wife.
Yourself the prize
I gird with Fire
The Great White Ruin
Of my Desire.
I burn to gold
fierce and unerring as a conquering sword
I burn to gold
fierce and undaunted as a lion lord
seeking your Bed
and leave to them the
burning of the dead.


Temple De La Douleur

Harry Crosby

My soul has suffered breaking on the wheel,
Flogging with lead, and felt the twinging ache
Of barbéd hooks and jagged points of steel,
Peine forte et dure, slow burning at the stake,
Blinding and branding, stripping on the rack,
The canque and kourbash and the torquéd screw,
The boot and branks, red scourging on the back,
The gallows and the gibbet. All for you.

These tortures are as nothing to the pain
That I have suffered when you gaze at me
With cold disdainful eyes. You do not deign
To smile or talk or even set me free-
Yet once you let me hold your perfumed hand
And danced with me a stately saraband.