Biography of Madison Julius Cawein

Madison Julius Cawein (March 23, 1865 – December 8, 1914) was a poet from Louisville, Kentucky.


Madison Julius Cawein was born in Louisville, Kentucky on March 23, 1865, the fifth child of William and Christiana (Stelsly) Cawein. His father made patent medicines from herbs. Thus as a child, Cawein became acquainted with and developed a love for local nature.

After graduating from high school, Cawein worked in a pool hall in Louisville as a cashier in Waddill's New-market, which also served as a gambling house. He worked there for six years, saving his pay so he could return home to write.

His output was thirty-six books and 1,500 poems. His writing presented Kentucky scenes in a language echoing Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. He soon earned the nickname the "Keats of Kentucky". He was popular enough that, by 1900, he told the Louisville Courier-Journal that his income from publishing poetry in magazines amounted to about $100 a month.In 1912 Cawein was forced to sell his Old Louisville home, St James Court (a 2+1⁄2-story brick house built in 1901, which he had purchased in 1907), as well as some of his library, after losing money in the 1912 stock market crash. In 1914 the Authors Club of New York City placed him on their relief list. He died on December 8 later that year and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.


In 1913, a year before his death, Cawein published a poem called "Waste Land" in a Chicago magazine which included Ezra Pound as an editor. Scholars have identified this poem as an inspiration to T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, published in 1922 and considered the birth of modernism in poetry.The link between his work and Eliot's was pointed out by Canadian academic Robert Ian Scott in The Times Literary Supplement in 1995. The following year Bevis Hillier drew more comparisons in The Spectator (London) with other poems by Cawein; he compared Cawein's lines "...come and go/Around its ancient portico" with Eliot's "...come and go/talking of Michelangelo."

Cawein's "Waste Land" appeared in the January 1913 issue of Chicago magazine Poetry (which also contained an article by Ezra Pound on London poets).

Cawein's poetry allied his love of nature with a devotion to earlier English and European literature, mythology, and classical allusion. This certainly encompassed much of T. S. Eliot's own interest, but whereas Eliot was also seeking a modern language and form, Cawein strove to maintain a traditional approach. Although he gained an international reputation, he has been eclipsed as the genre of poetry in which he worked became increasingly outmoded.


Volumes of poetry

Blooms of the Berry, J. P. Morton (Louisville, KY), 1887.

The Triumph of Music and Other Lyrics, J. P. Morton, 1888.

Accolon of Gaul, with Other Poems, J. P. Morton, 1889.

Lyrics and Idyls, J. P. Morton, 1890.

Days and Dreams: Poems, Putnam (New York and London), 1891.

Moods and Memories: Poems, Putnam, 1892.

Red Leaves and Roses: Poems, Putnam, 1893.

Poems of Nature and Love, Putnam, 1893.

Intimations of the Beautiful, and Poems, Putnam, 1894.

The White Snake and Other Poems, Translated from the German into the Original Meters, J. P. Morton, 1895.

Undertones, Copeland & Day (Boston), 1896.

The Garden of Dreams, J. P. Morton, 1896.

Shapes and Shadows: Poems, R. H. Russell (New York, NY), 1898.

Idyllic Monologues: Old and New World Verses, J. P. Morton, 1898.

Myth and Romance, Being a Book of Verse, Putnam, 1899.

One Day & Another: A Lyrical Eclogue, Badger (Boston), 1901.

Weeds by the Wall: Verses, J. P. Morton, 1901.

Kentucky Poems, Dutton (New York, NY), 1902.

A Voice on the Wind and Other Poems, J. P. Morton, 1902.

The Vale of Tempe: Poems, Dutton, 1905.

Nature-Notes and Impressions, Dutton, 1906.

The Poems of Madison Cawein. Volumes 1–5. Small, Maynard (Boston), 1907.

An Ode Read August 15, 1907, at the Dedication of the Monument Erected at Gloucester, Massachusetts, in Commemoration of the Founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Twenty-Three, J. P. Morton, 1908.

New Poems, Grant Richards (London), 1909.

The Giant and the Star: Little Annals in Rhyme, Small, Maynard, 1909.

The Shadow Garden (A Phantasy) and Other Plays, Putnam, 1910.

Poems by Madison Cawein, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1911.

The Poet, the Fool and the Faeries, Small, Maynard, 1912.

The Republic, A Little Book of Homespun Verse, Stewart & Kidd (Cincinnati), 1913.

Minions of the Moon: A Little Book of Song and Story, Stewart & Kidd, 1913.

The Poet and Nature and the Morning Road, J. P. Morton, 1914.

The Cup of Comus: Fact and Fancy, Cameo Press (New York, NY), 1915.

Musical versions

In 2017 Mad Duck recorded a version of At the sign of the skull and City of darkness in the album Braggart stories and dark poems


Let Us Do the Best We Can, P.F. Volland (Chicago), 1909.

So Many Ways, P. F. Volland, 1911.

The Message of the Lilies, P. F. Volland, 1913.

Christmas Rose and Leaf, Forest Craft Guild (New York), 1913.

Whatever the Path, Forest Craft Guild, 1913.

The Days of Used to Be, Forest Craft Guild, 1913.

Anthology contributions

Library of Southern Literature, edited by Edwin Anderson Alderman and Joel Chandler Harris, Martin & Hoyt (New Orleans), 1907

Modern American Poetry: A Critical Anthology, 4th revised edition, edited by Louis Untermeyer, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1930.


Johnson, E. Polk (1912). A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities. Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 669–670. Retrieved November 10, 2008.

A Literary History of Kentucky (University of Tennessee Press, 1988), William S. Ward

"Madison Cawein." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 29 December 2010.

Rothert, Otto Arthur. The Story of a Poet: Madison Cawein. Louisville, KY: J.P. Morton & Co., 1921.

Times Literary Supplement, letter from Robert Ian Scott (8 December 1995).

The University of Chicago Library. "American Poetry Full-Text Database Bibliography." Chadwyck-Healey, Inc. Web. 29 December 2010.

External links

Works by Madison Cawein at Project Gutenberg

Works by or about Madison Cawein at Internet Archive

Works by Madison Cawein at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

Bevis Hillier on Eliot and Cawein (pdf)

Text of Cawein's Waste Land

Poems and information about Madison Julius Cawein at Poemist

Books of Cawein's poems online

Poems, selected by Cawein (1911)

Cawein bibliography

Madison Cawein at Find a Grave


Index entry for Madison Cawein at Poets' Corner

Cawein, Madison (December 1, 1912). "MADISON CAWEIN'S REPLY; To Shaemas O'Sheel's Criticism of His New Poems". New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2008.

Write your comment about Madison Julius Cawein

jayda : your poems are horrible there
Shyra mae regio: Beautiful and stroy
Shyra mae regio: Beautiful and stroy
Kristi Thompson: I have always loved the poem, “Whippoorwill Time” since I was a young girl. I found it in an old book that was my Grandmothers. I have memorized it and always appreciated the serenity of the poem. Tonight I heard a Whippoorwill in the wild and it brought me back to the poem that I read and cherish as a child. I shared the poem with my husband and he loved it as well and we have read it several times sense. I appreciate knowing that the author was a lover of nature because my husband and I are as well.

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