Richard Ghormley Eberhart (April 5, 1904 – June 9, 2005) was an American poet who published more than a dozen books of poetry and approximately twenty works in total. “Richard Eberhart emerged out of the 1930s as a modern stylist with romantic sensibilities.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Selected Poems, 1930–1965 and the 1977 National Book Award for Poetry for Collected Poems, 1930–1976. He was the grandfather of former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.
Eberhart was born in 1904 in Austin, a small city in southeast Minnesota. He grew up on an estate of 40 acres (16 ha) called Burr Oaks, since partitioned into hundreds of residential lots. He published a volume of poetry called Burr Oaks in 1947, and many of his poems reflect his youth in rural America.
Eberhart began college at the University of Minnesota, but following his mother’s death from cancer in 1921—the event which prompted him to begin writing poetry—he transferred to Dartmouth College. After graduation he worked as a ship‘s hand, among other jobs, then studied at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where I.A. Richards encouraged him to continue writing poetry, and where he took a further degree. After serving as private tutor to the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam in 1931–1932, Eberhart pursued graduate study for a year at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, Eberhart met and spoke with T. S. Eliot.
His first book of poetry, A Bravery of Earth, was published in London in 1930. It reflected his experiences in Cambridge and his experience as a ship’s hand. Reading the Spirit, published in 1937, contains one of his best-known poems, “The Groundhog”.
During World War II he held the rank of Lieutenant Commander and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve; this experience led him to write another of his most celebrated poems, “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment”, the first three stanzas of which, are in effect a prayer:
- Was man made stupid to see his own stupidity?
- Is God by definition indifferent, beyond us all?
- Is the eternal truth man’s fighting soul
- Wherein the Beast ravens in its own avidity?