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E. J. Pratt (Edwin John Pratt) Biography

(1882–1964), (Edwin John Pratt), The Titanic, Brébeuf and his Brethren, Towards the Last Spike, Newfoundland Verse

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy

Canadian poet, born in Newfoundland, educated at the University of Toronto. The son of a Methodist minister, Pratt was also ordained himself, but subsequently pursued an academic career. Although often considered Canada's finest writer of narrative verse of the twentieth century, much of his work is concerned with Victorian conflicts, such as the collapse of faith and humanity's relationship with nature more generally; thus the collision between the ship and the iceberg in The Titanic (1935) exemplifies the limitations of technological ‘progress’. His best-known works, Brébeuf and his Brethren (1940) and Towards the Last Spike (1952), are poems of epic scope with subjects drawn from Canadian history: the former treats the massacre of a group of early French missionaries by the Iroquois and, more generally, the problem of establishing a European culture in Canada; the latter takes the building of the transcontinental railroad, a metaphoric as well as a physical expression of national unity, as its subject. Pratt's poetry employs a wide range of metrical forms, demonstrating considerable technical assurance in all of them. His other works include Newfoundland Verse (1923), The Witches' Brew (1925), The Iron Door (1927), Verses of the Sea (1930), The Fable of the Goats (1937), and Still Life (1943). His Collected Poems appeared in 1958.

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