Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish

1892 - 1982

The winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, Archibald MacLeish was appointed the Librarian of Congress by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. MacLeish's poetry has been set to music by the American composers John Duke, Miriam Gideon, John Musto, and William Schumann, among others.

Photo: Archibald MacLeish, between 1939 and 1944, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The audio recordings of John Musto's songs, which set the poetry of Archibald Macleish and are provided in the audio playlist to the right, are made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. For information about each recording, please visit the entries for individual songs. To listen, please click on the tracks themselves.


Born in Glencoe, Illinois, Archibald MacLeish studied at Yale and at Harvard Law School. While in law school, he began writing poetry.

MacLeish served during World War I as an ambulance driver and later as the captain of field artillery. He returned to the United States after the war and took a position with a law firm in Boston. In 1923, he gave up his career as a lawyer to pursue the life of a poet, moving with his family to France to focus on his writing. He published four books of poetry in four years, including The Happy Marriage and The Pot of Earth. He returned to the United States in 1928.

MacLeish won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for Conquistador, which is about Cortez's army on their journey through Mexico. He would win two more Pulitzer Prizes through his life: in 1952 for his Collected Poems and in 1958 for his verse drama J. B..

During the five years (beginning in 1939) in which MacLeish served as the Librarian of Congress, he reorganized the Library's administrative offices and started a series of poetry readings. MacLeish also held other important positions throughout his life, including Director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures (during World War II), Secretary of State for cultural affairs (also during World War II), and the "first American member of the governing body of UNESCO."

--Christie Finn Source: from The Academy of American Poets

Audio PLaylist