Little Bits of History

Bollingen Prize

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 19, 2013
Paul Mellon

Paul Mellon

February 19, 1949: The Bollingen Prize is first bestowed. It was awarded yearly for the first 15 years and is now given out every two years. The prize is given by Beinecke Library at Yale University to an American poet in recognition of his or her work since the last prize or for lifetime achievement. The prize was established by Paul Mellon and was named for Carl Jung’s home in Switzerland. Mellon and his wife funded the Bollingen Foundation which in turn donated $10,000 to the Library of Congress for the funding of the prize money.

Paul Mellon was an owner and breeder of racehorses, a businessman, a corporate investor, and a philanthropist. He was the son of Andrew W. Mellon, US Secretary of the Treasury 1921-32. When Fortune magazine first published a list of the wealthiest Americans in 1957, Paul, his sister, and two cousins were each listed among the top 8 with fortunes of $400 to $700 million each. Paul was a Yale University graduate and a member of the secret society, Scroll and Key. He has been a generous and loyal patron, donating two residential buildings and the Yale Center for British Arts.

Ezra Pound was chosen as the first recipient of the Bollingen Prize for his collection of poems, The Pisan Cantos. Pound was born in 1885 in the Idaho Territory. His family moved East when he was a toddler. He completed his education, culminating in an M.A. in Romance Philology in 1906. He moved to London in 1908 and on to Paris in 1920. In 1924, he and two women (Dorothy Shakespear and Olga Rudge) moved to Italy. Pound remained in Italy after World War II started and became an Axis propagandist. He was eventually extradited to the US and charged with treason. He pleaded insanity and was hospitalized for 12 years (1946-58).

The Bollingen Prize came under immediate attack for bestowing their honor on a known fascist. Pound’s insanity plea was questionable at best and his writings of treasonous work do not appear to be the product of a madman. Political pressure was placed on Congress to end the Library of Congress’s involvement and to return the unused monies to the Bollinger Foundation. The Foundation continued the program but it was now to be administered by Yale University. The Foundation was dissolved in 1968 and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation then provided funding of $100,000 to continue the prize in perpetuity.

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” – Robert Frost

“Always be a poet, even in prose.” – Charles Baudelaire

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Plato

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Carl Jung was a Swiss psychotherapist and psychiatrist. He founded the analytical method of psychology. He formed the idea of archetypes, the collective unconscious, as well as other well-known processes. He also studied alchemy, astrology, and the occult. He purchased an estate on the shore of the Obersee basin, part of Lake Zurich, in 1922. There, he built Bollingen Tower, a small castle-looking building with several towers. On his 75th birthday in 1950, he put up a stone cube on the shore which was inscribed on three sides. The inscriptions are in Greek and Latin.

Also on this day: Cracker Jack – In 1912, Cracker Jack began to include prizes in every box.
Rockin’ the World – In 1600,  the most powerful volcano in South America erupted.
Soaps – In 1985, the EastEnders was first broadcast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: