Title: The Sublime Boy; the Poems of
Author: Walter De Casseres
DeC’s Contribution: Introduction and a few poems.
Publisher: Seven Arts, New York
Publisher: Underworld Amusements
Walter DeCasseres was Benjamin’s younger brother, a “frustrated homosexual” as one writer called him, he committed suicide at the age of 18 by jumping into the Delaware River. In the introduction Benjamin approves of the suicide as an act that he was not only expecting, but accepted. The poems contained in the book were collected by Benjamin and were written in the last three years of Walters life.
Originally published in 1926 and republished in 2014.
Back cover copy:
“SUBLIMITY is that which transcends circumstance by an act of beauty or sacrifice. Walter DeCasseres was the Sublime Boy. He walked in the few years of his life with the Crazy Beauty which hallucinated the souls of Shelley, Keats, Poe, Blake and Heine. He walked out of life with a gesture of sublime disdain that raised him to the shining summits of the Morning Star, where the souls of all child-gods go.
The fury of a Titan foiled of his heaven, the frenzied paroxysms of a star-traveling eagle trying to gnaw its way out of its cage of flesh and bone, the rage of Ixion as he picks up the stone that he is doomed to roll forever and hurls it with imprecations against the ramparts of the gods: that was Walter DeCasseres, who, in his eighteenth year, went with the same passionate hurry and joy to the Everlasting Sleep as Youth hurries to the breasts of Venus.
He was a boy who spurned his manhood before he had lived it. He abridged the agony of years; he curtailed his Drama to a curtain-raiser; he compressed life to a song and a curse. He came, he saw, he yawned. He was the mystery of precocious and elemental genius. There was a colossal mirror in his brain that reflected the hells of the Past and the grinning disillusions of the Future. On the exquisite keyboard of his nerves Satan and Medusa executed in thunder-tones the Ninth Symphony of Pain. His heart was the Mystical Rose stuck in a dung-heap.”
Article from the New York Evening Post:
Sept. 26th, 1926
SUICIDE’S POETRY FOUND ON BILLS
Discover of Laundry Tickets Reveal Tragedy of Descendant of Spinoza
VERSE NOW PUBLISHED
The recent discovery of a package of laundry bills, invoices and paper bags on which were scribbled a great number of poems, brings to light the life and death of the one of the last two descendants of Benedict de Spinoza, the great Dutch philosopher and descendant of Simon De Casseres of London, the famous wealthy merchant who was the close friend of Oliver Cromwell.
The poet was Walter DeCasseres, born in Philadelphia in 1881, and who committed suicide by drowning in February 1900. His body was recovered by workmen at the foot of the Arch street wharf in Philadelphia five weeks afterward. He was identified by a library card found in his pocket.
DeCasseres committed suicide for purely philosophical reasons. He has been called the “American Thomas Chatterton,” because like the English lad he committed suicide at an early age and also wrote great poetry. When the manuscripts were submitted to Professor Leonard Charles Van Hoppen, formerly Queen Wilhelmina professor of Dutch Literature at Columbia University he declared that the poems of DeCasseres are superior to any poems written by Poe, Keats, Shelley or Blake at that age.
The rediscovered poems, which are published today by Seven Arts, under he title of “The Sublime Boy,” reveal similarities to the mournful mysticism of Edgar Allan Poe and the world weariness of the old testament poet who cried “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
Whereas Thomas Chatterron committed suicide for physical reasons–because he was starving–Walter DeCasseres was a spiritual suicide, who had a contempt for life and a horror of what se saw on this planet, although he was in perfect physical health, had a home, a loving family, and a good position in the proofroom of the Philadelphia Press, where he was a copyholder.
DeCasseres’ poems were written between his sixteenth year and the time of his death at 18 years and nearly siz months. They were only recently found by his brother, Benjmin DeCasseeres. Many of them were only deciphered with the greatest trouble and after the lapse of considerable time. They were scribbled — sometimes in ink, sometimes in pencil–very carelessly on the first pieces of paper that come to hand–sugar bags, backs of bills and torn bits of white paper.