Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Muir, Edwin

Entry updated 13 May 2024. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1887-1959) Scottish poet, translator and author, prevented by ill health from active service in World War One, though his early poetry reflects upon the consequences of that disaster for the world. He is best known for the translations with his wife Willa Muir of very nearly the entire works of Franz Kafka, introducing that central figure to the English-language world. It has been suggested that Willa Muir was the senior collaborator in this (and their many other) translations, including the early work of Gerhart Hauptmann, and the future-haunted Die Schlafwandler (1930-1932; trans as The Sleepwalkers: A Trilogy 1932) by Hermann Broch (1886-1951); and it may well be the case that she was technically more competent. The moments of inspired prose in their translations – not always appreciated by later critics – are perhaps more likely the responsibility of Edwin Muir, whose English-language writings rise easily to eloquence.

Those writings included much criticism, several novels less appreciated now than formerly, and a body of Poetry which has received increasing attention, especially for late-career poems written in response to World War Two and to the aftermath years (as he envisioned them) before his death. The Voyage and Other Poems (coll 1946 chap) and The Labyrinth (coll 1949 chap) contain material of interest. The poems assembled in One Foot in Eden (coll 1956 chap) intensify Muir's expressions of dread that we are entering a Post-Holocaust world. The title poem adumbrates this sense, though perhaps the most substantial contribution to the volume is "The Horses" (March 1955 Listener), set at a time after World War Three, as a further change is announced:

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence....

The land is now converted to a Pastoral way of life reminiscent of Richard Jefferies's After London or Wild England (1885). The poem has been described as expressing optimism. [JC]

Edwin Muir

born Deerness, Orkney Islands: 15 May 1887

died Swaffam Priory, Cambridge: 3 January 1959

works (selected)

see also Austria; Gollancz

about the author


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies