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The World of Jack London

A List of Published – Unpublished Poems & Plays

Jack London first became interested in poetry during the year he spent at Oakland High School and the one semester of his college education at the University of California.

Later, during the autumn of 1898, when he was teaching himself to be a writer, London spent many hours trying to write poetry. In John Barleycorn, London maintains that when he embarked on his writing career, he was more interested in being a poet than a fiction writer. London experimented with various verse forms during his period of literary apprenticeship: "I wrote everything...humorous verse, verse of all sorts from triolets and sonnets to blank verse tragedy and elephantine epics in Spenserian stanzas." This description of Jack's first attempts at poetry recalls Martin Eden's first efforts as a writer. Martin, who also wrote poetry, began writing simple verse forms and then "he lost his head and wasted two weeks on a tragedy in blank verse." London humorously described his initial and overly ambitious efforts at poetry in a letter to Mabel Applegarth in these words:

“I made ambitious efforts once. It makes me laugh to look back on them, though sometimes I am nearer to weeping. I was the greenest of tyros, dipping my brush into white-wash and coal-tar, and without the slightest knowledge of perspective, proportion or color, attempted masterpieces. . .With no more comprehension of the aims and principles of poetry than a crab, I proposed or rather, purposed to make something which would be something. I would strike out on new trails; I would improve upon the Spencerian [sic] Stanza. . .one Alexandrine at the end of the stanza was not enough; I added a second. . . . .My elephantine diction was superb—I out-Johnsoned Johnson.”

When Mabel, who was later to be fictionalized as Ruth Morse in Martin Eden, read the poems London sent her in 1898, she criticized the fact that they dealt with the same theme and questioned Jack's wisdom in spending so much time and effort on them. London defended his efforts by insisting that the exercise and discipline of writing verse would aid his prose. His poems, he argued, were "studies in structure and versification" The writing of a villanelle, for example, was a "fine drill, forcing one to be trite, to sum his thought in small compass, to condense."

The culmination of London's poetic efforts was his verse play, The Acorn Planter, published by Macmillan Company in 1916. In his introduction to The Complete Poems of Jack London James E. Sisson discusses the possible influence of Longfellow on The Acorn Planter, which was written in a Hiawathan tetrameter. In a letter to George Sterling dated January 13, 1915, in which he discusses his composition of The Acorn Planter, London gave his own view of his poetry:

“Tomorrow I finish the first act of the Jinks play, which I think I shall call The Acorn Planters. This means that I am over half-way through. I am writing it with a Prologue, two Acts, and an Apotheosis, and without one dam stick of scenery...Ye Gods--me writing poetry! The poetry I write is such silly rot. I have crystallized in prose, and imagine me counting meter on my fingers!”

The poems which follow are a collection of London's published poems. Included in this collection are some of the sonnets, triolets, and humorous verse London mentions in John Barleycorn. The poems posted here do not, of course, represent London's total effort as a poet. The majority of London's poems were never published and hence exist only in manuscript.

Compiled by James E. Sisson

1. "He Chortled With Glee," Town Topics [New York], XLI, 16 (April 20, 1899), p. 8.

2. "If I were God," Town Topics [New York], XLI, 19 (May 11, 1899), p. 18.

3. "The Sea Sprite and the Shooting Star," Privately printed, [n.p., 1932].

"The Sea Sprite and the Shooting Star," written in 1898, reprinted in Wm. McDevitt, Jack London as Poet and as Platform Man, San Francisco: Recorder-Sunset Press, 1947, pp. 8-11.

The Sea Sprite and the Shooting Star, printed in a six-page brochure by the Jack London Amateur Press Club of San Francisco, in 1958.

"The Sea Sprite and the Shooting Star," reprinted in Robert H. Woodward, "Jack London's Lost Poem," Mark Twain Journal, 12, 3 (Winter 1964-1965), pp. 6-7.

4. "In and Out," Town Topics [New York] XLIII, 19 (May 10, 1900), p. 23.1

Reprinted in Martin Eden (1909), p. 189.2

Reprinted in Irving Stone, Sailor on Horseback, [Boston]: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1938, p. 146.3

5. "Sonnet," Dilettante [Alameda, Calif.], VII, 8 (February 1901), p. [169].

"Sonnet," reprinted in Wm. McDevitt, Jack London as Poet and as Platform Man. San Francisco: Recorder-Sunset Press, 1947, p. 11.

6. "The Lover's Liturgy," The Raven Oakland, II, 1 (February 1901), p. 1

7. "Daybreak," National Magazine Boston, XIV, 5 (August 1901), p. 547.

"Daybreak," Joe Chapple's News-Letter, June 16, 1912, p.__.

"Daybreak," Trenton N,J, Times, June 29, 1912, p.__.

8. "The Worker and the Tramp," in The Comrade New York, I, 4 (January 1902), p. 13.

"The Worker and the Tramp," in A Book of Verses. Oakland, Calif.: Press Club Alameda County,
1910, p. 19.

"The Worker and the Tramp," The Silhouette Oakland, I, 4 (Dec. 1910–Jan. 1917), p. 71.

"The Worker and the Tramp," in Torrey Conner, "Long Distance Interviews—What is a Poet?," Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, LXXXII, 3 (March 1924), p. 121.

"The Worker and the Tramp," Separately printed by the Jack London Amateur Press Club.

9. "The Way of War," Once a Week Oakland, California Edition, 2 (Oct. 20, 1906), Unpaged.

"The Way of War," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 16, 1917, p. 2 E.

"The Way of War," in Literary California. Compiled by Elle Sterling Mighels. San Francisco: Harr Wagner Publishing Co., 1918, pp. 202–203

"The Way of War," Leaflet with date 1917, distributed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

10. Untitled Poem in The California Birthday Book. Edited and arranged by George Wharton James. Los Angeles, Calif.: Arroyo Guild Press, 1909, p. 342.

11. "Abalone Song" Verses by George Sterling, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and Gelett Burgess. Music adapted by Sterling Sherwin. in A San Francisco Songster, 1849–1939. Vol. 2. Edited by Cornel Lengyel. History of Music in San Francisco Series. San Francisco: Works Progress Administration, Northern California, 1939, pp. 128A–128B.

12. Untitled poem in Russian in Vil Bykov's In the Footsteps of Jack London, Komsomol Pravda, Sept. 20 and 23, 1959.

1 Charmian London in her bibliography in The Book of Jack London (New York, 1921), II, 398 erronously states that this triolet appeared in Town Topics, April 26, 1900.
2 This version omits one line from the original triolet.
3 Ibid.
4 This version prints only four stanzas of the original six published in The Comrade.
5 Ibid.
6 This version prints only four stanzas of the original six published in The Comrade.
7 Hensley C. Woodbridge, in Jack London Bibliography, p. 260, lists this poem as appearing first in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 16, 1917, p. 24 and he adds:
"Charmian London states that this poem was published in Once A Week, Oct. 27, 1906. The file of this journal in the Library of Congress was examined; we failed to find this poem."
Charmian London does not mention this poem in her bibliography but it was published in a special California Edition of Once A Week in Oct. 1906. The issue is not usually found in library files of the periodical.

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List of Jack London Poems
Compiled by James E. Sisson
  1. "A Heart"
  2. "Abalone Song"
  3. "And Some Night"
  4. "Ballade of the False Lover"
  5. "Cupid's Deal"
  6. "Daybreak"
  7. "George Sterling"
  8. "Gold"
  9. "He Chortled With Glee"
  10. "He Never Tried Again"
  11. "His Trip to Hades"
  12. "Homeland"
  13. "Hors De Saison"
  14. "If I Were God"
  15. "In a Year, In a Year, When the Grapes Are Ripe"
  16. "In and Out"
  17. "Je Ris En Espoir"
  18. "Memory"
  19. "Moods"
  20. "My Confession"
  21. "My Little Palmist"
  22. "Of Man of the Future"
  23. "The Republican Rallying Song"
  24. "Sonnet"
  25. "The Acorn Planter"
  26. "The Gift of God"
  27. "The Klondyker's Dream"
  28. "The Lover's Liturgy"
  29. "The Republican Battle-Hymn"
  30. "The Return of Ulysses - A Modern Version"
  31. "The Sea Sprite and the Shooting Star"
  32. "The Socialist's Dream"
  33. "The Song of the Flames"
  34. "The Way of War"
  35. "The Worker and the Tramp"
  36. "Too Late"
  37. "When All the World Shouted My Name"
  38. "Where the Rainbow Fell"
  39. "Your Kiss"

"The Lazy Man's Prayer"
"Morning Prayer" or "The Scissorbill's Prayer"
"On the Face of the Earth (You Are One)"
["Sonoma Valley"]
"Yukon Belle and Belle of the Yukon"

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List of Jack London Plays
Compiled by James E. Sisson
  1. "The Return of Ulysses – A Modern Version."
    One-Act Play written in heroic couplets.
    Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  2. "The Great Interrogation." One-Act Play, written
    in collaboration with Lee Bascom (Mrs. George Hamilton Marsden).
    Produced first at the Alcazer Theater, San Francisco, August 21-29, 1905.
    Produced at Burbank Theater, Los Angeles, October 6, 1905.
    Produced at Majestic Theater, Chicago, May 6, 1907.
    Produced by the Cortelyou Club at the Brighton Beach Music Hall, June 1911.
    Produced at salt Lake City, Utah, July 29, 1911.
  3. "As It Was in the Beginning." A Four-Act Comedy, written in collaboration
    with Lee Bascom (Mrs. George Hamilton Maraden). Copyrighted 1905.
    Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  4. Scorn of Women (1906). A Three-Act Play.
  5. The Birth Mark (1917). A One-Act Play.
    Written as "The Intruder."
    Produced as "Her Birth Mark," in New York City, Sept. 29, 1911.
    Produced as "Her Brother's Clothes," a musical in Minneapolis, July 15, 1914.
    Revised and published as "The Birth Mark" in The Human Drift (1917).
  6. "Gold." A Three-Act Play, written in collaboration with Herbert Heron. Copyright 1910.
    Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  7. A Wicked Woman (1917) A One-Act Play.
    Produce on the Orpheum Theatre Circuit in Portland, Spokane, and Seattle in July 1910.
    Published in The Human Drift (1917).
  8. "Billy the Kid." produced in Kansas City and Detroit in July, 1910. Advertisement states that it had a two-year run.
  9. Theft (1910). A Four-Act Play.
    Produced by the Luthuanian National Drama Theatre in November 1955.
  10. The First Poet (1911). A One-Act Play.
    Published in Century Magazine, June, 1911, and in The Turtles of Tasman (1916).
    Produced at the Forest Theatre, Carmel, California, July 20, 1915.
  11. "War." A Drama of Peace in Three Acts, written in collaboration with Joseph Noel. Copyright 1912. Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  12. "Babylonia," A Musical Comedy, written in collaboration with C. P. Clement and Edward Gage, in 1913. Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  13. "Gold." A Three-Act Play, written in collaboration with Herbert Heron. Copyright 1913. An extensive revision (including a new Third Act) of "Gold" (1910)
    Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  14. "The Damascus Road." A Three-Act Play, written in collaboration with Walter H. Nichols, first as "The Common Man," and revised as "The Damascus Road." Copyright 1913. Unpublished and presumably never produced.
  15. "Daughters of the Rich," One-Act Play. Copyrighted 1915.
    Unpublished. A forthcoming production was announced late in 1915. ??
  16. The Acorn Planter (1916). A Three-Act Play. Never produced.
James E. Sisson III, 1917-1986, of Vernon, Alabama, began studies in 1960 at the University of California, Berkeley, with Professor James D. Hart, and began his research on Jack London in 1970. Sisson's contributions to the field of Jack London scholarship were impressive, and Jack London scholars around the world respected his work. He collected and published various London writings, and compiled several London bibliographies. Sisson regularly published pamphlets, articles, and reviews on Jack London in newsletters and newspapers, and reviewed almost every London work published since 1960. A tireless worker and advocate on behalf of London scholarship, he assisted many other researchers with grants and materials.
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