“The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” was published in Robert Lowell’s second collection of poetry, Lord Weary’s Castle. This collection was published in 1946 and won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.
This poem deals with personal loss and applies it to human loss due to the violence of war. Lowell explores man’s violent nature, both towards other men and towards the natural world, filtering the question of violence through the lens of his unsettled feelings about his faith. By the time Lowell wrote this poem, he had already served time in prison for protesting the draft and refusing to serve as a protest against the inhumane nature of World War II; he would go on to actively oppose the Vietnam War in the 1960s. This poem is also an elegy to Lowell’s cousin, whose ship sank in World War II.