Auden Revision Notes
· He is regarded as one of the best writers of his generation.
· The central themes of his poetry are love, politics, citizenship, religion, morals and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.
· He went to Spain during the civil war in 1936 intending to drive an ambulance; he became a broadcaster and found political realities were more complicated than he first though.
· Auden lived during the age of the great totalitarian dictators Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Franco, and saw the rise of the bureaucratic state.
· He moved to the USA in 1939 and became a US citizen in 1946.
· Auden became interested in Jews and wondered about converting to Judaism, especially as one of his lovers was Jewish.
· He knew what Hitler and Europe were up to and realized the persecution of the Jews and homosexuals were imminent.
· Auden was homosexual and whilst at Oxford he had sexual relations with Christopher Isherwood in the 1930’s.
· He travelled to New York with Isherwood in January 1939.
Love is fleeting
· While Auden is known for his poems about heady themes such as death, totalitarianism, and the role of poetry, he is also renowned for his love poems.
· Many of them, such as “As I Walked Out One Evening, feature stirring passages about how beautiful and inspiring love can be, and “Funeral Blues” features a man deeply in love with another.
· However, for Auden, that is not all he has to say about love. Almost all of these poems have a sobering undercurrent of sorrow, or of the desire to remind readers that life, and love, are short and are affected by the of existence like sickness and time.
· Love is sweet, but it does not exist in a universe devoid of suffering, waning of affection or, of course, death.
Poetry Reveals Reality
· Auden’s poetry evokes the terror of living in the middle of the 20th century, when dictators in Europe suppressed their people’s freedoms, led their countries into war, and resorted to barbaric tactics of mass slaughter.
· In a few of his poems he wonders what the role of poetry can be in the face of such nightmares, and why he should honor the death of one man when so many were being killed on the battlefield, on the streets, and in gas chambers.
· Writing about Freud, he asks, “Of whom shall we speak” when “there are so many we shall have to mourn.”
· In the elegy for Yeats, he asserts his belief that poetry can still lift the human spirit and “persuade us to rejoice” and “teach the free man how to praise.”
· Auden is a realist in that he understands poetry might not directly influence anything, but its habit…