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Auden, Wystan Hugh. (1907 - 1973).

L i f e

- sympathised with the Left in the 1930s

- became an American citizen (1946)

W o r k

1 9 3 0 s  P e r i o d :

- the poet of his times: diagnoses the ills of his country under Depression

- employs deliberate irreverence, even clowning

Look Stranger! (GB, 1936) = On This Island (USA, 1937):

"Look Stranger!", later renamed "Seascape":

- a sharply focused poem contrasting the perspectives of ‘far off’ x ‘stable here’

“Musée des Beaux Arts” (1938):

- claims suffering and ‘its human position’ a key concern of art

- uses the example of Pieter Brueghel’s painting The Fall of Icarus

The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938):

- plays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood

Letters from Iceland (1937):

- a record from his treck across Iceland with Louise MacNeice

- mingles prose, photographic illustrations, and poetry

1 9 4 0 s – 5 0 s  P e r i o d :

- moves from a Marxist alignment to a Christian one: takes a more religious view of personal responsibility and traditional value, and prefers individual freedoms to the demands of community

- combines elements from popular art x an extreme technical formality, a colloquial tone x high artifice, etc.

- discovers for himself what T. S. Eliot calls an ‘objective correlative’

Another Time (1940):
“September 1, 1939”:

- declares independence from the ‘State’ in favour of an alternate dependence on human relationships

Nones (1951):

- the best example of the combination of the grave x the flippant

“In Praise of Limestone”:

- presents a landscape as a psychological state (the ‘objective correlative’)

- limestone = typifies his own unpredictability, elusiveness, and his fondness for change

1 9 6 0 s – 7 0 s  P e r i o d :

- experiences deepening religious feelings

- becomes sceptical of all remedies for modern ills and seeks refugee in love and friendship

About the House (1967)
City Without Walls (1970)


(Photo: Carl Van Vechten. 1939. Source: Wikipedia).

  • Author

    Wystan Hugh Auden. (1907 - 1973). British. American citizen since 1946.
  • Work

    Poet. Dramatist. Critic. Author of "Musée des Beaux Arts".
  • Genres

    Left-wing poetry in 1930s. Later personal and religious poetry.


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.

Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come."

From "Funeral Blues" (1936).


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