auden and the world


W. H. Auden’s imaginary academy for poets, described in his essay “The Poet and the City” from The Dyer’s Hand (1962), is of a clear practical bent, for as well as poetry the curriculum requires its students to undertake allotment-keeping and the care of a domestic animal. The habit of situating the useful alongside the beautiful also animates his prose writing. Having established himself in America – “so big, so friendly and so rich” – during the 1940s, he could rely on reviewing and journalism and teaching, the occupation of his winters, to earn him a living. At the same time these commissions provided him with a framework in which to discuss his religious and historical concerns as they emerged in his poetry, while creating the opportunity to write important extended literary-critical pieces such as The Enchafèd Flood and material collected in The Dyer’s Hand. In return for these labours, as it were, Auden wrote “Under Sirius”, “Bucolics”, “Memorial for the City”, “Deftly, admiral, cast your fly”, “The Shield of Achilles”, “Homage to Clio” and “Horae Canonicae”, poems which complete the major phase of his work and would in the case of most other poets form grounds for a high reputation in themselves.

more from the TLS here.