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W. H. Auden (1907–1973)

Author of Selected Poems

290+ Works 12,817 Members 123 Reviews 88 Favorited

About the Author

W. H. Auden, who was born in York, England, on February 21, 1907, is one of the most successful and well-known poets of the 20th century. Educated at Oxford, Auden served in the Spanish Civil War, which greatly influenced his work. He also taught in public schools in Scotland and England during the show more 1930s. It was during this time that he rose to public fame with such works as "Paid on Both Sides" and "The Orators." Auden eventually immigrated to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1946. It was in the U.S. that he met his longtime partner Chester Kallman. Stylistically, Auden was known for his incomparable technique and his linguistic innovations. The term Audenesque became an adjective to describe the contemporary sounding speech reflected in his poems. Auden's numerous awards included a Bollingen Prize in Poetry, A National Book Award for "The Shield of Achilles," a National Medal for Literature from the National Book Committee, and a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Numerous volumes of his poetry remain available today, including "About the House" and "City Without Walls." W.H. Auden died on September 28, 1973 in Vienna. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo from 1945 (Poetry since 1939, British Council)


Works by W. H. Auden

Selected Poems (1979) 1,723 copies
Collected Poems (1976) 1,499 copies
Tell Me the Truth About Love (1986) 595 copies
The Portable Greek Reader (1948) — Editor — 396 copies
Viking Book of Aphorisms: A Personal Selection (1962) — Editor — 382 copies
Auden: Poems (1995) 363 copies
Letters from Iceland (1937) 240 copies
Forewords and Afterwords (1973) 221 copies
Collected Longer Poems (1968) 194 copies
The Oxford Book of Light Verse (1938) — Editor — 189 copies
An Elizabethan song book (1955) — Editor — 144 copies
Another Time (1940) 138 copies
Journey to a War (1939) — Author — 106 copies
The Elder Edda: A Selection (1969) — Translator — 100 copies
The Sea and the Mirror (1944) 95 copies
The Seven Deadly Sins (1961) — Contributor — 89 copies
Thank You, Fog (1974) 71 copies
The Faber Book of Aphorisms (1962) — Editor — 67 copies
Homage to Clio (1960) 53 copies
Poems (1934) 50 copies
About the house (1965) 44 copies
Nones (1950) 44 copies
Secondary Worlds (1968) 42 copies
The Rake's Progress {score} (1951) 42 copies
The Shield of Achilles (1955) 42 copies
Look, Stranger! (1936) 37 copies
Norse Poems (1981) 37 copies
The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935) 36 copies
The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith (1956) — Editor; Introduction; Introduction — 36 copies
Poet's Tongue (1935) 35 copies
The Ascent of F6 (1936) 34 copies
Academic Graffiti (1971) 33 copies
Selected Poems (2010) 30 copies
19th century British minor poets (1966) — Editor — 23 copies
Some Poems (1940) 21 copies
Selected Essays (1964) 17 copies
Shorts (1995) 17 copies
The Intent of the Critic (1941) — Contributor; Contributor — 15 copies
New year letter (1941) 14 copies
On this island (1937) 12 copies
The Dance of Death (1933) 11 copies
The Double Man (1941) 11 copies
Nee, Plato, nee gedichten (2009) 11 copies
Night Mail [1936 film] (1936) — Screenwriter — 10 copies
W. H. Auden: A Selection (1961) 10 copies
Poésies choisies (2005) 10 copies
I Believe (1945) 9 copies
The Indispensable Greek Reader (1950) — Editor — 8 copies
39 luuletust ja 5 esseed (2012) 7 copies
Horae canonicae (1986) 7 copies
Vint-i-set poemes (1995) 6 copies
The platonic blow (1965) 6 copies
The Rake's Progress (1951) 5 copies
Spain (1937) 5 copies
Mountains (1954) 5 copies
Lo scudo di Perseo (2000) 5 copies
Poezje (1988) 4 copies
The Bassarids {vocal score} — Librettist — 4 copies
Poemas escogidos (1981) 4 copies
Die Dreigroschenoper / The Rake's Progress (1987) — Author — 4 copies
Poesie 3 copies
The Bassarids {libretto} (1993) — Librettist — 3 copies
Cartas de Islandia. (2000) 3 copies
Early Auden 2 copies
The Bassarids {unspecified} (1966) — Librettist — 2 copies
Saggi 2 copies
Sir, ingens fiende (2003) 2 copies
Essais critiques (2000) 2 copies
Mar Y El Espejo, El (2001) 2 copies
Wykłady o Shakespearze (2016) 2 copies
The Criterion Book of Modern American Verse (1956) — Editor — 2 copies
The Griffin 2 copies
La mano del tintore (2021) 1 copy
Encounter 1 copy
Some Poems 1 copy
August 1968 1 copy
Gedichte = Poems (1973) 1 copy
Anhalten alle Uhren (2002) 1 copy
The Bassarids {full score} — Librettist — 1 copy
Night Mail 1 copy
Postscript 1 copy
Lullaby (1940) 1 copy
Poems [1934] 1 copy
Romeo and Juliet (1958) 1 copy
Poetry 1 copy
Law Like Love (1939) 1 copy
Sonnet 1 copy
Two songs 1 copy
Der Wanderer 1 copy
Sonettar frå Kina (1997) 1 copy
Anrufung Ariels (1987) 1 copy
Poesie scelte (2016) 1 copy
Poems 1 copy
Poems 1 copy
Higher Greek Unseens (1898) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Sonnets (1609) — Introduction, some editions — 8,578 copies
The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) — Translator, some editions — 7,973 copies
The Art of Eating (1954) — Introduction — 1,848 copies
Complete Poems (1961) — Introduction, some editions; Narrator, some editions — 1,784 copies
Markings (1963) — Introduction, Translator, some editions — 1,724 copies
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000) — Contributor — 1,251 copies
Italian Journey: 1786-1788 (1816) — Translator, some editions — 1,103 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 914 copies
The Golden Key (1867) — Afterword, some editions — 783 copies
The Nation's Favourite Poems (1996) — Contributor — 622 copies
The Star Thrower (1978) — Introduction, some editions — 445 copies
A Pocket Book of Modern Verse (1954) — Contributor, some editions — 441 copies
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology (1992) — Contributor — 388 copies
Brand (1866) — Introduction, some editions — 367 copies
The Spy's Bedside Book (1957) — Contributor — 352 copies
Literature: The Human Experience (2006) — Contributor — 338 copies
Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993) — Contributor — 332 copies
Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose [Norton Critical Edition] (1993) — Contributor — 318 copies
The Faber Book of Modern Verse (1936) — Contributor, some editions — 284 copies
The 40s: The Story of a Decade (2014) — Contributor — 275 copies
The Lure of the Limerick (1964) — Contributor — 271 copies
Don Giovanni [libretto] (1787) — Translator, some editions — 265 copies
The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (1950) — Contributor, some editions — 264 copies
Intimate Journals (1887) — Introduction, some editions — 238 copies
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983) — Contributor — 235 copies
The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard (1952) — Editor — 223 copies
The Sorrows of Young Werther / Novella (1971) — Translator, some editions — 222 copies
The Art of Losing (2010) — Contributor — 197 copies
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny [libretto] (1929) — Translator, some editions — 185 copies
The Desire & Pursuit of the Whole (1909) — Foreword, some editions — 179 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 161 copies
The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature (1998) — Contributor — 158 copies
The American Scene (1907) — Introduction, some editions — 153 copies
Don Giovanni [catch-all] (1787) — Translator, some editions — 143 copies
The Faber Book of Beasts (1997) — Contributor — 139 copies
Poets of World War II (2003) — Contributor — 133 copies
American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse (2003) — Contributor — 132 copies
Adrienne Rich's Poetry [Norton Critical Edition] (1975) — Contributor — 124 copies
Selected Poems (1940) — Editor — 121 copies
Letters from Italy (1996) — Translator — 110 copies
Emergency Kit (1996) — Contributor, some editions — 108 copies
The Selected Poetry and Prose of Byron (1966) — Editor — 95 copies
The Norton Book of Friendship (1991) — Contributor — 94 copies
Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (2020) — Contributor — 88 copies
Don Giovanni [vocal score] (1900) — Translator, some editions — 77 copies
The Protestant Mystics (1960) — Introduction, some editions — 74 copies
The Everyman Anthology of Poetry for Children (1994) — Contributor — 72 copies
Religious Drama 1 (1957) — Contributor — 71 copies
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny / The Seven Deadly Sins (1979) — Translator, some editions — 69 copies
Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths (1684) — Contributor — 68 copies
Times Three (1960) — Foreword — 65 copies
Evening Land (1953) — Translator, some editions — 62 copies
The Name of Love: Classic Gay Love Poems (1995) — Contributor — 51 copies
Lament for the Makers: A Memorial Anthology (1996) — Contributor — 49 copies
Best SF: 1973 (1974) — Contributor — 42 copies
A Quarto of Modern Literature (1935) — Contributor — 39 copies
Antiworlds, and the fifth ace; poetry (1967) — Foreword, some editions — 35 copies
Antiworlds (1966) — Translator — 34 copies
The Magic Circle: Stories and People in Poetry (1952) — Contributor — 31 copies
The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (1934) — Contributor — 30 copies
Selected Poems (1900) — Translator, some editions — 29 copies
60 Years of American Poetry (1996) — Contributor — 28 copies
Tales of Grimm and Andersen (1952) — Introduction — 28 copies
The Book Lovers (1976) — Contributor — 26 copies
Oscar Wilde: A Collection of Critical Essays (1969) — Contributor — 26 copies
One World of Literature (1992) — Contributor — 24 copies
A Change of World: Poems (1951) — Introduction, some editions — 24 copies
Graham Greene: A Collection of Critical Essays (1973) — Contributor — 24 copies
A. E. Housman: A Collection of Critical Essays (1968) — Contributor — 22 copies
The World of Law, Volume II : The Law as Literature (1960) — Contributor — 21 copies
Collected Poems (1971) — Translator — 20 copies
On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics (2012) — Contributor, some editions — 20 copies
Edgar Allen Poe: Selected Prose and Poetry (1963) — Introduction — 20 copies
A Choice of de la Mare's Verse (1963) — Introduction; Editor — 20 copies
The Poetry Cure (2005) — Contributor — 19 copies
The Great Operas of Mozart (1962) — Translator — 17 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume B (2007) — Contributor — 16 copies
Choice of Verse (1963) — Editor — 16 copies
Selected Songs of Thomas Campion (1972) — Editor — 15 copies
Poetry in Crystal (1963) — Contributor — 15 copies
Fairy Poems (2023) — Contributor — 13 copies
Selection from His Non-fictional Prose (1970) — Editor — 13 copies
Two Addresses — Translator — 12 copies
Selected Poems (1972) — Translator, some editions — 12 copies
New World Writing: Second Mentor Selection (1952) — Contributor — 12 copies
Oxford and Oxfordshire in Verse (1982) — Contributor — 11 copies
Red (1987) — Composer — 10 copies
Alfabet op de rug gezien (1995) — Contributor — 9 copies
All Day Long: An Anthology of Poetry for Children (1954) — Contributor — 8 copies
Perspectives on poetry (1968) — Contributor — 7 copies
Poetry anthology (2000) — Contributor, some editions — 6 copies
Selected Ballads (2002) — Contributor — 5 copies
Jean Sans Terre (1936) — Preface, some editions — 5 copies
A Crackling of Thorns. Foreword By W.H. Auden (1958) — Foreword, some editions — 3 copies
A beginning; (1948) — Foreword, some editions — 3 copies
Voor Mevr. en Mr. Naaktgeboren (1984) — Contributor — 2 copies
Prose: A Literary Magazine, Volume 1 (1970) — Contributor — 1 copy
Antaeus No. 23, Autumn 1976 — Contributor — 1 copy


18th century (246) 20th century (439) anthology (1,108) Auden (171) biography (144) British (214) British literature (206) classic (311) classics (455) collection (162) drama (307) English (228) English literature (430) English poetry (155) essays (631) fiction (1,320) food (304) German (370) German literature (463) Germany (163) Goethe (151) humor (262) literary criticism (286) literature (1,377) memoir (170) music (186) non-fiction (653) novel (213) opera (150) philosophy (193) poems (195) poetry (8,398) read (237) reference (176) Romanticism (163) sonnets (183) to-read (1,236) travel (224) unread (157) William Shakespeare (945)

Common Knowledge



On the one hand, assumptions about Hugh Auden can be something to dislodge; however, on the whole the introduction is the sort of undecided wreck that is so typical of overeducated under-lived scholarship. Hugh wrote things he regretted. He became a bit judgmental, perhaps, or perhaps merely discerning. I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t know, all I know is that some anonymous (if you like) scholar is very careful to maintain his agnosticism on the subject, you know…. I wonder what these professors of knowledge think that poetry is /about/, like what do they think it /does/, you know? “This is an excellent poem because of its literary qualities. It was written by a poet, as a poem, and published first in a poetry magazine, and then later in a book of poetry, and then finally in various “Collected” and, sometimes, “Selected” books. Yes, by golly and the goose, he finished it! It’s a poem! So it’s Literature! It’s a win! 🍷 Gosh, I’m so glad I’m better than the peasants! I KNOW this stuff!” 😀

I’ll probably continue to read poetry sometimes, but I’ll have to see about maybe getting editions without introductions, if possible. If literature isn’t about life, then what’s it about? —Why, it’s about being “literary”. Not style per se, or having fun—Golly and the goose, no!—just…. BS’n’, you know. That’s what poetry is about. Proles don’t like it, and I’m no prole! (points to self)

But Hugh himself couldn’t have been Quite as bad as that…. Although, How Much better, we should not assume, you know.

…. It’s like in the (relatively good, in some respects) Doctor Who episode about Charles Dickens and such—the Doctor and Charley have this exchange, at the end: —Will The Little People Remember Me And My Words Of Wisdom, —We Would Never Cut Lit Class, No Sir-y Charles, but it’s like—I mean, of course I know that “Charles Dickens” isn’t Charles Dickens; he’s “the great, great man”—but given what Charles wrote about (love, at least half the time), and how much prestige his contemporaries afforded his admittedly popular efforts (probably somewhere in between the reviled Deepak and Stephen “the” King, you know), well, maybe instead of asking about his postmortem career success—a real thing, I’m sure—he could have asked if the Doctor and Rose were an item. You know, just in case he wanted to write about /that/ in some massive meandering newspaper novel, right.

…. I don’t think I like Hugh. I don’t really know what he means usually, or if he means anything in particular. I don’t know what he means, except that I suspect it means nothing, you know. (“I don’t know half of you as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”) Shakespeare is easier to read, and there the difficulty is mostly dialect and time, and not, you know, this incredibly infelicitous language, clunky line on clunky line, adding up to nothing, basically. Will came still near to the beginning of civilization, Hugh towards its decadent and undecided end. He just never makes up his mind to say anything or feel anything—and at twenty, for God’s sake! Was he born dead? Was this the sort of thing that the critics of Anne Sexton preferred? I guess that’s what you get for trusting the Literary Canon, the Dictionary Names, never to pull a fast one on you!

…. (John Lennon) You have to hide your love away.
(Hugh) (considers this) Unless you don’t have a love.

…. I guess it makes sense to read Hugh—since I have so much poetry, to have one 20th century “straight man” (in the comedic sense) sort of poet. But in the future, maybe I’ll just be a normal person (this one ☝️ time) and just not read so much damn poetry, you know. I’ve read a lot of it, for some reason, but I don’t know how much I really liked it…. Better than visual art books, I guess—those are a real exercise in pulling the lonely isolated man out of the party crowd, you know. “So many people around you! No friends?” (No I won’t destroy the Ring of Power face) “No….” ~ But I can’t look at a poetry book I read and say, Ah! Such good feels! Maybe Anne Sexton, but I didn’t actually have that experience reading her—my education ruined her for me. So screw the poets…. But maybe I will read Oscar Wilde’s plays, you know. I think those might be about the human being instead of the robot….

…. I guess I just don’t like Hugh, or what he represents. It’s all ‘knowledge’, and no-decision, especially for the critic, but also for Hugh, and yet also there’s this encrusted customary-formulaic and slightly credulous (‘I could take him!’) barbaric decision-making, where it’s like, Tomorrow we burn the red man’s village, men. Here’s an extra nommy bar. “And far away it began to snow….” You know, it’s like—it’s just bad, really. There were a lot of writers like that. “In England and/or America, there are many thousands of Hugh’s.” I guess I will have to finish reading Langston Hughes/The Weary Blues, and then I can say I’ve read one Black guy (also one man of color), not that the Black radicals would be terribly impressed. But also maybe tomorrow I’ll start to delete my free-sample poetry books, you know. It’s like…. It’s just not good.

…. It’s extremely jarring to hear the word “sexy” uttered by a leathered corpse, you know. Such is the poetry of the G.I. Generation.

And I assume that he likes Poland better than Hitler, (I make an ass of you and me, of course), but the way he writes it—this incredibly clunky, infelicitous language, where everything is whispering beneath tinkling bells—it sounds as though he’s almost saying that the strange orientals in Poland are menacing the good Germans, you know. You hear a lot about Western Europe and Eastern Europe—it’s funny to think that the whole thing began and exists only because Western Europe, considered as a whole, developed empires—sea empires, and Eastern Europe did not—mostly just nondescript little villages of ugly white people without any sea of brown slaves to make them French, you know. Russia did have an empire, but it was not a sea empire; it could not prey on the world, only the peasants. It was only a class empire, and it was a more brutal class empire than England’s, which also had a class element, but there just wasn’t as much money to wring out of the poor fuckers as there was in India and even (huge) Africa, you know. And the notables spent the money in Paris or in Italy anyway, half the time, (“Anna Karenina”), because trading with the sea empire zone was the way to be a winner. And if you weren’t part of the sea empire zone—Western Europe—to many Englishmen there could be no fellowship at all, since if you aren’t a fellow thief: what then? Polish orientals, what are they? Strange people, strange customs. No brown slaves in their entire state….

…. (shakes head) The little thing the Great Man deigned to love, just couldn’t understand that she was inferior, and that the Great Man was a creature of science and poetry, a sort of hum-drum-grey angel for the common man, yes, a Great Man…. But the woman just couldn’t do the right thing, couldn’t understand, didn’t ~appreciate~ him, you know: the pathetic little wench; she ruined everything. (puts down beer glass) Well, lads, next week we begin our ‘Debating Suicide: A Good Move, or not so much’. We start with the GREEKS, of course….

I have to stop commenting on every poem, because it’s so bad, and there’s so much, you know. But that gives you a sense of it. Kinda had to wrap up poetry, mostly: for now, at least. Not every little handkerchief-in-the-wind poet who writes abstract little half-philosophy lines is really as good as even a bad novel, done well, you know…. And God; they’re insufferable. They think they’re Jesus-Apollo’s little gifts to an inferior species, you know…. It’s like, shut up; fuck you…. Bloody, cant, you know…. It’s like propaganda that needs to be explained, you know…. “That was so beautiful, Big Brother…. But what does it mean?” “Well, it’s beautiful; but if you can’t figure it out, you’ll just have to dig ditches with the rest of the galley slaves.” “But we will send our children to school, and one day ~they~ will understand Big Brother’s propaganda?” “Er…. Sure, maybe. I mean, yeah. Sure.” “Ah! Thank you, Big Brother! You’re the best kind of sibling, that there’s ~evah~ been, and that is the Truth!”….

—And it says in The Book, “You shall be like your neighbor.” The words of the Male. Thanks be to chastity.
—But EYE am Jesus-Apollo-Child! I’m ~better~ than my neighbor!
—Then it is your duty, and your obligation, to ensure that the dirty, stupid peasants obey the commandment of the Male, that you need not obey: “you shall be like your neighbor”.
—I’m so happy, to hear you say that. 😌

…. And he seems to have believed that becoming a business type was like getting cancer. “EYE am Jesus-Apollo-Child! EYE already have money! All the decent sorts have already got the money they need, and if they didn’t, they’d have to be given it, because they’re the decent sort! But what’s the use of having more money than that, for people who are NOT the decent sort, eh? What’s the good in that? It’s a bad thing!”

I really have to stop commenting. This is going to be bad, you know.

…. Wait! Hugh!
I’ve got a poem too!:

“Beneath the judge’s lace gown—
Called ‘Nature’, and ‘Greece’—
Lies the corpse of fundamentally
not giving a shit
The great fruit—aim!—‘success’!
of theology’s philosophy

Broken English Woman say
In feng shui push dying chi outside house
Hugh Auden Poet Man say
Your feng shui no good.”

…. I can remember when I’d read, not history, but the historical forms of the religions, you know, the loyalty-religions, and then I’d be like, but we also need emotions, we need the more common way, open to all: perhaps poetry, for example, the poets, the feelings, right….

Very naive. 😸

…. Let’s see: hmm, he doesn’t like nuns; he probably thinks he’s a monk married to a prostitute; after all, it’s midcentury, and people have got to be unlike, to love—enemies, almost…. And don’t you know I’m a poet?

…. He literally wrote a sentence in French: and there are notes, and it’s not translated in the notes. It’s like…. Sheldon Cooper Rampage IV: Sermons for My Whores; you know. “Bitch, if you don’t know French, then you really ~are~ a whore.” “I know Chinese and English. Not everyone speaks French.” (dismissive wave) “If you chose Chinese over French, then you really are a bitch, you little China-woman. Didn’t you see the Syllabus of Life that the Good People From England put out a few years ago?”

…. (trying to reason with me) But you don’t understand; (slower) You don’t understand. ~I really, do, speak better Greek than my whore, you know. My sermons to her demonstrate a very high level of correctness. (beat) Although, it’s true: that’s not why I selected her. (shrugs)

…. He was a gracious corpse, and all England (Greece) loved him. All the people say amen.

…. He just seems like such a terrible person, you know. He just sounds so immoral, so abandoned to the wrong, (though in all the proper ways), and on earth he seems to have spectacularly gotten away with it, it course. Except that he was unhappy. Unhappy, and probably did not even know it. What strange devil does that?

…. You read something, the typical thing, from the tail end of the 19th century, and it’s like—so snobby; probably the snobbiest thing ever written, or the snobbiest time. Then, you read many of the things written in the early 20th century, and you behold wonders and impossibilities—it got worse. It’s even snobbier. The monster machine had to grow quite weak and brittle before it started to crack, you know.

…. The Enneagram Three, the business-type, has as its principal temptation lying. Not greed, it might surprise you—that one goes to the Fives, the observers, the pure-intellectuals. Obviously all types have some mark against them, in their un-awake forms, but it does actually make sense that the intellectual is tempted to greed; it’s just—aside from the “doctors and lawyers” everyone wants their kids to turn into—very often a sort of “higher”, spiritual greed. The average pure-intellectual observer wants more and more time off from whatever productive activity they engage in, to spend more and more time writing increasingly expensive and difficult to understand little essays connected to less and less of the real world, the lived world, for the sake of fewer and fewer people. It’s a greed for prestige—being ~worth~ more than others, and if you can’t afford new shoes, then that is the fault of the men of the power and the men of the gutter, and all men except for me, the One Man. You need more and more prestige. It’s insatiable. There’s a lot of that in Hugh. It’s obvious he was never happy—he was too ill. Who is ill and happy? The things are opposites.

…. Poetry means ~ugly~ language, I guess. It’s like his big brain vomited.

…. Mind-vomit. Absolute mind-vomit.

If someone with a clinical file wrote this, they’d be explaining to their psychiatrist whether or not they wanted their meds changed, you know.

Or just someone not of gentle birth…. Money meant something so different then, to the extent that it still doesn’t mean that something “different” now, from what money really is, you know. It was like…. Like a color, you know: an inherited racial condition, a different set of laws or standards. It had so little to do with productive work, creativity, or even intellect, considered rightly. It was the birth-right to be taken seriously, as someone who didn’t need to be exploited and wrung out, you know. “Yes, this is mind vomit; but I am of gentle birth. I have a right to be a little soft in the head.”

And the 60s meant so little to most people, “intellectuals”, and especially “the classics”—and it doesn’t hurt to be a straight white man who lived the old sort of way, see white fragility and male insecurity; see what happens when you take the pin of deference off the grenade of unearned, unkind privilege—is indeed, almost to the very same extent, simply different laws, different rules, different standards. Put some of this crap on YouTube and don’t explain that it’s “dah kwassiks”, then probably you don’t get hit with plagiarism etc: you get hit with harassment, you know: you’re just another poor fucker on the interwebs. Put it in a book—and a paper book, God bless us: that makes it wise and true!—written by a dead man born gently in lily-white England….

It’s a horse of a different color. The chess club will support you, sir. And the Navy….

It really is like a sort of mental illness, like a mass hallucination, almost like a psychotic or at least, neurotic religion. Mind-Vomit Poet: His Life, His Faith, His Message For Today: (random gobbley-gook) (people struggle to compliment it to ride the coat-tails of his importance)….

…. I take it back. Auden’s not psychotic. Antonin Artaud is psychotic. Hugh is merely neurotic—merely worse; ~normal.

…. Mind vomit, confidently delivered by a man of gentle birth, triumphs over the whispers in the servants’ hall, you know.

…. It’s almost like it is with the Christian church. Why deliver the psychic goods—love and humility and reasonableness and all that crap—when you can’t be held accountable, when there are going to be no consequences, no matter what you do? No one’s allowed to turn Buddhist or Wiccan if the village clergyman is a small-minded bigot, you know. You probably couldn’t even go down the road to the next village’s small-minded bigot in the old days, Lord Assweight wouldn’t like it! No accountability at all. Jesus is better than all of you, and I am Jesus’ minion; the earth is the Lord’s, and I am the Lord’s deputy, whether I smile condescendingly at you, or scrub you off off me like shit and mud that cakes onto my riding boots, you know.

And it’s the same with the people that Jesus appointed as the rulers of the world, in his place, and in his name, the British middle class. Now, think: in the old days, or with a real old-fashioned person, what would a poet have to do to get on the shit list, once he’s satisfied the chess club? “Poetaster Paul was allegedly found guilty and jailed for raping his mentor’s daughter; the criminal lewdness of his mind was matched only by the celestial cathedral-ness of his poetry. Let’s print another edition of his work this year, with less criticism and more praise for his inability to figure out what he was talking about.” Right? Would the poems even have to express emotion? Would they even have to be beautiful? Would they have to make sense, even, or have a point? Once the critic has found a word vomit brother, what labyrinthine toxic meaningless bullshit would it take before the classic-type person writes one line about him that’s bad? Right? I mean, that actually even causes you to pause for a moment before handing him his bonus check vacation, right? “His celestial vault of the heavens poetry is music, but bad people say that his total dismissal of his wife, friends, little people, and the real world, should put a little * next to his ticket to poetaster paradise. You shall not agree with this view; but let’s consider its validity. Thoughts?” (half the class wonders what they’re supposed to say, the other half scrolls through Instagram surreptitiously) I said: tell me what I want to hear; I won’t tell you what. Allison, you little slut, what do you think about Poetaster Paul? “I’m just glad he didn’t rape me, I guess….” (trying to hide in plain sight) A female point of view. Interesting…. But what about a universal point of view? Fred? “Well, certainly the poetaster prances through paradise, sir; it’s the way it should be. The way it has to be.” (trying to pick apart his own opinion out of boundless negativity) Many people would disagree with you…. But I’ll allow it. 3.14 points for Gryffindor.”….

I’m not trying to take the admittedly difficult case of someone who has a real talent and yet also has a psycho side that commits crimes or whatever. What I’m saying is if you feed the collective brain fart syllabus, you probably ~could~ commit the odd crime or two, and in turn you don’t have to give ~anything~, give ~nothing~. Give ugly, flat, grey poetry with dubious pretensions to fucking politics or something, you know. Like some elective monarchy’s politics, you know: the psychoanalysis of the Holy Roman Imperial election of 1766, with reference to Freud but not sex, you know—just bullshit, fakery. And THEN rape someone in exchange. Just be entitled, right. “I’m Poetaster Paul; I’m entitled to your sex, Dairy Maid Jane….” (laughs)

You’re entitled to everything; you’re entitled to other people’s souls, you know. The only thing you’re NOT entitled to is ~happiness~, because who wants happiness? (flicks cigarette, looks into the distance as the camera tilts) I want the world….

…. I hate talking about hell because I, well I don’t hate, but I distrust the unkindness-turned-into-idiocy Christians who hellfire people, you know; but didn’t C.S. Lewis have somebody say something like, I realized that for my whole life I did NEITHER what I liked, NOR what I ought to have done—and then I found myself in hell?

…. (Hugh on Roman Emperor Platform with you, among thronging, lauding crowds) (to you, conspiratorially) (waving hand dismissively) Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it.
(dismissively) Yes yes: Emperor of the poets.
—Imperator Poetorum! Imperator, Imperator, save me! Make my brother divide the estate with me!
(mischievously) Throw him to the lions.

…. It’s every bit as bad, really, as “The Grapes of Wrath”, and rather similar. Not un-similar at all.
—Eh, what’s this? You have exposed your weakness! (hacking cough) The whole race of Zombie man rebukes you, sir! His whole un-life is testament to your frilly folly! (hacking cough) His— (hacking cough) His— (hacking cough) His, his— (long series of hacking coughs)

…. Hugh Auden was a schmuck.

(British movie professor addressing elite boys’ school class) The answer: the answer, is to ignore women. (walking towards the blackboard) And for that, we need an [writes the word “INSTITUTION” on the blackboard, then circles it]—an institution….

…. He wrote a poem “for” a guy murdered by the Nazis at the end of WWII: imagine if he had actually fucking said something about Hitler or WWII! Fuck, I know he was a theologian, but he made it sound like the guy was writing a discourse on the angels’ place in the creation of consciousness, with quill and ink, and then got up to fill his empty ink-bottle, and then accidentally fell down the stairs and broke his neck, you know. (tearful daughter) “Dietrich always WAS a little challenged at navigating his way through a room, physical space, his body—that sort of thing. (wrings hands).”

You know, it’s like: all about bullshit and nothing about death, although death and bad shit is his one big topic, although he refuses to talk about it. He just waffles. He’s a waffler. “I’m unhappy. There’s a reason I’m unhappy. It’ll come to me…. I know I didn’t want to broach the topic, too directly, too indelicately…. (throws down newspaper in disgust) THERE WAS A REASON I CAME INTO THIS ROOM.” (starts breathing heavily from the physical exertion of talking loudly)

…. Hugh Auden wins schmuck contest, CNN projects.

…. And then join us for a PBS Special: Hugh Auden— A Schmuck for Our Times, A Retrospective. Send us your guilt feelings and seventy-five dollars, and we’ll blow you a kiss and say, I’ll never scam you, honey. Send us one hundred twenty-five dollars, you get a sticker: UN-SCAMMABLE!

(smiles) But people like that, who like governments better than companies, the bureaucrat better than the television or the advertisement, robots better than little girls—bless them, at least they like Something. The little Scotch-Irish frontier fighter “blood” or whatever, (even if his father was an insurance salesman or something, but he’s been watching Fox News for years), thinks that the government has been plotting his demise while his wife takes him out on vacation, or his ex-confederate the hippie, convinced that everyone is a racist not because everyone is a racist, but because they’re not WEIRD. (“Biden MADE Putin attack Ukraine! It’s all the CIA; Putin’s a CIA agent—it has to do with Iraq!”) Be as racist as you like, as long as you’re a freak. (shrugs) So Hugh wasn’t the Last Jackass like in a movie, right. But what a legacy to leave behind you for the subsequent models of illness incarnate: a curious deadness, you know.

Well, I’ll tell you what, this is what I believe: as long as when, in seven and a half or eight hours, I lie down to sleep, I don’t hear Hugh Auden singing me a lullaby—

All will be well.

Honest to fuck, right.
… (more)
goosecap | 9 other reviews | Jan 31, 2024 |
I'm a late Auden guy, but these definitely repay sustained attention.
dmmjlllt | Jan 2, 2024 |
It would seem churlish to give this 4 stars, even though the essays rather trail off toward the end. A masterpiece of thought from one of the century's greatest writers, but whose cultural context and intellect are slowly - I believe - damning him to that particular obscurity known as the literary giant: much applauded, little read. What will people know of Auden by the time I am an old man? I often wonder.
therebelprince | 7 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
Startled that this has no reviews on Goodreads, and - aside from a battered copy I found in my local library - is barely available anywhere! Auden(!)'s collection of minor poets from the 19th century is a viable bundle of works, some of which may ring faintly in the ears, others that were completely unknown to me.

True, this is by its very nature not the classics, but here are some voices that existed in their own time. Neither the timeless (read: non-culturally specific) ones or the commercials who faded before Queen Victoria was cold in the ground. These are the middle group, the bourgeois poets. Other voices.… (more)
therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |



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