By Rachel Wetzsteon
Influential Ghosts: A examine of Auden's assets explores one of the most vital literary and philosophical impacts on W.H. Auden's poetry. The learn makes an attempt to teach that Auden's poetry derives a lot of its curiosity from the great diversity of authors on whom he drew for idea. however it additionally recommend that his courting to those writers was once marked by means of a desirable ambivalence.In chapters on Auden's dating to Hardy and Kierkegaard, the learn exhibits how, after lovingly apprenticing himself to their paintings and infrequently borrowing stylistic or thematic good points from it - Hardy's sweeping "hawk's vision," Kierkegaard's pressing "leap of religion" - he started to criticize the very issues he had formerly striven to emulate. In a bankruptcy on Auden's elegies, the writer argues that, on my own between examples of this poetic style, they either reverently mourn and harshly scrutinize their topics (Yeats, Freud, Henry James and others). In a bankruptcy on "structural allusion" in Auden's early poetry, the learn posits that Auden singlehandedly invented a brand new form of allusion within which he alludes to the shape and subject material of whole poems. yet whereas doing so, he additionally unearths fault with the attitudes (passivity, depression) depicted in them. In those structurally allusive poems - as along with his dating to Hardy, Kierkegaard and his elegies' topics - Auden's occasionally accepting, occasionally skeptical angle towards his poetic types is on robust exhibit, and unearths an ideal counterpart within the pressure among imitative shape and significant content material.
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Additional info for Influential Ghosts: A Study of Auden's Sources (Studies in Major Literary Authors)
The most interesting poems in Auden’s Juvenilia are the ones, like “The Traction-Engine,” in which his arguments with Hardy are most explicit. These poems all have a similar structure, which is probably proof that Auden was sufficiently concerned with composing an anti-Hardy poem that he wrote it over and over until he got it right. ” In these poems, Auden describes lonely scenes of run-down machinery and religious doubt only to end on a ringing note of affirmation: these scenes, he tells us at the poems’ conclusions, are just as deserving of our love as the traction-engine was.
These two poems make a pair similar to “Nocturne” and “Moon Landing” in that the former is about a concrete historical event—the worldwide chaos following World War Hawk’s Visions and Revisions 27 Two—while the latter is a more general meditation on vision and perception. But the message of both poems is the same: the camera’s vision, though it can record everything, cannot account for real time or human choice. Auden makes this message so clear in the opening lines of “Memorial for the City” that the poem almost seems like a deliberate rebuttal of an earlier poem like “Consider”; the hawk and the helmeted airman may have helped Auden diagnose England’s ills, but he now realizes that The eyes of the crow and the eyes of the camera open Onto Homer’s world, not ours.
Whatever the merits of “Commentary,” it is this “voice of Man” that will serve as the running contrast to all of Auden’s subsequent uses of Hardy’s hawk. ”26 Each of his later long poems, Mendelson claims, served as a “replacement” of an earlier one: thus the 1941–2 Christmas Oratorio For the Time Being was a radical revision of the 1928 Christmas charade Paid on Both Sides, the 1940 verse-epistle New Year Letter was a Christianized version of the 1936 Letter to Lord Byron; and so on. If Auden wanted to rewrite his pre-1939 work so systematically, it is likely that he would want to revisit short poems as well as long ones; and in several later poems he seems to be doing just this, taking back his earlier endorsements of the hawk’s vision with poems in which he finds it severely lacking.