Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The importance of Auden to English literature

Today has been W.H. Auden's birthday. He was born in this house on Bootham in York on 21 February 1907.

Edward Mendelson's introduction to W. H. Auden: Selected Poems (1979) captured his importance to English literature:

Auden was the first poet writing in English who felt at home in the twentieth century. He welcomed into his poetry all the disordered conditions of his time, all its variety of language and event. 

In this, as in almost everything else, he differed from his modernists predecessors such as Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot or Pound, who had turned nostalgically away from a flawed present to some lost illusory Eden where life was unified, hierarchy secure, and the grand style a natural extension of the vernacular. 

All of this Auden rejected.

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