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W.H. Auden (edited by Edward Mendelson): The Complete Works of W.H. Auden

by
September 2011, no. 334

W.H. Auden (edited by Edward Mendelson): The Complete Works of W.H. Auden

by
September 2011, no. 334

Auden and the moral importance of poetry

Simon West

 

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden, Prose, Vol. IV 1956–1962
by W.H. Auden (edited by Edward Mendelson)
Princeton University Press (Footprint), $98 hb, 1056 pp, 9780691147550

 

In 1956, when this fourth volume of his collected prose begins, W.H. Auden (1907–73) was forty-nine and widely recognised as one of the most important English-language poets. He had been in the United States for seventeen years, having left, or, as some back home had seen it, abandoned England shortly before the outbreak of World War II; and he had been an American citizen since 1946. To me, he always remained an English poet, and the lexical flourishes such as ‘dives’ and ‘congress’ found in the second half of his oeuvre do little to hide a European sensibility.