W.H. Auden: Poems Selected by John Fuller
By: W.H. Auden
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase
W. H. Auden (1907-73) came to prominence in the 1930s among a generation of outspoken poets that included his friends Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender and C. Day Lewis. But he was also an intimate and lyrical poet of great originality, and a master craftsman of some of the most cherished and influential poems of the past century.
W.H. Auden is one of those poets that I often heard about but I hadn’t gotten around to until I picked up this collection. I chose this collection in particular because it matched my copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (review)–same series, I mean–and I thought it was a good way to get a selection of his poetry without immediately delving into his entire body of work.
It’s a pretty eclectic collection of his work spanning his entire career. The themes vary, some of them playful and some of them serious and touching on the subject of the world wars. I found his early poems to be especially interesting in capturing the confusion and the emotions and the bleakness that comes with the wars. The poem by him that still sticks with me is the poem that I first read by him:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
There were a few other poems however that struck me–alas, can’t seem to find the titles of them at the moment as I type them–as they were very much applicable now as they were back then.
All in all, if you’re new to Auden’s poetry, I would recommend checking out this title first as it’s a good place to start.