Anti-romantic elements in the biographical-critical poems of W. H. Auden's Another time
Terrell, Sarah Lilly
Isle, Walter W.
Master of Arts
W. H. Auden first published the volume of poems entitled Another Time on February 7, 1940. There has been no study of the volume as an artistic entity, and only a few of the poems have received detailed commentary. This thesis will consider a selected group of poems from Another Time, the biographical-critical poems, in some detail. They have been selected for major emphasis because they reflect the dominant concerns of the volume. Furthermore, because each biographical portrait is based on an informed knowledge of the life and work of the writer it depicts, the reader must be similarly informed before he can appreciate the richness of reference and astuteness of judgment which characterize these poems. The poems will be viewed from two perspectives: that suggested by Auden's prose writings on Romanticism and that provided by the context of the volume as a whole. The second chapter of this thesis surveys the wealth of primary sources in prose available to the critic interested in Auden's attitude towards Romanticism. The prose written from 1937-1941 is pervaded by Auden's concern with the implications of Romanticism. The address given at Smith College in 1940 contains Auden's most explicit statement of the relationship of Romanticism to the then current political situation. The urgency of his preoccupation results from his conviction that the Romantics' failure to grasp the proper relationship of freedom to necessity has an immediate and direct bearing on the rise of fascism. This preoccupation appears repeatedly in the many book reviews Auden wrote during this period. There are two additional prose sources in which Auden deals with Romanticism: "The Enchafed Flood" and the introductions to volumes four and five of Poets of she English Language, which he edited with N. H. Pearson. "The Enchafed Flood", was published in 1950; "Poets of the English Lanouage" appeared in 1952. However, since Auden's assessment of Romanticism remains remarkably unchanged, these writings may be regarded as elaborations of the ideas discussed in the prose of 1937-1941. They are descriptive works and as such are particularly useful in filling in the details of Auden's analysis of Romanticism as a literary movement. The discussion of the biographical-critical poems in Chapter three of this thesis is preceded by a commentary on a small number of other poems from Another Time, The selection and the discussion emphasize the psychological analysis which Auden applies to the historical situation in Europe. In the course of the discussion of the biographical-critical poems, they will be further connected to the context of the volume. I will show some of the interrelationships between poems in order to indicate the importance of the selection and arrangement of poems in the original volume. The discussion of the biographical-critical poems themselves centers around Auden's search for the proper poetic role, his attempt to find an adequate formulation of the dialectic of freedom and necessity, and his criticism of the Romantics' view of the world and the artist's relation to it. This is emphatically a volume of exploration; a careful study of the poems reveals a multiplicity of attitudes and stances. The volume is unified by virtue of the recurrence of the problems considered, rather than by any single formula for their resolution.