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Definition: Auden from The Macquarie Dictionary

1907--73, US poet born in England, noted for his lyrical technique.

Summary Article: Auden, W(ystan) H(ugh) (1907–1973)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English-born US poet. He wrote some of his most original poetry, such as Look, Stranger! (1936), in the 1930s when he led the influential left-wing literary group that included the writers Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day-Lewis. Auden moved to the USA in 1939, became a US citizen in 1946, and adopted a more conservative and Christian viewpoint, for example in The Age of Anxiety (1947). He also wrote verse dramas with English writer Christopher Isherwood, such as The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935) and The Ascent of F6 (1936), and opera librettos, notably for Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (1951). Auden was professor of poetry at Oxford 1956–61. His last works, including Academic Graffiti (1971) and Thank You, Fog (1973), are light and mocking in style and tone, but are dazzling virtuoso performances by a poet who recognized his position as the leading writer in verse of his time.

Auden was born in York and studied at Oxford University. On moving to the USA, he became associate professor of English literature at the University of Michigan in 1939. Later he spent part of each year in Austria, and returned to live in England a year before his death.

Auden's earliest verse, including Poems (1930) and The Orators (1932), already reveals the strong influence of US-born writer T S Eliot. But it was Auden's more openly political work of the 1930s that cast him as a leader of the left-wing poets of that decade. Among his works from the period, Look, Stranger! and Spain (1937) are characterized not only by their commitment to a cause but by their relatively simple style, an attempt to reach a wider audience.

In the early 1940s Auden reconverted to Christianity, and in three long poems – The Sea and the Mirror (1944), For the Time Being (1945), and The Age of Anxiety – he inaugurated the religious, aesthetic, and socio-psychological themes that dominated his verse in the later 1940s and 1950s. He became more conservative in his political and social beliefs, and while editing Collected Shorter Poems (1927–57 and 1967) and Collected Longer Poems (1968), he expunged many of his earlier radical poems. During this time, Auden's verse became more complex in structure, and more involved in its linguistic and historical preoccupations.

In the 1950s and early 1960s he collaborated with US poet Chester Kallman on several opera librettos, including The Rake's Progress and German composer Hans Werner Henze's The Bassarids (1966). Auden edited many verse anthologies and published several volumes of criticism, including The Dyer's Hand (1963), Secondary Worlds (1968), and Forewards and Afterwards (1973).


Auden, W(ystan) H(ugh)


Auden, W H

W H Auden's Poetry

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