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Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” In his poem, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” Auden defines the reader of poetry as the poet’s successor, exhorting his readers to think and to act. Poets die, as every man dies, but poetry does not die, and neither does mankind. The title suggests that this poem is an elegy for a certain man; after the title, though, it mentions Yeats’ name once, and only a few other details suggest this is Yeats that Auden is mourning. The first section of the poem denigrates the body of the poet; the second section, the efficiency of poetry itself. Likewise, the poem as a whole does not seek to praise a particular poet or a specific author’s poetry. This poem is not exclusively focused on Yeats, but inquires into poetry in general, poses Auden’s own ideas of poetry against Yeats’. Auden both admired and despised Yeats for different aspects of his poetry. This ambivalence is visible in his admiration of Yeats’ poignancy and instantaneous effect, and in his contempt for Yeats’ delusions. The former, combined with the Auden’s solution to the latter, comprises the theme of the role of the poet in this poem. Auden contemporaneously wrote a short prose companion piece, “The Public vs. The Late William Butler Yeats,” in which he expresses some of his thoughts on Yeats—esteem from the defense and anti-fairytale sentiment from the prosecution. Auden concludes not with a condemnation or pardon for Yeats, but with putting the jury on trial, for seeking to judge the poet. The case lies not with the poet, but with his readers. Poetry (and consequently the poet) is only as effective as its listeners make it. If the listener reads the poetry but does not digest it, then the poet has written his poetry in vain. As Auden calls the attentive reader of “Musée des Beaux Arts” to be mindful of suffering, he demands a certain sensitivity and active thought from readers in general. In “The Unknown Citizen,” Auden denounces the thoughtless individual who was born, breeds, and breathes his last on the bandwagon. This citizen is everything his leaders want him to be: a mindless lamb herded along with the flock, never questioning or “interfering” with their plans (27). Auden never explicitly disparages this citizen, but the irony is apparent—the poem is an entreaty to think, not to act like this citizen. Auden never takes the role of authority; he never presumes to preach exactly how man should live. Rather, he presents his poetry as “parables,” to make the reader think about his way of life (“Psychology and Art To-day” 342). Two contextual themes that concerned Auden at the time he wrote “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” provide a useful background to its reading. First, Critic John Hildebilde lists fourteen biographical poems written 1936-41, most of them eulogies, which demonstrate Auden’s preoccupation with death (Hildebilde 1). Secondly, there is Auden’s disappointment with the effectiveness of the individual, inspired by his involvement in the war, his travels, and fruitless efforts to halt the germination of the Second World War. This disenchantment with poetry and concern with death converge on the role of the poet and the best response from his listeners. The poem is a metrical gallery, beginning in free verse, moving to syllabic, and culminating in flawless trochaic tetrameter. Although there is a hint of the dirgeful dactylic, e.g. “The | dáy of his | déath was a | dárk cóld dáy” (6), the first part is free verse in order to downplay the death of the poet. As a classicist, Auden did not much care for free verse, but he knew its effects, and used it when fitting. Here, the variation and haphazard line lengths invoke a sense of chaos and disorder. Likewise informally, the speaker is not an obsequious funeral orator,
Brown 2 but he is blunt and accepting of death, focusing not on what the dead man was, but where he is going. Similarly to “Musée des Beaux Arts,” Auden uses long lines to draw the focus away from the poet, as the world does, running on apathetically, as in “The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted” and “The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays” (2, 9). Contrastingly, the lines addressing the physicality of the poet seem curt and abrupt, such as “Far from his illness” (7) and the repeated “The day of his death was a dark cold day” (6, 31). This section is split into five five-to-six line stanzas (excluding the final two-line repetition), progressing from the absolute unimportance of the poet to his inheritors—his vicarious mode of immortality. Auden begins with an image of desolation, disparate from the death of the poet, from which the poet has disappeared. The world of unperturbed nature and unfeeling machinery has no regard for this death of just another man. But a glimmer of hope remains: this man “disappeared,” rather than dying or passing away (1); he has departed from the physical world, but he has not been extinguished. The second stanza reinforces this sense, and explains where the departed has disappeared: “By mourning tongues / The death of the poet was kept from his poems” (10-11). Here Auden reveals the dichotomy between the poet and his poetry, and the one’s persistence even after its seemingly inseparable maker has died. Here, Auden introduces his real subject, the mourners, and sets them forth as the poet’s salvation; or, more precisely, his eternal abode. Next, Auden takes one last look at the man’s life, and the moment of his death. Each line rings with sympathetic finality, reinforcing the finality of the body’s death. A catalog of seven mostly equivalent phrases describes the desolation of the dying man, likening him to a city, which, bereft of its people, dies. The saving conclusion is again the dead man’s transference into his listeners, not just “mourners” now, but “admirers” (10, 18). In the fourth stanza, we see the disembodied poet propagated into life in other cities not himself and given to new readers. Two metaphors worth noting are these: the dead man is left “To find his happiness in another kind of wood,” that is, to live anew on paper. The second is a strange linking of the “words of the dead man” to the Eucharist (22). The Eucharist is broken and administered to the people and consumed, just as the poet’s words are “scattered,” read, and “modified in the guts of the living” listeners (18, 23). The Eucharist is a sign of Christ’s sacrifice for his people, which feeds its partakers spiritually, and is likewise “modified” from bread into bodily sustenance. The words of the poet provide intellectual sustenance for his readers. The dead man is not only incorporated into his readers’ reactions to his poetry, but he is subjected to their “punish[ment],” that is, their individual interpretations, though incorrect in Yeats’ conception (21). Even after death, the poet is not static, but made dynamic by his interpreters and each one’s “foreign code of conscience” (21). Auden concludes this first section with great hope for what the poet’s readers do with the poetry. He sets a scene of thoughtlessness and delusion, where “brokers” have become “beasts,” the “poor” content themselves with “suffering,” and man lives in a fantasy of “freedom” (25-7). Into this wintry, inhumane environment, Auden introduces the few thousand readers in whom the poet lives on. These remember the day of Yeats’ death “As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual” (29). Action is required on their part: the word is “did,” not heard of (29). The second part of the poem is syllabic, which is a very unimposing meter, here mostly regular, with an odd variation in the last half. Auden confronts Yeats in the second person, and rebuffs Yeats by describing where poetry comes from and what it does not do. This part, like the first, references Yeats personally, but soon diverges into a general interrogation of poetry. Yeats
Brown 3 wrote poetry to cure his country, but his country remains sick. Auden claims “poetry makes nothing happen”; instead, it is merely a “way of happening, a mouth” (36, 41). This subtle distinction illumines the delicate opposition between Yeats and Auden. Yeats considered poetry to be a tool, whereas Auden proclaims it is nothing in itself, but only in how its readers respond to it. Yeats’ fault was that he expected too much, and the wrong things, out of poetry. Auden clarifies that poetry is not a force in itself, but is only as effective as a parable. The parable is what “survived” all of Yeats’ physicality and delusion. The problem that Yeats sought to fix, the “madness” of Ireland, still exists (35). Despite his misdirected effort, Yeats’ poetry endures, indebted to his readers’ “foreign code of conscience” that keeps the poetry alive and pertinent (21). In his essay “Writing,” Auden claims the purpose of poetry is, “by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate”—a much more humble goal than Yeats’ attempt to heal his country of all its ills (27). Likewise, in “The Poet in the City,” Auden claims that the political poet can achieve nothing more than to enlighten the “management” of the plight of the “managed” (88). As Auden moves away from Yeats, he varies the line-length, creating a metrical col of “Would never want to tamper, flows on south,” by surrounding it with longer thirteen syllable lines (26). Shortening this line to ten syllables emphasizes the distance of poetry, which arises in “ranches of isolation,” from the unreflective bustle of the “executive” (37, 39). The valley, to Auden, was a place of true civilization. In “Atlantis,” the paradise of the title lies in a valley. This, Auden’s Eden, is not a bustling city, but a pastoral town. Meshing with the Yeats-as-city metaphor from the first section, the poet’s mind is likened to a valley. Percy Bysshe Shelly claimed that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Auden contradicts this with his definition of poetry, which has nothing to do with “executives,” nor they with it (37). After this rejection of poetry’s material effect, the meter returns to the original twelve-syllable length, then descends finally into Auden’s short concluding definition of poetry as “A way of happening, a mouth” (41). The caesura before “a mouth” is strong enough that those two final words read almost as another line—a split that further subdues and quiets the ending into a sigh. The third section is comprised of six stanzas of truncated trochaic tetrameter that beg to be juxtaposed with Yeats’ autobiographical elegy, “Under Ben Bulben,” which is metrically similar, though intriguingly more erratic. Yeats, in his epitaph, laments his own death, fearing for the future of Irish poetry, calling for new poets to arise and replace him when he is gone. Auden uses “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” to set forth his contrasting idea: that the worth of poetry is not in its author, but in its readers. Auden does not satirize Yeats’ meter with his own stringent tetrameter, but molds it to fit his own texture and meaning. Yeats’ diction befits his relaxed meter, but Auden uses a strict pattern to respond to Yeats’ overreaching efforts and to institute a different order. The speaker here assumes a more serious demeanor. With gravity, he finally names the man whose death he elegizes: “Earth, receive an honored guest / William Yeats is laid to rest” (42-3). But this is no more befitting a funeral oration than the previous sections; Yeats is demoted to the importance of a “vessel”; now emptied, he is finished (44). Through these solemn elegiac couplets, Auden departs from the poet to the fearful landscape of Europe, then returns to the poet to implore him for words of hope in the midst of distress. The first stanza initially seems disconnected the following stanzas, partly because Auden deleted the three stanzas that originally followed from the final version of the poem. That he deleted these is not incredibly surprising; they make the same kind of universal claims that induced him to remove the entire “September 1, 1939” from his collected works. The claims that
Brown 4 “Time … worships language” and “Pardoned Kipling and his views” have traces of his preAmerican ambition (Norton 1473-4). They are wonderful, powerful lines, but Auden eventually recanted such far-reaching claims. Throughout the late ‘30’s and early ‘40’s, Auden became more and more humble in his assumptions and meek in his predictions, excising much of his previous poetry that was too closely involved with the war. This judgment of Claudel and Kipling and demand for time’s clemency must have seemed too hopeful in retrospect, so Auden deleted them. Even with these three stanzas included, the second stanza seems a jolting non sequitur. Auden uses this, however, to place the poet in the center of the pain and turmoil of war. By jumping from poet to war, Auden sets forth the conflict: how can a poet rejoice in the face of war, while Europe lives in fear, hate and pitilessness? He does not command the poet to stop the war; rather, he calls the poet to “persuade us to rejoice” and to teach us “how to praise,” despite the fallen world all around. He implores the poet to descend into the “night” and, from there, to cultivate a “fountain” of “praise” (55, 63-5). This is, first, a request to make the best of things—to sing even of sin. Nine years later a similar theme appears in his syllabic masterpiece, “In Praise of Limestone,” in which Auden likens the response of limestone to water to the faults and glories of man. Auden praises the way limestone displays the effect water has on it; how it often lets the water emerge from its tunnels to the air, running, “at times / Arm in arm, but never, thank God, in step” (22-23). Similarly, in “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” he calls the poet to “Make a vineyard of the curse”—to create something beautiful and productive out of the ugliness and fear of original sin (59). Simultaneously, Auden includes the reader in his exhortation; the audience of the third section is the reader as well as the poet. It is an exhortation—every sentence but those in the second and third stanzas are grammatically imperative. When the poet “persuades us to rejoice,” we ought to rejoice (57). When, “in a rapture,” he sings of the “unsuccess” of man, we ought to sing along (60-1). And when the poet teaches us to praise, despite the “prison” of man’s temporality and soon-to-be war-torn environment, we ought to praise (64-5). This persistence and fearlessness appears more singularly in “Leap Before You Look,” where Auden admits that there are pitfalls and threats that might scare us into passivity. Yet man must not live in hedonistic ignorance. Auden concludes the poem with the exhortation, “Our dream of safety has to disappear” (24). We must make the leap, which is not so much a leap of faith, as a leap of hope. Within the sixty-five lines of “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” Auden discusses the role of the poet, poetry, temporality, war, and delusion. More enduringly, however, he entreats the reader to regard poetry and act upon it. We ought not be the “unknown citizen,” never questioning our choices. Instead, we should think, and we should rejoice in the face of fear. The death of a poet should neither grieve us nor dash our hopes; instead, it should incite action, for it has become our, the readers’, duty to continue the work of the poet.
Works Cited: Auden, Wystan Hugh. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Modern Library, 2007. Auden, Wystan Hugh. The English Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Random House, Inc., 1977. Auden, Wystan Hugh. “In Memory of W. B. Yeats.” The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. 1472-4. Auden, Wystan Hugh. “The Poet & The City.” The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays. New York: Random House, 1962. 72-89. Auden, Wystan Hugh. “Psychology and Art To-day.” The English Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Random House, Inc., 1977. 332-342. Auden, Wystan Hugh. “Writing.” The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays. New York: Random House, 1962. 13-27. Hildebidle, John. “Human Clay: Some People in Auden’s Poetry, 1936-1941.” Modern Language Studies 12.3 (Summer 1982): 83-98. JSTOR. Blakley Library. University of Dallas, Irving, TX. 24 October 2007.
From my memory: You were silly like us, your gift survived it all (l. 32) The parish of rich women, physical decay, yourself; Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry; Now Ireland has her weather and her madness still. (13) For poetry makes nothing happen, it survives (12) (l. 36) in the valley of its making, where executives (13) (l. 37) would never want to tamper, flows on south (10) From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, (11) Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, (12) A way of happening, a mouth. (8)
On talking to Maurer: He thinks those three stanzae should be kept in. He agree with 99% of Auden’s excisions, but not this one. Peasant River – Yeats thought peasants were the spine of a country. Also reminiscent of Auden’s the Fall of Rome. If you don’t get it right away, don’t worry. Trust him, trust your poet, and just glory in the poetry, if you enjoy it (only if you enjoy it). Just keep reading it, and it will unfold inside you. You’ll just wake up one morning, and you’ll understand all of it. His favorite is “On this Island Now”
This is intended to be a regular poem analysis, not a term paper. You will give a poem analysis of your exemplary poem. However, I do not wish you to treat this poem as exemplary, as you did in the oral examination, naming and explaining its characteristic elements. Rather, do as you would ordinarily do in a poem analysis, giving a reading of this poem as you account for its poetic elements – form, diction, figurative language, etc. – treating
Brown 7 it sequentially, etc. The difference between this analysis and others you have done is that I would like you to contextualize your interpretation within a broader understanding of your poet’s body of work: that is, frame your analysis of this poem by indicating the way it is resonant with broader themes or poetic practices. I’ll leave it to you how to structure this essay to accomplish this task, and how to limit your focus so that you have a tight and coherent overall argument. Possible structuring: (1)Frame your analysis, by presenting an introductory paragraph, in which you set up a broad interpretative context, returning to your emphases in the concluding paragraph. (2) Present first a reading of your poem, then open out subsequently a consideration of its connection with a broader range of poems. If you would prefer to analyze a poem other than your “official” exemplary poem, you may do so, so long as it isn’t the same one you worked with on your previous written analysis.
I. Speaker: aloof, informative, discursive, overtly unfeeling, subtly sympathetic. The speaker at a funeral. Audience: himself, a group gathered at Yeats’ funeral perhaps, a very unusual obituary, a letter to the late Yeats. Meter: free verse, leaning towards iambic/anapestic, especially when talking about how the poet lives on in the memory of his readers. First stanza: the poet disappears, he doesn’t cease to be. It happens to be a desultory world anyway. The weather seems to be depressed because of the poet’s death, but perhaps that’s just coincidence. His death isn’t dark and cold, specifically, but the day of his death is. Feel of wintry America imposed on Yeats’ death. Instruments are harsh impersonal measuring tools – unlike poetry in every way. Just as the cold weather has nothing to do with the poet’s death, so poetry has nothing to do with the readings of thermometers, etc. Second stanza: wolves and unimportant rivers run as always in nature. To them this man could die and be gone for good, along with his poetry. By not all existence is unaware: the cognizant listeners keep life in the poetry of Yeats, whereas it was sustained by him before his death. Third stanza: focus turns to Yeats himself and his body. It’s decaying, physically degenerate. This is himself all intact, but disintegrating. The speaker likens Yeats to a country, his mind to a city, and his life to electricity. But the country is internally warring; the city holds no one anymore, even in its furthest extents. Finally, the existence of the poet is transferred into his listeners. His electricity dies and the more lasting essence lives courses on in his readers. Fourth stanza: the poet is divided up, entering an entirely new existence than the one he had as a
Brown 8 single man. The receivers of his being are critical, but they are his new body. Furthermore, this new body is not unchanging – but changes the poetry, digests it. Kind of like the Catholic digests the body of Christ, hmm? The word was made flesh – flesh which is consumed by the believer at communion, modified in the stomach into nutrition and in the mind into mental sustenance. Fifth stanza: another scene of distraction and apathy. Like the expensive delicate ship. Despite the forward looking yuppies, the ones who disdain tradition (Yeats and Auden were both fans of reflection). References the French stock exchange to invoke an image of the ultimate animal aspect of commercialism and its madness. Also, in order to distance itself from the political and economical. Speaks of the atheist, convincing himself he is free. Then, penultimately, the speaker mentions the few thousand that will sustain the new reembodied Yeats. Those for whom the day is not tragic, or disturbing, but slightly memorable, and puts the action into those thousand, who do not remember it for Yeats’ sake, but for their own, because they are the ones who take up his burden. Finally, we are reminded of the instruments, but now they’ve been transformed. The recipient of the elegy has not yet been named, but a few facts specific to him have been revealed – he died in the afternoon, he has a definite readership, but who he is is very vague, apart from the title of the poem. By the end of the first stanza we’ve come to like this dead fellow, who is now part of us, whose burden we’ve assumed. II. Speaker: commiserating/insightful friend. Oddly second person. Pretends to know everything, or be an authority on poetry, and has all the answers. i.e. speaks with authority. Audience: Yeats, as a man-poet, complete with disease, talent, mouth, etc. Perhaps directed at all of his admirers, whom he has become. Meter: Syllabic with an odd roll in the last half. This downplays (sets in satirical tone) the huge claims he makes in this short, metrically unimposing section. The last line is so beautiful and reads like a sigh. Line-by-line: Yeats was just a man with talent, which surpassed him as a man, surviving the nuances of his life and physicality. His talent for poetry is a gift, which transcends women, time, and body. Ireland induced Yeats to write poetry, who saw the suffering in Ireland, the discontent and discord, and wrote to resolve those things. He did not accomplish that, however; Ireland is no different than before. Poetry, which survives the poet, does not survive in its effects, but in the valley of its making. The valley, for Auden, was a place of civilization. In “Atlantis,” the city Atlantis lies in a valley. The valley is not the bustling city, but a more peaceful setting, though not rural. A paradise. A cove. Here it is the poet’s mind. Poetry survives in the prosodic efforts of the poet. As opposed to Shelley’s claims that poets are the unknown litigators of the world, Auden refutes that here, replacing litigators with executives, and putting the two at opposites. Executives, the business-like brokers bellowing like beasts have no patience or need for poetry. They make happen what they will and are satisfied. But poetry humbly seeps from the redundant ranches of isolation (what other kind of ranches are there?) and the pressing problems that bothered Yeats. It is formed by the civilization made up in our mind, the cities of our own construction, unique to
Brown 9 each of us. Finally, after finding what it does not, where it comes from, who will not have anything to do with it, we learn what it does: it’s poiesis, a “mouth” a method, not a work. Making happen vs. Way of happening. Tool vs. parable. III. Speaker: grave funeral orator, serious, pretentiousness, admonishing, praising. Audience: “Earth” apparently, in stanza one. From then until stanza four it is either earth or the listeners at Yeats funeral. Stanza four it becomes the poet, Yeats, or just the poet in general, listing what the poet does/ought to do. Meter: Unerring truncated trochaic tetrameter. This is modeled slightly after Yeats’ “Under Ben Bulben,” which is more like iambic tetrameter, often initially truncated. That Auden, the master of form, should adhere so strictly to a striking form like this (like Blake’s Tyger), seems to mock Yeats a little bit. 1. Formal praise, first naming of Yeats, dismissal of the body that delivered so much poetry. 2. Somewhat unforeseen turn to the affairs and problems of the Europe and the dreadful war that’s lurking inevitably, though not quite substantiated. Yet it seems just around the corner, plaguing all countries with a fear and unneighborly enmity. Trembling anticipation. 3. Despite the hate of the countries, the people of Europe are sad for her, ashamed, full of sympathy yet constrained by the law. 4. Diverts towards the poet. Asks him to give us reason to rejoice, despite the dark of these months before the war, and throughout the dark of the war. 5. Sets the role of the poet as a farmer of sin and suffering into a rapture, appreciating the loveliness of the human struggle, making the best of Adam’s choice. 6. And this rapture is to be injected into the dry, broken hearts of the listeners, regenerating, enlightening. Man, cognizant now of his temporality and imprisonment, learns to praise through the poet. Why did I pick this poem? Throughout so much of Auden’s poetry, the role of the poet is put under question. It was an intense concern to him, and this poem comes just after his major disenchantment with it, when he realized it does not move mountains like he first expected it to. In Memory, In Speaking, Poetry Is In Memory of W. B. Yeats is split into three very distinct parts. The first is a free verse haphazard listing rambling about the poet, his poetry, and his death, and his listeners. The speaker seems to be a funeral orator, directing his words toward a very general audience— anyone who might have heard of Yeats’ death. The audience is overly passive—the speaker is not trying to calm a riotous bunch or cheer the downhearted. His tangents draw seem distracted, as if he’s unconcerned with Yeats death, merely reporting on it passively. The only mention of the poet as a physical entity, a body, shows it corrupting and ugly. But then there are the few thousand, for whom the death of the poet is at least a little worth remembering. It is a lament, but there’s always the subtle dismissal of Yeats as a man, even as a poet. As Professor Osborn mentioned in class, “What instruments we have agree, / The day of his death was a dark, cold day.” Yeats’ death did not instigate this coldness. It was cold before. A poet’s
Brown 10 death does not persuade the weather to cool. How do the wolves and peasant river figure in to the life of the poet in the words of his poetry? In each stanza we start with a little scene before or apart from his death, somewhat desolate but typical, something not uncommon. A place neither affected by the poet, not acknowledging him, but a little unconcerned part of the world. Throughout the first section, Auden mourns and deemphasizes the death of Yeats in free verse. Auden is not known for his free verse, but he uses it here to downplay the gravity of the death of Yeats. It is not as if Yeats dies, but that he disappears, not ceasing to exist, but merely existing elsewhere than in his body. Here he is already engaging Yeats’ mistaken perspective of the poet as needing to live, as a hero. Throughout these five stanzas, Auden juxtaposes the unaware world and the way in which the poetry survives; that is, in the way it works in the actions of its listeners, in the effect it has on people’s minds, not people themselves. It is only what people make of it. Preliminary: • Treats problem of the role of poet and poetry that bothered Auden throughout his life, which kept him always self-aware and tinged with irony. • Takes to task man’s mortality and poetry’s impotence. Panel lecture: • In the 1st section, he downplays the death of Yeats as merely a disappearance. It’s free verse, with a subtle tinge of the elegiac dactylic foot. It does not seem very lamenting, and not full of the kind of respect that would befit a funeral oration, which this isn’t. • Begins with a very dreary look at the world, instead of a glorified rejoicing in the effect the poet has had. • Juxtaposition of completely unaware world with the way of surviving of the poet through his poetry in people. • People/mourning tongues/admirers/guts of the living/few thousand as vehicle for the disembodied poet and his poetry. In their memory and in their actions, they make the poetry live and sustain the poet. The poet is assimilated into his poetry. • Appeal to the common people to think: delusion of freedom. Satirical attack on unnoticing nature and preoccupied people. o In the Public vs. the late William Butler Yeats, it’s the people that are put on trial by Auden, even though Yeats is the defendant. It’s the jury that’s being tested. • It’s a call to the people to remember, assimilate, and act. o Unknown Citizen o Leap Before You Look • ---• In 2nd section, addresses Yeats in the second person, still informally, in humbly syllabic meter. Remarks that while poetry makes nothing happen, it is a way of happening. It is not a way of doing, but a way of leading other things to doing. Poetry is a mouth, a way of communication, the very best way, Auden would say, of sticking ideas in others’ minds. o DH: Writing o DH: The Poet and the City
---In the 3rd section, he takes on grand, menacing trochaic tetrameter. He finally addresses Yeats by name, but turns abruptly to the war, engaging the poet, pleading with him to take action and save man. Mentioning the cold that has overcome Europe in light of the fear of war and fascist oppression, Auden calls the poet to uplift the spirits of the citizens. He tells the poet to praise the human condition, making the best of it. And he asks him to teach the free man how to praise, that is, how to thaw his pity.
On the whole: • Exemplifies the way Auden reformed many of the poems, as he took out three stanzas from the third section because he ceased to believe they were true, and deemphasized the “instruments” line in the first section. • The call to arms, both of poet and of people, is common in Auden’s poetry o Leap Before You Look o Voltaire at Ferney
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