Sunday, February 18, 2007


I have a long lasting love for Auden, whose centenary falls this week. It pre-dates Four Weddings and a Funeral by more than a decade (a film I only saw on TV just a few years ago, long after the chick flick enthusiasm it spurred had passed). Instead it began at school when Auden was one of eight 19th and 20th century poets I studied for O level English Literature. It had little to do with Night Mail either, since it was elegaic for a past I scarcely knew, even though I loved steam trains and '30s history.

No, for me it was works such as Epitaph on a Tyrant, September 1, 1939, and To the Unknown Citizen which first caught my imagination and to which I keep returning (e.g. here and here). I love the variety of his poetic forms, and the diversity of his subjects (albeit that my favourites are ambivalently political).

So unsurprisingly I have enjoyed listening to today's Poetry, Please which includes a suitable range of Auden's works (it will be available to listen again if you get in quick). Shame that, even though McGough notes the end of The Unknown Citizen's subtitle - "This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State", he misses mentioning the first part of the subtitle - "To JS/07 M 378"; a pity since it highlights Auden's caustic wit for rhymes...

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