W. H. Auden
Overview
Wystan Hugh Auden who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, name="OEDdef">The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED (2008 revision) is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England (or Britain) and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also the definition "an American, especially a citizen of the United States, of English origin or descent" in See also the definition "a native or descendant of a native of England who has settled in or become a citizen of America, esp.
Quotations

Written 1930, published in The English Auden :Written 1936; also known as "Funeral Blues" File:Tunnels of Time.jpg|144px|thumb|right|Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.Silence the pianos and with muffled drumBring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overheadScribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead

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. Now the leaves are falling fast, Nurse's flowers will not last; Nurses to their graves are gone, And the prams go rolling on.

Written 1936. Lines 1-4 Cold, impossible, ahead Lifts the mountain's lovely head Whose white waterfall could bless Travellers in their last distress.

Lines 17-20 Acts of injustice done Between the setting and the rising sun In history lie like bones, each one.

Written with Christopher Isherwood|Christopher Isherwood in 1936. Act II, Scene V

Quoted by Richard Adams|Richard Adams in his novel Watership Down|Watership Down. Lay your sleeping head, my loveHuman on my faithless arm;Time and fevers burn awayIndividual beauty fromThoughtful children, and the graveProves the child ephemeral;But in my arms till break of dayLet the living creature lie:Mortal, guilty, but to meThe entirely beautiful.

Encyclopedia
Wystan Hugh Auden who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, name="OEDdef">The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED (2008 revision) is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England (or Britain) and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also the definition "an American, especially a citizen of the United States, of English origin or descent" in See also the definition "a native or descendant of a native of England who has settled in or become a citizen of America, esp. of the United States" from The Random House Dictionary, 2009, available online at
born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.

Auden grew up in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 in a professional middle class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

. His early poems, written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, alternated between telegraphic modern styles and fluent traditional ones, were written in an intense and dramatic tone, and established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. He became uncomfortable in this role in the later 1930s, and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where he became an American citizen in 1946. His poems in the 1940s explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than his earlier works, but still combined traditional forms and styles with new forms devised by Auden himself. In the 1950s and 1960s many of his poems focused on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions, and he took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.

He was also a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential. After his death, some of his poems, notably "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", became widely known through films, broadcasts and popular media.

Childhood

Auden was born in York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

, England, to George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

, a physician, and Constance Rosalie Bicknell Auden, who had trained (but never served) as a missionary nurse. He was the third of three children, all sons; the eldest, George Bernard Auden, became a farmer, while the second, John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

, became a geologist. Auden's grandfathers were both Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 clergymen; he grew up in an Anglo-Catholic household which followed a "High
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

" form of Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 with doctrine and ritual resembling those of Roman Catholicism. He traced his love of music and language partly to the church services of his childhood. He believed he was of Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic descent, and his lifelong fascination with Icelandic legends and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 saga
Saga
Sagas, are stories in Old Norse about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, etc.Saga may also refer to:Business*Saga DAB radio, a British radio station*Saga Airlines, a Turkish airline*Saga Falabella, a department store chain in Peru...

s is visible throughout his work.

In 1908 his family moved to Harborne
Harborne
Harborne is an area three miles southwest from Birmingham city centre, England. It is a Birmingham City Council ward in the formal district and in the parliamentary constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston.- Geography :...

, Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, where his father had been appointed the School Medical Officer and Lecturer (later Professor) of Public Health; Auden's lifelong psychoanalytic interests began in his father's library. From the age of eight he attended boarding schools, returning home for holidays. His visits to the Pennine landscape and its declining lead-mining industry figure in many of his poems; the remote decaying mining village of Rookhope
Rookhope
Rookhope is village in County Durham, in England. A former lead and fluorspar mining community, it first existed as a group of cattle farms in the 13th Century. It is situated in the Pennines to the north of Weardale. W. H...

 was for him a "sacred landscape", evoked in a late poem, "Amor Loci." Until he was fifteen he expected to become a mining engineer, but his passion for words had already begun. He wrote later: "words so excite me that a pornographic story, for example, excites me sexually more than a living person can do."

Education

Auden's first boarding school was St. Edmund's School
St. Edmund's School (Hindhead)
St. Edmund's School is a coeducational nursery, pre-prep and preparatory school originally founded in Hunstanton, Norfolk, England in 1874, and subsequently moved to Hindhead, Surrey, England in 1900, where the school moved into a large country house named Blen Cathra, previously a home of George...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, where he met Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

, later famous in his own right as a novelist. At thirteen he went to Gresham's School
Gresham's School
Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in North Norfolk, England, a member of the HMC.The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis...

 in Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

; there, in 1922, when his friend Robert Medley
Robert Medley
Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

 asked him if he wrote poetry, Auden first realized his vocation was to be a poet. Soon after, he "discover(ed) that he (had) lost his faith" (through a gradual realisation that he had lost interest in religion, not through any decisive change of views). In school productions of Shakespeare, he played Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

in 1922, and Caliban
Caliban
Caliban is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.Caliban may also refer to:* Caliban , a moon of Uranus* Caliban , a metalcore band from Germany* Caliban , an acoustic Celtic folk duo...

 in The Tempest in 1925, his last year at Gresham's. His first published poems appeared in the school magazine in 1923.
Auden later wrote a chapter on Gresham's for Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

's The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (1934).

In 1925 he went up to Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, with a scholarship in biology, but he switched to English by his second year. Friends he met at Oxford included Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, and Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

; these four were commonly though misleadingly identified in the 1930s as the "Auden Group
Auden Group
The Auden Group is the name given to a group of British and Irish writers active in the 1930s that included W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, and sometimes Edward Upward and Rex Warner...

" for their shared (but not identical) left-wing views. Auden left Oxford in 1928 with a third-class
British undergraduate degree classification
The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

 degree.

He was reintroduced to Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 in 1925; for the next few years Isherwood was his literary mentor to whom he sent poems for comments and criticism. Auden probably fell in love with Isherwood and in the 1930s they maintained a sexual friendship in intervals between their relations with others. In 1935–39 they collaborated on three plays and a travel book.

From his Oxford years onward, his friends uniformly described him as funny, extravagant, sympathetic, generous, and, partly by his own choice, lonely. In groups he was often dogmatic and overbearing in a comic way; in more private settings he was diffident and shy except when certain of his welcome. He was punctual in his habits, and obsessive about meeting deadlines, while choosing to live amidst physical disorder.

Britain and Europe, 1928–1938

In the autumn of 1928 Auden left Britain for nine months in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, partly to rebel against English repressiveness. In Berlin, he said, he first experienced the political and economic unrest that became one of his central subjects.

On returning to Britain in 1929, he worked briefly as a tutor. In 1930 his first published book, Poems (1930), was accepted by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 for Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

; the firm also published all his later books. In 1930 he began five years as a schoolmaster in boys' schools: two years at the Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy was a preparatory school for boys in Helensburgh, Scotland.It was founded in 1845. Among its famous pupils were Sir James Frazer and John Logie Baird. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Cecil Day-Lewis and W. H...

, in Helensburgh
Helensburgh
Helensburgh is a town in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and the eastern shore of the entrance to the Gareloch....

, Scotland, then three years at The Downs School
The Downs School (Herefordshire)
The Downs, Malvern College Prep. is an independent coeducational school in the United Kingdom, founded in 1900. It is located in Colwall in the County of Herefordshire, on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills.-Overview:...

, in the Malvern Hills
Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern...

, where he was a much-loved teacher. At the Downs, in June 1933, he experienced what he later described as a "Vision of Agape
Agape
Agape is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term...

," when, while sitting with three fellow-teachers at the school, he suddenly found that he loved them for themselves, that their existence had infinite value for him; this experience, he said, later influenced his decision to return to the Anglican Church
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 in 1940.

During these years, Auden's erotic interests focused, as he later said, on an idealized "Alter Ego" rather than on individual persons. His relations (and his unsuccessful courtships) tended to be unequal either in age or intelligence; his sexual relations were transient, although some evolved into long friendships. He contrasted these relations with what he later regarded as the "marriage" (his word) of equals that he began with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

 in 1939 (see below), based on the unique individuality of both partners.
From 1935 until he left Britain early in 1939, Auden worked as freelance reviewer, essayist, and lecturer, first with the G.P.O. Film Unit, a documentary film-making branch of the post office, headed by John Grierson
John Grierson
John Grierson was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. According to popular myth, in 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.-Early life:Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland...

. Through his work for the Film Unit in 1935 he met and collaborated with Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, with whom he also worked on plays, song cycles, and a libretto. Auden's plays in the 1930s were performed by the Group Theatre
Group Theatre (London)
The Group Theatre was an experimental theatre company founded in 1932 by Rupert Doone and Robert Medley. It evolved from a play-reading group in Cambridge that Doone had been involved with during his years studying with the Festival Theatre there...

, in productions that he supervised to varying degrees.

His work now reflected his belief that any good artist must be "more than a bit of a reporting journalist." In 1936 he spent three months in Iceland, where he gathered material for a travel book Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937), written in collaboration with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

. In 1937 he went to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 intending to drive an ambulance for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, but was put to work broadcasting propaganda, a job he left in order to visit the front. His seven-week visit to Spain affected him deeply, and his social views grew more complex as he found political realities to be more ambiguous and troubling than he had imagined. Again attempting to combine reportage and art, he and Isherwood spent six months in 1938 visiting the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, working on their book Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939). On their way back to England they stayed briefly in New York and decided to move to the United States. Auden spent the autumn of 1938 partly in England, partly in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

.

Many of his poems during the 1930s and afterward were inspired by unconsummated love, and in the 1950s he summarized his emotional life in a famous couplet: "If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me" ("The More Loving One"). He had a gift for friendship and, starting in the late 1930s, a strong wish for the stability of marriage; in a letter to his friend James Stern
James Stern
James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

 he called marriage "the only subject." Throughout his life, he performed charitable acts, sometimes in public (as in his marriage of convenience to Erika Mann
Erika Mann
Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

 in 1935 that gave her a British passport with which to escape the Nazis), but, especially in later years, more often in private, and he was embarrassed if they were publicly revealed, as when his gift to his friend Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert; she advocated the Catholic economic theory of Distributism. She was also considered to be an anarchist, and did not hesitate to use the term...

 for the Catholic Worker
Catholic Worker
The Catholic Worker is a newspaper published seven times a year by the Catholic Worker Movement community in New York City. The newspaper was started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to make people aware of church teaching on social justice...

 movement was reported on the front page of The New York Times in 1956.

United States and Europe, 1939–1973

Auden and Isherwood sailed to New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was later seen by many there as a betrayal and Auden's reputation suffered. In April 1939 Isherwood moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and he and Auden saw each other only intermittently in later years. Around this time, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, who became his lover for the next two years (Auden described their relation as a "marriage" that began with a cross-country "honeymoon" journey). In 1941 Kallman ended their sexual relations because he could not accept Auden's insistence on a mutual faithful relationship, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden's life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden's death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945/50 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman.
In 1940–41, Auden lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights is a culturally diverse neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Originally referred to as 'Brooklyn Village', it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834. As of 2000, Brooklyn Heights sustained a population of 22,594 people. The neighborhood is part of...

 which he shared with Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers was an American writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and two plays, as well as essays and some poetry. Her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South...

, Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, and others, and which became a famous center of artistic life. In 1940, he joined the Episcopal Church, returning to the Anglican Communion he had abandoned at thirteen. His reconversion was influenced partly by what he called the "sainthood" of Charles Williams
Charles Williams (UK writer)
Charles Walter Stansby Williams was a British poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings.- Biography :...

, whom he had met in 1937, partly by reading Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 and Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

; his existential
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, this-worldly Christianity became a central element in his life.

After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 Auden told the British embassy in Washington that he would return to the UK if needed, but was told that, among those his age (32), only qualified personnel were needed. In 1941–42 he taught English at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

. He was called up to be drafted in the United States Army in August 1942, but was rejected on medical grounds. He had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

 for 1942-43, but did not use it, choosing instead to teach at Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia....

 in 1942–45.

In the summer of 1945, after the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in Europe, he was in Germany with the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey (Europe)
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was established by the Secretary of War on 3 November 1944, pursuant to a Directive from President Roosevelt...

, studying the effects of Allied bombing on German morale, an experience that affected his postwar work as his visit to Spain had affected him earlier. On his return, he settled in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, working as a freelance writer, and as a lecturer at The New School for Social Research
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 and a visiting professor at Bennington
Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont, USA. The college was founded in 1932 as a women's college and became co-educational in 1969.-History:-Early years:...

, Smith
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

, and other American colleges. In 1946 he became a naturalized citizen of the US.

His theology in his later years evolved from a highly inward and psychologically oriented Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 in the early 1940s to a more Roman Catholic-oriented interest in the significance of the body and in collective ritual in the later 1940s and 1950s, and finally to the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 which rejected "childish" conceptions of God for an adult religion that focused on the significance of human suffering.

Auden began summering in Europe in 1948, first in Ischia
Ischia
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, about 30 km from the city of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. Roughly trapezoidal in shape, it measures around 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south and has...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, where he rented a house, then, starting 1958, in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 where he bought a farmhouse, and, he said, shed tears of joy at owning a home for the first time.

In 1951, shortly before the two British spies Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess
Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

 and Donald Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" while an undergraduate at Cambridge by...

 fled to the USSR, Burgess attempted to phone Auden to arrange a vacation visit to Ischia that he had earlier discussed with Auden; Auden never returned the call and had no further contact with either spy, but a media frenzy ensued in which his name was mistakenly associated with their escape. The frenzy was repeated when the MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 documents on the incident were released in 2007.

In 1956–61, Auden was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University where he was required to give three lectures each year. This fairly light workload allowed him to continue to winter in New York, where he now lived on St. Mark's Place, and to summer in Europe, spending only three weeks each year lecturing in Oxford. He now earned his income mostly by readings and lecture tours, and by writing for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

and other magazines.

During his last years, his conversation became repetitive, to the disappointment of friends who had known him earlier as a witty and wide-ranging conversationalist. In 1972, he moved his winter home from New York to Oxford, where his old college, Christ Church, offered him a cottage, but he continued to summer in Austria. He died in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in 1973 and was buried in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

.

Overview

Auden published about four hundred poems, including seven long poems (two of them book-length). His poetry was encyclopaedic in scope and method, ranging in style from obscure twentieth-century modernism to the lucid traditional forms such as ballads and limericks, from doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 through haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

 and villanelles to a "Christmas Oratorio" and a baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 eclogue
Eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

 in Anglo-Saxon meters. The tone and content of his poems ranged from pop-song clichés to complex philosophical meditations, from the corns on his toes to atoms and stars, from contemporary crises to the evolution of society.

He also wrote more than four hundred essays and reviews about literature, history, politics, music, religion, and many other subjects. He collaborated on plays with Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 and on opera libretti with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, worked with a group of artists and filmmakers on documentary films in the 1930s and with the New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica was a vocal and instrumental ensemble that specialized in Medieval and Renaissance early music. It was co-founded in 1952, under the name Pro Musica Antiqua, by Noah Greenberg, a choral director, and Bernard Krainis, a recorder player who studied with Erich Katz.The ensemble is...

 early music
Early music
Early music is generally understood as comprising all music from the earliest times up to the Renaissance. However, today this term has come to include "any music for which a historically appropriate style of performance must be reconstructed on the basis of surviving scores, treatises,...

 group in the 1950s and 1960s. About collaboration he wrote in 1964: "collaboration has brought me greater erotic joy . . . than any sexual relations I have had."

Auden controversially rewrote or discarded some of his most famous poems when he prepared his later collected editions. He wrote that he rejected poems that he found "boring" or "dishonest" in the sense that they expressed views that he had never held but had used only because he felt they would be rhetorically effective. His rejected poems include "Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

" and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

". His literary executor
Literary executor
A literary executor is a person with decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate...

, Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

, argues in his introduction to Auden's Selected Poems that Auden's practice reflected his sense of the persuasive power of poetry and his reluctance to misuse it. (Selected Poems includes some poems that Auden rejected and early texts of poems that he revised.)

Early work, 1922–1939

Up to 1930

Auden began writing poems at thirteen, mostly in the styles of 19th-century romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, and later poets with rural interests, especially Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

. At eighteen he discovered T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and adopted an extreme version of Eliot's style. He found his own voice at twenty, when he wrote the first poem later included in his collected work, "From the very first coming down." This and other poems of the late 1920s tended to be in a clipped, elusive style that alluded to, but did not directly state, their themes of loneliness and loss. Twenty of these poems appeared in his first book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1928), a pamphlet hand-printed by Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

.

In 1928 he wrote his first dramatic work, Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

, subtitled "A Charade," which combined style and content from the Icelandic sagas
Sagàs
Sagàs is a small town and municipality located in Catalonia, in the comarca of Berguedà. It is located in the geographical area of the pre-Pyrenees.-Population:...

 with jokes from English school life. This mixture of tragedy and farce, with a dream play-within-the-play, introduced the mixed styles and content of much of his later work. This drama and thirty short poems appeared in his first published book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1930, 2nd edition with seven poems replaced, 1933); the poems in the book were mostly lyrical and gnomic mediations on hoped-for or unconsummated love and on themes of personal, social, and seasonal renewal; among these poems were "It was Easter as I walked," "Doom is dark," "Sir, no man's enemy," and "This lunar beauty."

A recurrent theme in these early poems is the effect of "family ghosts", Auden's term for the powerful, unseen psychological effects of preceding generations on any individual life (and the title of a poem). A parallel theme, present throughout his work, is the contrast between biological evolution (unchosen and involuntary) and the psychological evolution of cultures and individuals (voluntary and deliberate even in its subconscious aspects).

1931 to 1935

Auden's next large-scale work was The Orators
The Orators
The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

: An English Study
(1932; revised editions, 1934, 1966), in verse and prose, largely about hero-worship in personal and political life. In his shorter poems, his style became more open and accessible, and the exuberant "Six Odes" in The Orators reflect his new interest in Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

. During the next few years, many of his poems took their form and style from traditional ballads and popular songs, and also from expansive classical forms like the Odes of Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, which he seems to have discovered through the German poet Hölderlin. Around this time his main influences were Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

, and Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

.
During these years, much of his work expressed left-wing views, and he became widely known as a political poet, although his work was more politically ambivalent than many reviewers recognized. He generally wrote about revolutionary change in terms of a "change of heart", a transformation of a society from a closed-off psychology of fear to an open psychology of love. His verse drama The Dance of Death
The Dance of Death (Auden)
The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

(1933) was a political extravaganza in the style of a theatrical revue, which Auden later called "a nihilistic leg-pull." His next play The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

(1935), written in collaboration with Isherwood, was similarly a quasi-Marxist updating of Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 in which the general idea of social transformation was more prominent than any specific political action or structure.

The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

(1937), another play written with Isherwood, was partly an anti-imperialist satire, partly (in the character of the self-destroying climber Michael Ransom) an examination of Auden's own motives in taking on a public role as a political poet. This play included the first version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks"), written as a satiric eulogy for a politician; Auden later rewrote the poem as a "Cabaret Song" about lost love (written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

 for whom he wrote many lyrics in the 1930s). In 1935, he worked briefly on documentary films with the G.P.O. Film Unit, writing his famous verse commentary for Night Mail
Night Mail
Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

and lyrics for other films that were among his attempts in the 1930s to create a widely-accessible, socially-conscious art.

1936 to 1939

These tendencies in style and content culminate in his collection Look, Stranger! (1936; his British publisher chose the title, which Auden hated; Auden retitled the 1937 US edition On This Island
On This Island
On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

). This book included political odes, love poems, comic songs, meditative lyrics, and a variety of intellectually intense but emotionally accessible verse. Among the poems included in the book, connected by themes of personal, social, and evolutionary change and of the possibilities and problems of personal love, were "Hearing of harvests", "Out on the lawn I lie in bed", "O what is that sound", "Look, stranger, on this island now" (later revised versions change "on" to "at"), and "Our hunting fathers."

Auden was now arguing that an artist should be a kind of journalist, and he put this view into practice in Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937) a travel book in prose and verse written with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, which included his long social, literary, and autobiographical commentary "Letter to Lord Byron." In 1937, after observing the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 he wrote a politically-engaged pamphlet poem Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

(1937); he later discarded it from his collected works. Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939) a travel book in prose and verse, was written with Isherwood after their visit to the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. Auden's last collaboration with Isherwood was their third play, On the Frontier
On the Frontier
On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

, an anti-war satire written in Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 and West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 styles.

Auden's themes in his shorter poems now included the fragility and transience of personal love ("Danse Macabre", "The Dream", "Lay your sleeping head"), a theme he treated with ironic wit in his "Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

" (which included "O Tell Me the Truth About Love" and the revised version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

"), and also the corrupting effect of public and official culture on individual lives ("Casino", "School Children", "Dover"). In 1938 he wrote a series of dark, ironic ballads about individual failure ("Miss Gee", "James Honeyman", "Victor"). All these appeared in his next book of verse, Another Time
Another Time
Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

(1940), together with other famous poems such as "Dover", "As He Is", and "Musée des Beaux Arts" (all written before he moved to America in 1939), and "In Memory of W. B. Yeats", "The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen is a poem by W. H. Auden. Auden wrote it in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. It was first published in 1939 in The New Yorker, and first appeared in book form in Auden's collection Another Time...

", "Law Like Love", "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", and "In Memory of Sigmund Freud" (written in America). The elegies for Yeats and Freud are partly statements of Auden's anti-heroic theme, in which great deeds are performed, not by unique geniuses whom others cannot hope to imitate, but by otherwise ordinary individuals who were "silly like us" (Yeats) or of whom it could be said "he wasn't clever at all" (Freud), and who became teachers of others, not awe-inspiring heroes.

1940 to 1946

In 1940 Auden wrote a long philosophical poem "New Year Letter", which appeared with miscellaneous notes and other poems in The Double Man
The Double Man
The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

(1941). At the time of his return to the Anglican Communion he began writing abstract verse on theological themes, such as "Canzone" and "Kairos and Logos." Around 1942, as he became more comfortable with religious themes, his verse became more open and relaxed, and he increasingly used the syllabic verse
Syllabic verse
Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed number of syllables per line regardless of the number of stresses that are present. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as Japanese or modern French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which...

 he learned from the poetry of Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.- Life :Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor...

.

His recurring themes in this period included the artist's temptation to use other persons as material for his art rather than valuing them for themselves ("Prospero to Ariel") and the corresponding moral obligation to make and keep commitments while recognizing the temptation to break them ("In Sickness and Health").

From 1942 through 1947 he worked mostly on three long poems in dramatic form, each differing from the others in form and content: "For the Time Being
For the Time Being
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

: A Christmas Oratorio", "The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

" (both published in For the Time Being, 1944), and The Age of Anxiety
The Age of Anxiety (poem)
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

: A Baroque Eclogue
(published separately 1947). The first two, with Auden's other new poems from 1940–44, were included in his first collected edition, The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (1945), with most of his earlier poems, many in revised versions.

1947 to 1957

After completing The Age of Anxiety in 1946 he focused again on shorter poems, notably "A Walk After Dark," "The Love Feast", and "The Fall of Rome." Many of these evoked the Italian village where he summered in 1948-57, and his next book, Nones
Nones (Auden)
Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

(1951), had a Mediterranean atmosphere new to his work. A new theme was the "sacred importance" of the human body in its ordinary aspect (breathing, sleeping, eating) and the continuity with nature that the body made possible (in contrast to the division between humanity and nature that he had emphasized in the 1930s); his poems on these themes included "In Praise of Limestone
In Praise of Limestone
"In Praise of Limestone" is a poem written by W. H. Auden in Italy in May 1948. Central to his canon and one of Auden's finest poems, it has been the subject of diverse scholarly interpretations. Auden's limestone landscape has been interpreted as an allegory of Mediterranean civilization and of...

" and "Memorial for the City." In 1949 Auden and Kallman wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

's opera The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

, and later collaborated on two libretti for operas by Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

.

Auden's first separate prose book was The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

: The Romantic Iconography of the Sea
(1950), based on a series of lectures on the image of the sea in romantic literature. Between 1949 and 1954 he worked on a sequence of seven Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 poems, "Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae is a series of poems by W. H. Auden written between 1949 and 1955. The title is a reference to the canonical hours of the Christian Church, as are the titles of the seven poems constituting the series: "Prime", "Terce", "Sext", "Nones", "Vespers", "Compline", and "Lauds"...

", an encyclopedic survey of geological, biological, cultural, and personal history, focused on the irreversible act of murder; the poem was also a study in cyclical and linear ideas of time. While writing this, he also wrote a sequence of seven poems about man's relation to nature, "Bucolics." Both sequences appeared in his next book, The Shield of Achilles
The Shield of Achilles
"The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

(1955), with other short poems, including the book's title poem, "Fleet Visit", and "Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier."

Extending the themes of "Horae Canonicae", in 1955–56 he wrote a group of poems about "history," the term he used to mean the set of unique events made by human choices, as opposed to "nature," the set of involuntary events created by natural processes, statistics, and anonymous forces such as crowds. These poems included "T the Great", "The Maker", and the title poem of his next collection Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

Later work, 1958–1973

In the late 1950s Auden's style became less rhetorical while its range of styles increased. In 1958, having moved his summer home from Italy to Austria, he wrote "Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno"; other poems from this period include "Dichtung und Wahrheit: An Unwritten Poem", a prose poem about the relation between love and personal and poetic language, and the contrasting "Dame Kind", about the anonymous impersonal reproductive instinct. These and other poems, including his 1955–66 poems about history, appeared in Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

His prose book The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

(1962) gathered many of the lectures he gave in Oxford as Professor of Poetry in 1956–61, together with revised versions of essays and notes written since the mid-1940s.

While translating the haiku and other verse in Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author. An early Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. He is the only person to have been awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. Hammarskjöld...

's Markings, Auden began using haiku for many of his poems. A sequence of fifteen poems about his house in Austria, "Thanksgiving for a Habitat", appeared in About the House
About the House
About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

(1965), with other poems that included his reflections on his lecture tours, "On the Circuit." In the late 1960s he wrote some of his most vigorous poems, including "River Profile" and two poems that looked back over his life, "Prologue at Sixty" and "Forty Years On." All these appeared in City Without Walls
City Without Walls
City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

(1969). His lifelong passion for Icelandic legend culminated in his verse translation of The Elder Edda (1969).

He was commissioned in 1963 to write lyrics for the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha is a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. It is adapted from Wasserman's non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes's seventeenth century masterpiece Don Quixote...

, but the producer rejected them as insufficiently romantic. In 1971 Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 commissioned Auden to write the words, and Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals
Pau Casals i Defilló , known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time...

 to compose the music, for a "Hymn to the United Nations", but the work had no official status.

A Certain World
A Certain World
A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

: A Commonplace Book
(1970) was a kind of self-portrait made up of favorite quotations with commentary, arranged in alphabetical order by subject. His last prose book was a selection of essays and reviews, Forewords and Afterwords (1973). His last books of verse, Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

(1972) and the unfinished Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

(published posthumously, 1974) include reflective poems about language ("Natural Linguistics") and about his own aging ("A New Year Greeting", "Talking to Myself", "A Lullaby" ["The din of work is subdued"]). His last completed poem, in haiku form, was "Archeology", about ritual and timelessness, two recurring themes in his later years.

Reputation and influence

Auden's stature in modern literature has been disputed, with opinions ranging from that of Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid is the pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve , a significant Scottish poet of the 20th century. He was instrumental in creating a Scottish version of modernism and was a leading light in the Scottish Renaissance of the 20th century...

, who called him "a complete wash-out", to the obituarist in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

(London), who wrote: "W. H. Auden, for long the enfant terrible of English poetry . . . emerges as its undisputed master."

In his enfant terrible stage in the 1930s he was both praised and dismissed as a progressive and accessible voice, in contrast to the politically nostalgic and poetically obscure voice of T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

. His departure for America in 1939 was hotly debated in Britain (once even in Parliament), with some critics treating it as a betrayal, and the role of influential young poet passed to Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 January 2008. who wrote exclusively in English. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself...

, although defenders such as Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson was a British writer. He was born in Pelynt, a village near Looe in Cornwall.-Life:...

, in an introduction to a 1949 anthology of modern poetry, wrote that Auden "arches over all." His stature was suggested by book titles such as Auden and After by Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe was an English poet, critic and novelist, who became an academic, translator and Director of the British Institute in Paris....

 (1942) and The Auden Generation by Samuel Hynes (1972).

In the US, starting in the late 1930s, the detached, ironic tone of Auden's regular stanzas set the style for a whole generation of poets; John Ashbery
John Ashbery
John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial...

 recalled that in the 1940s Auden "was the modern poet." His manner was so pervasive in American poetry that the ecstatic style of the Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 was partly a reaction against his influence. In the 1950s and 1960s, some writers (notably Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century...

 and Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist. He was the 11th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a role which now holds the title of US Poet Laureate.-Life:Jarrell was a native of Nashville, Tennessee...

) lamented that Auden's work had declined from its earlier promise.

By the time of Auden's death in 1973 he had attained the status of a respected elder statesman. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that "by the time of Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's death in 1965 ... a convincing case could be made for the assertion that Auden was indeed Eliot's successor, as Eliot had inherited sole claim to supremacy when Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 died in 1939." With some exceptions, British critics tended to treat his early work as his best, while American critics tended to favor his middle and later work. Unlike other modern poets, his reputation did not decline after his death, and Joseph Brodsky
Joseph Brodsky
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

 wrote that his was "the greatest mind of the twentieth century."

Auden's popularity and familiarity suddenly increased after his "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") was read aloud in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a 1994 British comedy film directed by Mike Newell. It was the first of several films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant...

(1994); subsequently, a pamphlet edition of ten of his poems, Tell Me the Truth About Love, sold more than 275,000 copies. After 11 September 2001, his poem "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

" was widely circulated and frequently broadcast. Public readings and broadcast tributes in the UK and US in 2007 marked his centenary year.

Published works

The following list includes only the books of poems and essays that Auden prepared during his lifetime; for a more complete list, including other works and posthumous editions, see W. H. Auden bibliography.

In the list below, works reprinted in the Complete Works of W. H. Auden are indicated by footnote references.

Books

  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (London, 1930; second edn., seven poems substituted, London, 1933; includes poems and Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

    : A Charade
    ) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ).
  • The Orators
    The Orators
    The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

    : An English Study
    (London, 1932, verse and prose; slightly revised edn., London, 1934; revised edn. with new preface, London, 1966; New York 1967) (dedicated to Stephen Spender
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    ).
  • The Dance of Death
    The Dance of Death (Auden)
    The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

    (London, 1933, play) (dedicated to Robert Medley
    Robert Medley
    Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

     and Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone was an English dancer, choreographer, theatre director, and teacher....

    ).
  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (New York, 1934; contains Poems [1933 edition], The Orators [1932 edition], and The Dance of Death).
  • The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

    (London, New York, 1935; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Robert Moody).
  • The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

    (London, 1936; 2nd edn., 1937; New York, 1937; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

    ).
  • Look, Stranger! (London, 1936, poems; US edn., On This Island
    On This Island
    On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

    , New York, 1937) (dedicated to Erika Mann
    Erika Mann
    Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

    )
  • Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

    (London, New York, 1937; verse and prose, with Louis MacNeice
    Louis MacNeice
    Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

    ) (dedicated to George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

    ).
  • On the Frontier
    On the Frontier
    On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

    (London, 1938; New York 1939; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ).
  • Journey to a War
    Journey to a War
    Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

    (London, New York, 1939; verse and prose, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to E. M. Forster
    E. M. Forster
    Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

    ).
  • Another Time
    Another Time
    Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

    (London, New York 1940; poetry) (dedicated to Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Double Man
    The Double Man
    The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

    (New York, 1941, poems; UK edn., New Year Letter, London, 1941) (Dedicated to Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer was a German-born American translator and editor, closely associated with W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and other writers and musicians. In the 1940s her homes in Long Island and New York served as an artistic salon for many émigré writers.Elizabeth Mayer was born in...

    ).
  • For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    (New York, 1944; London, 1945; two long poems: "The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

    : A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest", dedicated to James and Tania Stern
    James Stern
    James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

    , and "For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    : A Christmas Oratorio", in memoriam Constance Rosalie Auden [Auden's mother]).
  • The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York, 1945; includes new poems) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Age of Anxiety
    The Age of Anxiety (poem)
    The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

    : A Baroque Eclogue
    (New York, 1947; London, 1948; verse; won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry has been presented since 1922 for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. However, special citations for poetry were presented in 1918 and 1919.-Winners:...

    ) (dedicated to John Betjeman
    John Betjeman
    Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems, 1930–1944 (London, 1950; similar to 1945 Collected Poetry) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

    (New York, 1950; London, 1951; prose) (dedicated to Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen was an American poet, playwright, and associate of Beat Generation writers. He was a widely-read scholar who knew many languages. Ansen grew up on Long Island and was educated at Harvard. He worked as W. H...

    ).
  • Nones
    Nones (Auden)
    Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

    (New York, 1951; London, 1952; poems) (dedicated to Reinhold
    Reinhold Niebuhr
    Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

     and Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Mary Niebuhr was an American academic and theologian. She was the founder and longtime head of the Department of Religion at Barnard College in New York City.Although known as an American, she was born in Southampton, England...

    )
  • The Shield of Achilles
    The Shield of Achilles
    "The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

    (New York, London, 1955; poems; won the 1956 National Book Award for Poetry
    National Book Award for Poetry
    The National Book Award for Poetry has been given since 1950 and is part of the National Book Awards, which are given annually for outstanding literary works by American citizens...

    ) (dedicated to Lincoln and Fidelma Kirstein
    Lincoln Kirstein
    Lincoln Edward Kirstein was an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, and cultural figure in New York City...

    ).
  • Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

    (New York, London, 1960; poems) (dedicated to E. R. and A. E. Dodds).
  • The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

    (New York, 1962; London, 1963; essays) (dedicated to Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill was a British literary scholar, known especially for his modern English version of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.-Life:...

    ).
  • About the House
    About the House
    About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

    (New York, London, 1965; poems) (dedicated to Edmund and Elena Wilson
    Edmund Wilson
    Edmund Wilson was an American writer and literary and social critic and noted man of letters.-Early life:Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father, Edmund Wilson, Sr., was a lawyer and served as New Jersey Attorney General. Wilson attended The Hill School, a college preparatory...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems 1927–1957 (London, 1966; New York, 1967) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • Collected Longer Poems (London, 1968; New York, 1969).
  • Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds is a book of four essays by W. H. Auden, first published in 1968.The four essays in the book are based on the four T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures that Auden delivered at the University of Kent in Canterbury in 1967...

    (London, New York, 1969; prose) (dedicated to Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot née Esmé Valerie Fletcher is the surviving widow and second wife of the Nobel prize-winning poet, T. S. Eliot...

    ).
  • City Without Walls
    City Without Walls
    City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1969) (dedicated to Peter Heyworth
    Peter Heyworth
    Peter Lawrence Frederick Heyworth was an American-born English music critic and biographer. He wrote the definitive biography of Otto Klemperer and was a prominent supporter of avant-garde music....

    ).
  • A Certain World
    A Certain World
    A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

    : A Commonplace Book
    (New York, London, 1970; quotations with commentary) (dedicated to Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer, English anthropologist and author , noted for his application of psychoanalytic techniques to anthropology.He was educated at Charterhouse and at Jesus College, Cambridge. During the 1930s he wrote unpublished fiction and drama. His first book was The Revolutionary Ideas of the...

    ).
  • Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1972) (dedicated to Orlan Fox).
  • Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords is a prose book by W. H. Auden published in 1973.The book contains 46 essays by Auden on literary, historical, and religious subjects, written between 1943 and 1972 and slightly revised for this volume....

    (New York, London, 1973; essays) (dedicated to Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

    ).
  • Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

    : Last Poems
    (London, New York, 1974) (dedicated to Michael and Marny Yates
    Michael Yates (television designer)
    Michael Yates was a British theatre, opera, and television designer.-Early life:One of five sons of James Yates, an English lawyer; the family lived in Brooklands, Sale, Lancashire...

    ).

Film scripts and opera libretti

  • Night Mail
    Night Mail
    Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

    (1936, documentary film narrative, not published separately except as a program note).
  • Paul Bunyan
    Paul Bunyan (operetta)
    Paul Bunyan is an operetta in two acts and a prologue composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by W. H. Auden. It premiered at Columbia University on May 5, 1941 to largely negative reviews, and Britten revised it in 1976...

    (1941, libretto for operetta by Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ; not published until 1976).
  • The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

    (1951, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

    ).
  • Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.-Background:...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

    ).
  • The Bassarids
    The Bassarids
    The Bassarids is an opera in one act and an intermezzo, with music Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

     based on The Bacchae
    The Bacchae
    The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

    of Euripides
    Euripides
    Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

    ).
  • Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost (opera)
    Love's Labour's Lost is an opera by Nicolas Nabokov, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was first performed in Brussels in 1973.The orchestration was by the German-American conductor Harold Byrns....

    (1973, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov was a Russian-born composer, writer, and cultural figure. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.-Life:...

    , based on Shakespeare's play
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

    ).

Printed sources

See also the listings on the criticism page at the W. H. Auden Society web site. In the list below, unless noted, publication data and ISBN refer to the first editions; many titles are also available in later reprints.

General biographical and critical studies

  • Carpenter, Humphrey
    Humphrey Carpenter
    Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter was an English biographer, writer, and radio broadcaster.-Biography:...

     (1981). W. H. Auden: A Biography. London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-928044-9.
  • Clark, Thekla (1995). Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17591-0.
  • Davenport-Hines, Richard
    Richard Davenport-Hines
    Richard Davenport-Hines is a British historian and literary biographer, best known for his biography of the poet W. H. Auden....

     (1996). Auden. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-17507-2.
  • Farnan, Dorothy J. (1984). Auden in Love. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-50418-5.
  • Fuller, John
    John Fuller (poet)
    John Fuller is an English poet and author, and Fellow Emeritus at Magdalen College, Oxford.Fuller was born in Ashford, Kent, England, the son of poet and Oxford Professor Roy Fuller, and educated at St Paul's School and New College, Oxford. He began teaching in 1962 at the State University of New...

     (1998). W. H. Auden: A Commentary. London: Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

    . ISBN 0-571-19268-8.
  • Hecht, Anthony
    Anthony Hecht
    Anthony Evan Hecht was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.-Early years:Hecht was born in New York...

     (1993). The Hidden Law: The Poetry of W.H. Auden. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    . ISBN 0-674-39006-7.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1981). Early Auden. New York: Viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

    . ISBN 0-670-28712-1.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1999). Later Auden. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux is an American book publishing company, founded in 1946 by Roger W. Straus, Jr. and John C. Farrar. Known primarily as Farrar, Straus in its first decade of existence, the company was renamed several times, including Farrar, Straus and Young and Farrar, Straus and Cudahy...

    . ISBN 0-374-18408-9.
  • Osborne, Charles
    Charles Osborne (music writer)
    Charles Thomas Osborne, born 24 November 1927 in Brisbane, Australia, is a journalist, critic, poet and novelist, and a recognised authority on opera. He was assistant editor of The London Magazine from 1958 until 1966, literature director of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1971 until 1986,...

     (1979). W. H. Auden: The Life of a Poet. London: Eyre Methuen. ISBN 978-0-87131-788-9
  • Smith, Stan, ed. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    . ISBN 0-521-82962-3.
  • Spears, Monroe K. (1963). The Poetry of W. H. Auden: The Disenchanted Island. New York: Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    .
  • Spender, Stephen
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    , ed. (1975). W. H. Auden: A Tribute. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd is a British publisher of fiction and reference books. It is a division of the Orion Publishing Group.-History:...

    . ISBN 0-297-76884-0.
  • Stoll, John E. (1970). W.H. Auden: A Reading. (Full text)
  • Wright, George T. (1969; rev. ed. 1981). W. H. Auden. Boston: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-7346-0.

Special topics

  • Haffenden, John
    John Haffenden
    Professor John Haffenden is an academic in the field of Literature at the University of Sheffield.-Education and positions held:He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin , where he edited Icarus, and Oxford University . He has spent periods as a Fellow of the Yaddo Foundation, New York; as a...

    , ed. (1983). W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-9350-0. Selected reviews of Auden's books and plays.
  • Kirsch, Arthur (2005). Auden and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press
    Yale University Press
    Yale University Press is a book publisher founded in 1908 by George Parmly Day. It became an official department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous....

    . ISBN 0-300-10814-1.
  • Mitchell, Donald (1981), Britten and Auden in the Thirties: the year 1936. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-11715-5.
  • Myers, Alan, and Robert Forsythe (1999), W. H. Auden: Pennine Poet . Nenthead: North Pennines Heritage Trust. ISBN 0-9513535-7-8. Pamphlet with map and gazetteer.

Auden Studies series

  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1990) "The Map of All My Youth": early works, friends and influences (Auden Studies 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812964-5.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1994). "The Language of Learning and the Language of Love": uncollected writings, new interpretations (Auden Studies 2). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812257-8.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1995). "In Solitude, For Company": W. H. Auden after 1940: unpublished prose and recent criticism (Auden Studies 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-818294-5.

External links

See also the descriptive list on the links page at the W. H. Auden Society web site.

  • Yale College Lecture on W.H. Auden audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses
  • Wikiquote page of quotations from W. H. Auden (with notes on misattributions).

  • Wystan Hugh Auden at University of Toronto Libraries
    University of Toronto Libraries
    The University of Toronto Libraries is the library system of the University of Toronto, comprising about 30 individual libraries that hold more than 10 million bound volumes and 5 million microform volumes...


Wystan Hugh Auden (icon; 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, name="OEDdef">The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED (2008 revision) is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England (or Britain) and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also the definition "an American, especially a citizen of the United States, of English origin or descent" in See also the definition "a native or descendant of a native of England who has settled in or become a citizen of America, esp. of the United States" from The Random House Dictionary, 2009, available online at
born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.

Auden grew up in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 in a professional middle class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

. His early poems, written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, alternated between telegraphic modern styles and fluent traditional ones, were written in an intense and dramatic tone, and established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. He became uncomfortable in this role in the later 1930s, and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where he became an American citizen in 1946. His poems in the 1940s explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than his earlier works, but still combined traditional forms and styles with new forms devised by Auden himself. In the 1950s and 1960s many of his poems focused on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions, and he took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.

He was also a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential. After his death, some of his poems, notably "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", became widely known through films, broadcasts and popular media.

Childhood

Auden was born in York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

, England, to George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

, a physician, and Constance Rosalie Bicknell Auden, who had trained (but never served) as a missionary nurse. He was the third of three children, all sons; the eldest, George Bernard Auden, became a farmer, while the second, John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

, became a geologist. Auden's grandfathers were both Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 clergymen; he grew up in an Anglo-Catholic household which followed a "High
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

" form of Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 with doctrine and ritual resembling those of Roman Catholicism. He traced his love of music and language partly to the church services of his childhood. He believed he was of Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic descent, and his lifelong fascination with Icelandic legends and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 saga
Saga
Sagas, are stories in Old Norse about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, etc.Saga may also refer to:Business*Saga DAB radio, a British radio station*Saga Airlines, a Turkish airline*Saga Falabella, a department store chain in Peru...

s is visible throughout his work.

In 1908 his family moved to Harborne
Harborne
Harborne is an area three miles southwest from Birmingham city centre, England. It is a Birmingham City Council ward in the formal district and in the parliamentary constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston.- Geography :...

, Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, where his father had been appointed the School Medical Officer and Lecturer (later Professor) of Public Health; Auden's lifelong psychoanalytic interests began in his father's library. From the age of eight he attended boarding schools, returning home for holidays. His visits to the Pennine landscape and its declining lead-mining industry figure in many of his poems; the remote decaying mining village of Rookhope
Rookhope
Rookhope is village in County Durham, in England. A former lead and fluorspar mining community, it first existed as a group of cattle farms in the 13th Century. It is situated in the Pennines to the north of Weardale. W. H...

 was for him a "sacred landscape", evoked in a late poem, "Amor Loci." Until he was fifteen he expected to become a mining engineer, but his passion for words had already begun. He wrote later: "words so excite me that a pornographic story, for example, excites me sexually more than a living person can do."

Education

Auden's first boarding school was St. Edmund's School
St. Edmund's School (Hindhead)
St. Edmund's School is a coeducational nursery, pre-prep and preparatory school originally founded in Hunstanton, Norfolk, England in 1874, and subsequently moved to Hindhead, Surrey, England in 1900, where the school moved into a large country house named Blen Cathra, previously a home of George...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, where he met Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

, later famous in his own right as a novelist. At thirteen he went to Gresham's School
Gresham's School
Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in North Norfolk, England, a member of the HMC.The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis...

 in Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

; there, in 1922, when his friend Robert Medley
Robert Medley
Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

 asked him if he wrote poetry, Auden first realized his vocation was to be a poet. Soon after, he "discover(ed) that he (had) lost his faith" (through a gradual realisation that he had lost interest in religion, not through any decisive change of views). In school productions of Shakespeare, he played Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

in 1922, and Caliban
Caliban
Caliban is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.Caliban may also refer to:* Caliban , a moon of Uranus* Caliban , a metalcore band from Germany* Caliban , an acoustic Celtic folk duo...

 in The Tempest in 1925, his last year at Gresham's. His first published poems appeared in the school magazine in 1923.
Auden later wrote a chapter on Gresham's for Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

's The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (1934).

In 1925 he went up to Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, with a scholarship in biology, but he switched to English by his second year. Friends he met at Oxford included Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, and Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

; these four were commonly though misleadingly identified in the 1930s as the "Auden Group
Auden Group
The Auden Group is the name given to a group of British and Irish writers active in the 1930s that included W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, and sometimes Edward Upward and Rex Warner...

" for their shared (but not identical) left-wing views. Auden left Oxford in 1928 with a third-class
British undergraduate degree classification
The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

 degree.

He was reintroduced to Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 in 1925; for the next few years Isherwood was his literary mentor to whom he sent poems for comments and criticism. Auden probably fell in love with Isherwood and in the 1930s they maintained a sexual friendship in intervals between their relations with others. In 1935–39 they collaborated on three plays and a travel book.

From his Oxford years onward, his friends uniformly described him as funny, extravagant, sympathetic, generous, and, partly by his own choice, lonely. In groups he was often dogmatic and overbearing in a comic way; in more private settings he was diffident and shy except when certain of his welcome. He was punctual in his habits, and obsessive about meeting deadlines, while choosing to live amidst physical disorder.

Britain and Europe, 1928–1938

In the autumn of 1928 Auden left Britain for nine months in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, partly to rebel against English repressiveness. In Berlin, he said, he first experienced the political and economic unrest that became one of his central subjects.

On returning to Britain in 1929, he worked briefly as a tutor. In 1930 his first published book, Poems (1930), was accepted by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 for Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

; the firm also published all his later books. In 1930 he began five years as a schoolmaster in boys' schools: two years at the Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy was a preparatory school for boys in Helensburgh, Scotland.It was founded in 1845. Among its famous pupils were Sir James Frazer and John Logie Baird. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Cecil Day-Lewis and W. H...

, in Helensburgh
Helensburgh
Helensburgh is a town in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and the eastern shore of the entrance to the Gareloch....

, Scotland, then three years at The Downs School
The Downs School (Herefordshire)
The Downs, Malvern College Prep. is an independent coeducational school in the United Kingdom, founded in 1900. It is located in Colwall in the County of Herefordshire, on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills.-Overview:...

, in the Malvern Hills
Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern...

, where he was a much-loved teacher. At the Downs, in June 1933, he experienced what he later described as a "Vision of Agape
Agape
Agape is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term...

," when, while sitting with three fellow-teachers at the school, he suddenly found that he loved them for themselves, that their existence had infinite value for him; this experience, he said, later influenced his decision to return to the Anglican Church
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 in 1940.

During these years, Auden's erotic interests focused, as he later said, on an idealized "Alter Ego" rather than on individual persons. His relations (and his unsuccessful courtships) tended to be unequal either in age or intelligence; his sexual relations were transient, although some evolved into long friendships. He contrasted these relations with what he later regarded as the "marriage" (his word) of equals that he began with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

 in 1939 (see below), based on the unique individuality of both partners.
From 1935 until he left Britain early in 1939, Auden worked as freelance reviewer, essayist, and lecturer, first with the G.P.O. Film Unit, a documentary film-making branch of the post office, headed by John Grierson
John Grierson
John Grierson was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. According to popular myth, in 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.-Early life:Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland...

. Through his work for the Film Unit in 1935 he met and collaborated with Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, with whom he also worked on plays, song cycles, and a libretto. Auden's plays in the 1930s were performed by the Group Theatre
Group Theatre (London)
The Group Theatre was an experimental theatre company founded in 1932 by Rupert Doone and Robert Medley. It evolved from a play-reading group in Cambridge that Doone had been involved with during his years studying with the Festival Theatre there...

, in productions that he supervised to varying degrees.

His work now reflected his belief that any good artist must be "more than a bit of a reporting journalist." In 1936 he spent three months in Iceland, where he gathered material for a travel book Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937), written in collaboration with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

. In 1937 he went to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 intending to drive an ambulance for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, but was put to work broadcasting propaganda, a job he left in order to visit the front. His seven-week visit to Spain affected him deeply, and his social views grew more complex as he found political realities to be more ambiguous and troubling than he had imagined. Again attempting to combine reportage and art, he and Isherwood spent six months in 1938 visiting the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, working on their book Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939). On their way back to England they stayed briefly in New York and decided to move to the United States. Auden spent the autumn of 1938 partly in England, partly in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

.

Many of his poems during the 1930s and afterward were inspired by unconsummated love, and in the 1950s he summarized his emotional life in a famous couplet: "If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me" ("The More Loving One"). He had a gift for friendship and, starting in the late 1930s, a strong wish for the stability of marriage; in a letter to his friend James Stern
James Stern
James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

 he called marriage "the only subject." Throughout his life, he performed charitable acts, sometimes in public (as in his marriage of convenience to Erika Mann
Erika Mann
Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

 in 1935 that gave her a British passport with which to escape the Nazis), but, especially in later years, more often in private, and he was embarrassed if they were publicly revealed, as when his gift to his friend Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert; she advocated the Catholic economic theory of Distributism. She was also considered to be an anarchist, and did not hesitate to use the term...

 for the Catholic Worker
Catholic Worker
The Catholic Worker is a newspaper published seven times a year by the Catholic Worker Movement community in New York City. The newspaper was started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to make people aware of church teaching on social justice...

 movement was reported on the front page of The New York Times in 1956.

United States and Europe, 1939–1973


Auden and Isherwood sailed to New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was later seen by many there as a betrayal and Auden's reputation suffered. In April 1939 Isherwood moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and he and Auden saw each other only intermittently in later years. Around this time, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, who became his lover for the next two years (Auden described their relation as a "marriage" that began with a cross-country "honeymoon" journey). In 1941 Kallman ended their sexual relations because he could not accept Auden's insistence on a mutual faithful relationship, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden's life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden's death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945/50 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman.
In 1940–41, Auden lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights is a culturally diverse neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Originally referred to as 'Brooklyn Village', it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834. As of 2000, Brooklyn Heights sustained a population of 22,594 people. The neighborhood is part of...

 which he shared with Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers was an American writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and two plays, as well as essays and some poetry. Her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South...

, Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, and others, and which became a famous center of artistic life. In 1940, he joined the Episcopal Church, returning to the Anglican Communion he had abandoned at thirteen. His reconversion was influenced partly by what he called the "sainthood" of Charles Williams
Charles Williams (UK writer)
Charles Walter Stansby Williams was a British poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings.- Biography :...

, whom he had met in 1937, partly by reading Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 and Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

; his existential
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, this-worldly Christianity became a central element in his life.

After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 Auden told the British embassy in Washington that he would return to the UK if needed, but was told that, among those his age (32), only qualified personnel were needed. In 1941–42 he taught English at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

. He was called up to be drafted in the United States Army in August 1942, but was rejected on medical grounds. He had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

 for 1942-43, but did not use it, choosing instead to teach at Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia....

 in 1942–45.

In the summer of 1945, after the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in Europe, he was in Germany with the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey (Europe)
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was established by the Secretary of War on 3 November 1944, pursuant to a Directive from President Roosevelt...

, studying the effects of Allied bombing on German morale, an experience that affected his postwar work as his visit to Spain had affected him earlier. On his return, he settled in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, working as a freelance writer, and as a lecturer at The New School for Social Research
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 and a visiting professor at Bennington
Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont, USA. The college was founded in 1932 as a women's college and became co-educational in 1969.-History:-Early years:...

, Smith
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

, and other American colleges. In 1946 he became a naturalized citizen of the US.

His theology in his later years evolved from a highly inward and psychologically oriented Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 in the early 1940s to a more Roman Catholic-oriented interest in the significance of the body and in collective ritual in the later 1940s and 1950s, and finally to the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 which rejected "childish" conceptions of God for an adult religion that focused on the significance of human suffering.

Auden began summering in Europe in 1948, first in Ischia
Ischia
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, about 30 km from the city of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. Roughly trapezoidal in shape, it measures around 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south and has...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, where he rented a house, then, starting 1958, in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 where he bought a farmhouse, and, he said, shed tears of joy at owning a home for the first time.

In 1951, shortly before the two British spies Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess
Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

 and Donald Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" while an undergraduate at Cambridge by...

 fled to the USSR, Burgess attempted to phone Auden to arrange a vacation visit to Ischia that he had earlier discussed with Auden; Auden never returned the call and had no further contact with either spy, but a media frenzy ensued in which his name was mistakenly associated with their escape. The frenzy was repeated when the MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 documents on the incident were released in 2007.

In 1956–61, Auden was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University where he was required to give three lectures each year. This fairly light workload allowed him to continue to winter in New York, where he now lived on St. Mark's Place, and to summer in Europe, spending only three weeks each year lecturing in Oxford. He now earned his income mostly by readings and lecture tours, and by writing for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

and other magazines.

During his last years, his conversation became repetitive, to the disappointment of friends who had known him earlier as a witty and wide-ranging conversationalist. In 1972, he moved his winter home from New York to Oxford, where his old college, Christ Church, offered him a cottage, but he continued to summer in Austria. He died in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in 1973 and was buried in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

.

Overview

Auden published about four hundred poems, including seven long poems (two of them book-length). His poetry was encyclopaedic in scope and method, ranging in style from obscure twentieth-century modernism to the lucid traditional forms such as ballads and limericks, from doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 through haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

 and villanelles to a "Christmas Oratorio" and a baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 eclogue
Eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

 in Anglo-Saxon meters. The tone and content of his poems ranged from pop-song clichés to complex philosophical meditations, from the corns on his toes to atoms and stars, from contemporary crises to the evolution of society.

He also wrote more than four hundred essays and reviews about literature, history, politics, music, religion, and many other subjects. He collaborated on plays with Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 and on opera libretti with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, worked with a group of artists and filmmakers on documentary films in the 1930s and with the New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica was a vocal and instrumental ensemble that specialized in Medieval and Renaissance early music. It was co-founded in 1952, under the name Pro Musica Antiqua, by Noah Greenberg, a choral director, and Bernard Krainis, a recorder player who studied with Erich Katz.The ensemble is...

 early music
Early music
Early music is generally understood as comprising all music from the earliest times up to the Renaissance. However, today this term has come to include "any music for which a historically appropriate style of performance must be reconstructed on the basis of surviving scores, treatises,...

 group in the 1950s and 1960s. About collaboration he wrote in 1964: "collaboration has brought me greater erotic joy . . . than any sexual relations I have had."

Auden controversially rewrote or discarded some of his most famous poems when he prepared his later collected editions. He wrote that he rejected poems that he found "boring" or "dishonest" in the sense that they expressed views that he had never held but had used only because he felt they would be rhetorically effective. His rejected poems include "Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

" and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

". His literary executor
Literary executor
A literary executor is a person with decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate...

, Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

, argues in his introduction to Auden's Selected Poems that Auden's practice reflected his sense of the persuasive power of poetry and his reluctance to misuse it. (Selected Poems includes some poems that Auden rejected and early texts of poems that he revised.)

Early work, 1922–1939

Up to 1930

Auden began writing poems at thirteen, mostly in the styles of 19th-century romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, and later poets with rural interests, especially Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

. At eighteen he discovered T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and adopted an extreme version of Eliot's style. He found his own voice at twenty, when he wrote the first poem later included in his collected work, "From the very first coming down." This and other poems of the late 1920s tended to be in a clipped, elusive style that alluded to, but did not directly state, their themes of loneliness and loss. Twenty of these poems appeared in his first book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1928), a pamphlet hand-printed by Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

.

In 1928 he wrote his first dramatic work, Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

, subtitled "A Charade," which combined style and content from the Icelandic sagas
Sagàs
Sagàs is a small town and municipality located in Catalonia, in the comarca of Berguedà. It is located in the geographical area of the pre-Pyrenees.-Population:...

 with jokes from English school life. This mixture of tragedy and farce, with a dream play-within-the-play, introduced the mixed styles and content of much of his later work. This drama and thirty short poems appeared in his first published book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1930, 2nd edition with seven poems replaced, 1933); the poems in the book were mostly lyrical and gnomic mediations on hoped-for or unconsummated love and on themes of personal, social, and seasonal renewal; among these poems were "It was Easter as I walked," "Doom is dark," "Sir, no man's enemy," and "This lunar beauty."

A recurrent theme in these early poems is the effect of "family ghosts", Auden's term for the powerful, unseen psychological effects of preceding generations on any individual life (and the title of a poem). A parallel theme, present throughout his work, is the contrast between biological evolution (unchosen and involuntary) and the psychological evolution of cultures and individuals (voluntary and deliberate even in its subconscious aspects).

1931 to 1935

Auden's next large-scale work was The Orators
The Orators
The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

: An English Study
(1932; revised editions, 1934, 1966), in verse and prose, largely about hero-worship in personal and political life. In his shorter poems, his style became more open and accessible, and the exuberant "Six Odes" in The Orators reflect his new interest in Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

. During the next few years, many of his poems took their form and style from traditional ballads and popular songs, and also from expansive classical forms like the Odes of Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, which he seems to have discovered through the German poet Hölderlin. Around this time his main influences were Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

, and Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

.
During these years, much of his work expressed left-wing views, and he became widely known as a political poet, although his work was more politically ambivalent than many reviewers recognized. He generally wrote about revolutionary change in terms of a "change of heart", a transformation of a society from a closed-off psychology of fear to an open psychology of love. His verse drama The Dance of Death
The Dance of Death (Auden)
The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

(1933) was a political extravaganza in the style of a theatrical revue, which Auden later called "a nihilistic leg-pull." His next play The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

(1935), written in collaboration with Isherwood, was similarly a quasi-Marxist updating of Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 in which the general idea of social transformation was more prominent than any specific political action or structure.

The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

(1937), another play written with Isherwood, was partly an anti-imperialist satire, partly (in the character of the self-destroying climber Michael Ransom) an examination of Auden's own motives in taking on a public role as a political poet. This play included the first version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks"), written as a satiric eulogy for a politician; Auden later rewrote the poem as a "Cabaret Song" about lost love (written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

 for whom he wrote many lyrics in the 1930s). In 1935, he worked briefly on documentary films with the G.P.O. Film Unit, writing his famous verse commentary for Night Mail
Night Mail
Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

and lyrics for other films that were among his attempts in the 1930s to create a widely-accessible, socially-conscious art.

1936 to 1939

These tendencies in style and content culminate in his collection Look, Stranger! (1936; his British publisher chose the title, which Auden hated; Auden retitled the 1937 US edition On This Island
On This Island
On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

). This book included political odes, love poems, comic songs, meditative lyrics, and a variety of intellectually intense but emotionally accessible verse. Among the poems included in the book, connected by themes of personal, social, and evolutionary change and of the possibilities and problems of personal love, were "Hearing of harvests", "Out on the lawn I lie in bed", "O what is that sound", "Look, stranger, on this island now" (later revised versions change "on" to "at"), and "Our hunting fathers."

Auden was now arguing that an artist should be a kind of journalist, and he put this view into practice in Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937) a travel book in prose and verse written with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, which included his long social, literary, and autobiographical commentary "Letter to Lord Byron." In 1937, after observing the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 he wrote a politically-engaged pamphlet poem Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

(1937); he later discarded it from his collected works. Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939) a travel book in prose and verse, was written with Isherwood after their visit to the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. Auden's last collaboration with Isherwood was their third play, On the Frontier
On the Frontier
On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

, an anti-war satire written in Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 and West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 styles.

Auden's themes in his shorter poems now included the fragility and transience of personal love ("Danse Macabre", "The Dream", "Lay your sleeping head"), a theme he treated with ironic wit in his "Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

" (which included "O Tell Me the Truth About Love" and the revised version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

"), and also the corrupting effect of public and official culture on individual lives ("Casino", "School Children", "Dover"). In 1938 he wrote a series of dark, ironic ballads about individual failure ("Miss Gee", "James Honeyman", "Victor"). All these appeared in his next book of verse, Another Time
Another Time
Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

(1940), together with other famous poems such as "Dover", "As He Is", and "Musée des Beaux Arts" (all written before he moved to America in 1939), and "In Memory of W. B. Yeats", "The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen is a poem by W. H. Auden. Auden wrote it in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. It was first published in 1939 in The New Yorker, and first appeared in book form in Auden's collection Another Time...

", "Law Like Love", "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", and "In Memory of Sigmund Freud" (written in America). The elegies for Yeats and Freud are partly statements of Auden's anti-heroic theme, in which great deeds are performed, not by unique geniuses whom others cannot hope to imitate, but by otherwise ordinary individuals who were "silly like us" (Yeats) or of whom it could be said "he wasn't clever at all" (Freud), and who became teachers of others, not awe-inspiring heroes.

1940 to 1946

In 1940 Auden wrote a long philosophical poem "New Year Letter", which appeared with miscellaneous notes and other poems in The Double Man
The Double Man
The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

(1941). At the time of his return to the Anglican Communion he began writing abstract verse on theological themes, such as "Canzone" and "Kairos and Logos." Around 1942, as he became more comfortable with religious themes, his verse became more open and relaxed, and he increasingly used the syllabic verse
Syllabic verse
Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed number of syllables per line regardless of the number of stresses that are present. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as Japanese or modern French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which...

 he learned from the poetry of Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.- Life :Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor...

.

His recurring themes in this period included the artist's temptation to use other persons as material for his art rather than valuing them for themselves ("Prospero to Ariel") and the corresponding moral obligation to make and keep commitments while recognizing the temptation to break them ("In Sickness and Health").

From 1942 through 1947 he worked mostly on three long poems in dramatic form, each differing from the others in form and content: "For the Time Being
For the Time Being
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

: A Christmas Oratorio", "The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

" (both published in For the Time Being, 1944), and The Age of Anxiety
The Age of Anxiety (poem)
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

: A Baroque Eclogue
(published separately 1947). The first two, with Auden's other new poems from 1940–44, were included in his first collected edition, The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (1945), with most of his earlier poems, many in revised versions.

1947 to 1957

After completing The Age of Anxiety in 1946 he focused again on shorter poems, notably "A Walk After Dark," "The Love Feast", and "The Fall of Rome." Many of these evoked the Italian village where he summered in 1948-57, and his next book, Nones
Nones (Auden)
Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

(1951), had a Mediterranean atmosphere new to his work. A new theme was the "sacred importance" of the human body in its ordinary aspect (breathing, sleeping, eating) and the continuity with nature that the body made possible (in contrast to the division between humanity and nature that he had emphasized in the 1930s); his poems on these themes included "In Praise of Limestone
In Praise of Limestone
"In Praise of Limestone" is a poem written by W. H. Auden in Italy in May 1948. Central to his canon and one of Auden's finest poems, it has been the subject of diverse scholarly interpretations. Auden's limestone landscape has been interpreted as an allegory of Mediterranean civilization and of...

" and "Memorial for the City." In 1949 Auden and Kallman wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

's opera The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

, and later collaborated on two libretti for operas by Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

.

Auden's first separate prose book was The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

: The Romantic Iconography of the Sea
(1950), based on a series of lectures on the image of the sea in romantic literature. Between 1949 and 1954 he worked on a sequence of seven Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 poems, "Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae is a series of poems by W. H. Auden written between 1949 and 1955. The title is a reference to the canonical hours of the Christian Church, as are the titles of the seven poems constituting the series: "Prime", "Terce", "Sext", "Nones", "Vespers", "Compline", and "Lauds"...

", an encyclopedic survey of geological, biological, cultural, and personal history, focused on the irreversible act of murder; the poem was also a study in cyclical and linear ideas of time. While writing this, he also wrote a sequence of seven poems about man's relation to nature, "Bucolics." Both sequences appeared in his next book, The Shield of Achilles
The Shield of Achilles
"The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

(1955), with other short poems, including the book's title poem, "Fleet Visit", and "Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier."

Extending the themes of "Horae Canonicae", in 1955–56 he wrote a group of poems about "history," the term he used to mean the set of unique events made by human choices, as opposed to "nature," the set of involuntary events created by natural processes, statistics, and anonymous forces such as crowds. These poems included "T the Great", "The Maker", and the title poem of his next collection Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

Later work, 1958–1973

In the late 1950s Auden's style became less rhetorical while its range of styles increased. In 1958, having moved his summer home from Italy to Austria, he wrote "Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno"; other poems from this period include "Dichtung und Wahrheit: An Unwritten Poem", a prose poem about the relation between love and personal and poetic language, and the contrasting "Dame Kind", about the anonymous impersonal reproductive instinct. These and other poems, including his 1955–66 poems about history, appeared in Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

His prose book The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

(1962) gathered many of the lectures he gave in Oxford as Professor of Poetry in 1956–61, together with revised versions of essays and notes written since the mid-1940s.

While translating the haiku and other verse in Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author. An early Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. He is the only person to have been awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. Hammarskjöld...

's Markings, Auden began using haiku for many of his poems. A sequence of fifteen poems about his house in Austria, "Thanksgiving for a Habitat", appeared in About the House
About the House
About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

(1965), with other poems that included his reflections on his lecture tours, "On the Circuit." In the late 1960s he wrote some of his most vigorous poems, including "River Profile" and two poems that looked back over his life, "Prologue at Sixty" and "Forty Years On." All these appeared in City Without Walls
City Without Walls
City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

(1969). His lifelong passion for Icelandic legend culminated in his verse translation of The Elder Edda (1969).

He was commissioned in 1963 to write lyrics for the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha is a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. It is adapted from Wasserman's non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes's seventeenth century masterpiece Don Quixote...

, but the producer rejected them as insufficiently romantic. In 1971 Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 commissioned Auden to write the words, and Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals
Pau Casals i Defilló , known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time...

 to compose the music, for a "Hymn to the United Nations", but the work had no official status.

A Certain World
A Certain World
A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

: A Commonplace Book
(1970) was a kind of self-portrait made up of favorite quotations with commentary, arranged in alphabetical order by subject. His last prose book was a selection of essays and reviews, Forewords and Afterwords (1973). His last books of verse, Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

(1972) and the unfinished Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

(published posthumously, 1974) include reflective poems about language ("Natural Linguistics") and about his own aging ("A New Year Greeting", "Talking to Myself", "A Lullaby" ["The din of work is subdued"]). His last completed poem, in haiku form, was "Archeology", about ritual and timelessness, two recurring themes in his later years.

Reputation and influence

Auden's stature in modern literature has been disputed, with opinions ranging from that of Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid is the pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve , a significant Scottish poet of the 20th century. He was instrumental in creating a Scottish version of modernism and was a leading light in the Scottish Renaissance of the 20th century...

, who called him "a complete wash-out", to the obituarist in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

(London), who wrote: "W. H. Auden, for long the enfant terrible of English poetry . . . emerges as its undisputed master."

In his enfant terrible stage in the 1930s he was both praised and dismissed as a progressive and accessible voice, in contrast to the politically nostalgic and poetically obscure voice of T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

. His departure for America in 1939 was hotly debated in Britain (once even in Parliament), with some critics treating it as a betrayal, and the role of influential young poet passed to Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 January 2008. who wrote exclusively in English. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself...

, although defenders such as Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson was a British writer. He was born in Pelynt, a village near Looe in Cornwall.-Life:...

, in an introduction to a 1949 anthology of modern poetry, wrote that Auden "arches over all." His stature was suggested by book titles such as Auden and After by Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe was an English poet, critic and novelist, who became an academic, translator and Director of the British Institute in Paris....

 (1942) and The Auden Generation by Samuel Hynes (1972).

In the US, starting in the late 1930s, the detached, ironic tone of Auden's regular stanzas set the style for a whole generation of poets; John Ashbery
John Ashbery
John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial...

 recalled that in the 1940s Auden "was the modern poet." His manner was so pervasive in American poetry that the ecstatic style of the Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 was partly a reaction against his influence. In the 1950s and 1960s, some writers (notably Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century...

 and Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist. He was the 11th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a role which now holds the title of US Poet Laureate.-Life:Jarrell was a native of Nashville, Tennessee...

) lamented that Auden's work had declined from its earlier promise.

By the time of Auden's death in 1973 he had attained the status of a respected elder statesman. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that "by the time of Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's death in 1965 ... a convincing case could be made for the assertion that Auden was indeed Eliot's successor, as Eliot had inherited sole claim to supremacy when Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 died in 1939." With some exceptions, British critics tended to treat his early work as his best, while American critics tended to favor his middle and later work. Unlike other modern poets, his reputation did not decline after his death, and Joseph Brodsky
Joseph Brodsky
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

 wrote that his was "the greatest mind of the twentieth century."

Auden's popularity and familiarity suddenly increased after his "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") was read aloud in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a 1994 British comedy film directed by Mike Newell. It was the first of several films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant...

(1994); subsequently, a pamphlet edition of ten of his poems, Tell Me the Truth About Love, sold more than 275,000 copies. After 11 September 2001, his poem "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

" was widely circulated and frequently broadcast. Public readings and broadcast tributes in the UK and US in 2007 marked his centenary year.

Published works

The following list includes only the books of poems and essays that Auden prepared during his lifetime; for a more complete list, including other works and posthumous editions, see W. H. Auden bibliography.

In the list below, works reprinted in the Complete Works of W. H. Auden are indicated by footnote references.

Books

  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (London, 1930; second edn., seven poems substituted, London, 1933; includes poems and Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

    : A Charade
    ) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ).
  • The Orators
    The Orators
    The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

    : An English Study
    (London, 1932, verse and prose; slightly revised edn., London, 1934; revised edn. with new preface, London, 1966; New York 1967) (dedicated to Stephen Spender
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    ).
  • The Dance of Death
    The Dance of Death (Auden)
    The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

    (London, 1933, play) (dedicated to Robert Medley
    Robert Medley
    Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

     and Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone was an English dancer, choreographer, theatre director, and teacher....

    ).
  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (New York, 1934; contains Poems [1933 edition], The Orators [1932 edition], and The Dance of Death).
  • The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

    (London, New York, 1935; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Robert Moody).
  • The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

    (London, 1936; 2nd edn., 1937; New York, 1937; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

    ).
  • Look, Stranger! (London, 1936, poems; US edn., On This Island
    On This Island
    On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

    , New York, 1937) (dedicated to Erika Mann
    Erika Mann
    Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

    )
  • Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

    (London, New York, 1937; verse and prose, with Louis MacNeice
    Louis MacNeice
    Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

    ) (dedicated to George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

    ).
  • On the Frontier
    On the Frontier
    On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

    (London, 1938; New York 1939; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ).
  • Journey to a War
    Journey to a War
    Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

    (London, New York, 1939; verse and prose, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to E. M. Forster
    E. M. Forster
    Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

    ).
  • Another Time
    Another Time
    Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

    (London, New York 1940; poetry) (dedicated to Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Double Man
    The Double Man
    The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

    (New York, 1941, poems; UK edn., New Year Letter, London, 1941) (Dedicated to Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer was a German-born American translator and editor, closely associated with W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and other writers and musicians. In the 1940s her homes in Long Island and New York served as an artistic salon for many émigré writers.Elizabeth Mayer was born in...

    ).
  • For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    (New York, 1944; London, 1945; two long poems: "The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

    : A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest", dedicated to James and Tania Stern
    James Stern
    James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

    , and "For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    : A Christmas Oratorio", in memoriam Constance Rosalie Auden [Auden's mother]).
  • The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York, 1945; includes new poems) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Age of Anxiety
    The Age of Anxiety (poem)
    The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

    : A Baroque Eclogue
    (New York, 1947; London, 1948; verse; won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry has been presented since 1922 for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. However, special citations for poetry were presented in 1918 and 1919.-Winners:...

    ) (dedicated to John Betjeman
    John Betjeman
    Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems, 1930–1944 (London, 1950; similar to 1945 Collected Poetry) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

    (New York, 1950; London, 1951; prose) (dedicated to Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen was an American poet, playwright, and associate of Beat Generation writers. He was a widely-read scholar who knew many languages. Ansen grew up on Long Island and was educated at Harvard. He worked as W. H...

    ).
  • Nones
    Nones (Auden)
    Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

    (New York, 1951; London, 1952; poems) (dedicated to Reinhold
    Reinhold Niebuhr
    Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

     and Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Mary Niebuhr was an American academic and theologian. She was the founder and longtime head of the Department of Religion at Barnard College in New York City.Although known as an American, she was born in Southampton, England...

    )
  • The Shield of Achilles
    The Shield of Achilles
    "The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

    (New York, London, 1955; poems; won the 1956 National Book Award for Poetry
    National Book Award for Poetry
    The National Book Award for Poetry has been given since 1950 and is part of the National Book Awards, which are given annually for outstanding literary works by American citizens...

    ) (dedicated to Lincoln and Fidelma Kirstein
    Lincoln Kirstein
    Lincoln Edward Kirstein was an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, and cultural figure in New York City...

    ).
  • Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

    (New York, London, 1960; poems) (dedicated to E. R. and A. E. Dodds).
  • The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

    (New York, 1962; London, 1963; essays) (dedicated to Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill was a British literary scholar, known especially for his modern English version of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.-Life:...

    ).
  • About the House
    About the House
    About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

    (New York, London, 1965; poems) (dedicated to Edmund and Elena Wilson
    Edmund Wilson
    Edmund Wilson was an American writer and literary and social critic and noted man of letters.-Early life:Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father, Edmund Wilson, Sr., was a lawyer and served as New Jersey Attorney General. Wilson attended The Hill School, a college preparatory...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems 1927–1957 (London, 1966; New York, 1967) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • Collected Longer Poems (London, 1968; New York, 1969).
  • Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds is a book of four essays by W. H. Auden, first published in 1968.The four essays in the book are based on the four T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures that Auden delivered at the University of Kent in Canterbury in 1967...

    (London, New York, 1969; prose) (dedicated to Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot née Esmé Valerie Fletcher is the surviving widow and second wife of the Nobel prize-winning poet, T. S. Eliot...

    ).
  • City Without Walls
    City Without Walls
    City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1969) (dedicated to Peter Heyworth
    Peter Heyworth
    Peter Lawrence Frederick Heyworth was an American-born English music critic and biographer. He wrote the definitive biography of Otto Klemperer and was a prominent supporter of avant-garde music....

    ).
  • A Certain World
    A Certain World
    A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

    : A Commonplace Book
    (New York, London, 1970; quotations with commentary) (dedicated to Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer, English anthropologist and author , noted for his application of psychoanalytic techniques to anthropology.He was educated at Charterhouse and at Jesus College, Cambridge. During the 1930s he wrote unpublished fiction and drama. His first book was The Revolutionary Ideas of the...

    ).
  • Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1972) (dedicated to Orlan Fox).
  • Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords is a prose book by W. H. Auden published in 1973.The book contains 46 essays by Auden on literary, historical, and religious subjects, written between 1943 and 1972 and slightly revised for this volume....

    (New York, London, 1973; essays) (dedicated to Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

    ).
  • Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

    : Last Poems
    (London, New York, 1974) (dedicated to Michael and Marny Yates
    Michael Yates (television designer)
    Michael Yates was a British theatre, opera, and television designer.-Early life:One of five sons of James Yates, an English lawyer; the family lived in Brooklands, Sale, Lancashire...

    ).

Film scripts and opera libretti

  • Night Mail
    Night Mail
    Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

    (1936, documentary film narrative, not published separately except as a program note).
  • Paul Bunyan
    Paul Bunyan (operetta)
    Paul Bunyan is an operetta in two acts and a prologue composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by W. H. Auden. It premiered at Columbia University on May 5, 1941 to largely negative reviews, and Britten revised it in 1976...

    (1941, libretto for operetta by Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ; not published until 1976).
  • The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

    (1951, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

    ).
  • Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.-Background:...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

    ).
  • The Bassarids
    The Bassarids
    The Bassarids is an opera in one act and an intermezzo, with music Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

     based on The Bacchae
    The Bacchae
    The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

    of Euripides
    Euripides
    Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

    ).
  • Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost (opera)
    Love's Labour's Lost is an opera by Nicolas Nabokov, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was first performed in Brussels in 1973.The orchestration was by the German-American conductor Harold Byrns....

    (1973, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov was a Russian-born composer, writer, and cultural figure. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.-Life:...

    , based on Shakespeare's play
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

    ).

Printed sources

See also the listings on the criticism page at the W. H. Auden Society web site. In the list below, unless noted, publication data and ISBN refer to the first editions; many titles are also available in later reprints.

General biographical and critical studies

  • Carpenter, Humphrey
    Humphrey Carpenter
    Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter was an English biographer, writer, and radio broadcaster.-Biography:...

     (1981). W. H. Auden: A Biography. London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-928044-9.
  • Clark, Thekla (1995). Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17591-0.
  • Davenport-Hines, Richard
    Richard Davenport-Hines
    Richard Davenport-Hines is a British historian and literary biographer, best known for his biography of the poet W. H. Auden....

     (1996). Auden. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-17507-2.
  • Farnan, Dorothy J. (1984). Auden in Love. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-50418-5.
  • Fuller, John
    John Fuller (poet)
    John Fuller is an English poet and author, and Fellow Emeritus at Magdalen College, Oxford.Fuller was born in Ashford, Kent, England, the son of poet and Oxford Professor Roy Fuller, and educated at St Paul's School and New College, Oxford. He began teaching in 1962 at the State University of New...

     (1998). W. H. Auden: A Commentary. London: Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

    . ISBN 0-571-19268-8.
  • Hecht, Anthony
    Anthony Hecht
    Anthony Evan Hecht was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.-Early years:Hecht was born in New York...

     (1993). The Hidden Law: The Poetry of W.H. Auden. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    . ISBN 0-674-39006-7.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1981). Early Auden. New York: Viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

    . ISBN 0-670-28712-1.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1999). Later Auden. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux is an American book publishing company, founded in 1946 by Roger W. Straus, Jr. and John C. Farrar. Known primarily as Farrar, Straus in its first decade of existence, the company was renamed several times, including Farrar, Straus and Young and Farrar, Straus and Cudahy...

    . ISBN 0-374-18408-9.
  • Osborne, Charles
    Charles Osborne (music writer)
    Charles Thomas Osborne, born 24 November 1927 in Brisbane, Australia, is a journalist, critic, poet and novelist, and a recognised authority on opera. He was assistant editor of The London Magazine from 1958 until 1966, literature director of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1971 until 1986,...

     (1979). W. H. Auden: The Life of a Poet. London: Eyre Methuen. ISBN 978-0-87131-788-9
  • Smith, Stan, ed. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    . ISBN 0-521-82962-3.
  • Spears, Monroe K. (1963). The Poetry of W. H. Auden: The Disenchanted Island. New York: Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    .
  • Spender, Stephen
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    , ed. (1975). W. H. Auden: A Tribute. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd is a British publisher of fiction and reference books. It is a division of the Orion Publishing Group.-History:...

    . ISBN 0-297-76884-0.
  • Stoll, John E. (1970). W.H. Auden: A Reading. (Full text)
  • Wright, George T. (1969; rev. ed. 1981). W. H. Auden. Boston: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-7346-0.

Special topics

  • Haffenden, John
    John Haffenden
    Professor John Haffenden is an academic in the field of Literature at the University of Sheffield.-Education and positions held:He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin , where he edited Icarus, and Oxford University . He has spent periods as a Fellow of the Yaddo Foundation, New York; as a...

    , ed. (1983). W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-9350-0. Selected reviews of Auden's books and plays.
  • Kirsch, Arthur (2005). Auden and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press
    Yale University Press
    Yale University Press is a book publisher founded in 1908 by George Parmly Day. It became an official department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous....

    . ISBN 0-300-10814-1.
  • Mitchell, Donald (1981), Britten and Auden in the Thirties: the year 1936. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-11715-5.
  • Myers, Alan, and Robert Forsythe (1999), W. H. Auden: Pennine Poet . Nenthead: North Pennines Heritage Trust. ISBN 0-9513535-7-8. Pamphlet with map and gazetteer.

Auden Studies series

  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1990) "The Map of All My Youth": early works, friends and influences (Auden Studies 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812964-5.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1994). "The Language of Learning and the Language of Love": uncollected writings, new interpretations (Auden Studies 2). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812257-8.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1995). "In Solitude, For Company": W. H. Auden after 1940: unpublished prose and recent criticism (Auden Studies 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-818294-5.

External links

See also the descriptive list on the links page at the W. H. Auden Society web site.

  • Yale College Lecture on W.H. Auden audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses
  • Wikiquote page of quotations from W. H. Auden (with notes on misattributions).

  • Wystan Hugh Auden at University of Toronto Libraries
    University of Toronto Libraries
    The University of Toronto Libraries is the library system of the University of Toronto, comprising about 30 individual libraries that hold more than 10 million bound volumes and 5 million microform volumes...


Wystan Hugh Auden (icon; 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, name="OEDdef">The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED (2008 revision) is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England (or Britain) and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also the definition "an American, especially a citizen of the United States, of English origin or descent" in See also the definition "a native or descendant of a native of England who has settled in or become a citizen of America, esp. of the United States" from The Random House Dictionary, 2009, available online at
born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.

Auden grew up in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 in a professional middle class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

. His early poems, written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, alternated between telegraphic modern styles and fluent traditional ones, were written in an intense and dramatic tone, and established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. He became uncomfortable in this role in the later 1930s, and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where he became an American citizen in 1946. His poems in the 1940s explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than his earlier works, but still combined traditional forms and styles with new forms devised by Auden himself. In the 1950s and 1960s many of his poems focused on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions, and he took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.

He was also a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential. After his death, some of his poems, notably "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", became widely known through films, broadcasts and popular media.

Childhood

Auden was born in York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

, England, to George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden
George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

, a physician, and Constance Rosalie Bicknell Auden, who had trained (but never served) as a missionary nurse. He was the third of three children, all sons; the eldest, George Bernard Auden, became a farmer, while the second, John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden
John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

, became a geologist. Auden's grandfathers were both Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 clergymen; he grew up in an Anglo-Catholic household which followed a "High
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

" form of Anglicanism
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 with doctrine and ritual resembling those of Roman Catholicism. He traced his love of music and language partly to the church services of his childhood. He believed he was of Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic descent, and his lifelong fascination with Icelandic legends and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 saga
Saga
Sagas, are stories in Old Norse about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, etc.Saga may also refer to:Business*Saga DAB radio, a British radio station*Saga Airlines, a Turkish airline*Saga Falabella, a department store chain in Peru...

s is visible throughout his work.

In 1908 his family moved to Harborne
Harborne
Harborne is an area three miles southwest from Birmingham city centre, England. It is a Birmingham City Council ward in the formal district and in the parliamentary constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston.- Geography :...

, Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, where his father had been appointed the School Medical Officer and Lecturer (later Professor) of Public Health; Auden's lifelong psychoanalytic interests began in his father's library. From the age of eight he attended boarding schools, returning home for holidays. His visits to the Pennine landscape and its declining lead-mining industry figure in many of his poems; the remote decaying mining village of Rookhope
Rookhope
Rookhope is village in County Durham, in England. A former lead and fluorspar mining community, it first existed as a group of cattle farms in the 13th Century. It is situated in the Pennines to the north of Weardale. W. H...

 was for him a "sacred landscape", evoked in a late poem, "Amor Loci." Until he was fifteen he expected to become a mining engineer, but his passion for words had already begun. He wrote later: "words so excite me that a pornographic story, for example, excites me sexually more than a living person can do."

Education

Auden's first boarding school was St. Edmund's School
St. Edmund's School (Hindhead)
St. Edmund's School is a coeducational nursery, pre-prep and preparatory school originally founded in Hunstanton, Norfolk, England in 1874, and subsequently moved to Hindhead, Surrey, England in 1900, where the school moved into a large country house named Blen Cathra, previously a home of George...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, where he met Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

, later famous in his own right as a novelist. At thirteen he went to Gresham's School
Gresham's School
Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in North Norfolk, England, a member of the HMC.The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis...

 in Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

; there, in 1922, when his friend Robert Medley
Robert Medley
Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

 asked him if he wrote poetry, Auden first realized his vocation was to be a poet. Soon after, he "discover(ed) that he (had) lost his faith" (through a gradual realisation that he had lost interest in religion, not through any decisive change of views). In school productions of Shakespeare, he played Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

in 1922, and Caliban
Caliban
Caliban is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.Caliban may also refer to:* Caliban , a moon of Uranus* Caliban , a metalcore band from Germany* Caliban , an acoustic Celtic folk duo...

 in The Tempest in 1925, his last year at Gresham's. His first published poems appeared in the school magazine in 1923.
Auden later wrote a chapter on Gresham's for Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

's The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (1934).

In 1925 he went up to Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, with a scholarship in biology, but he switched to English by his second year. Friends he met at Oxford included Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, and Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

; these four were commonly though misleadingly identified in the 1930s as the "Auden Group
Auden Group
The Auden Group is the name given to a group of British and Irish writers active in the 1930s that included W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, and sometimes Edward Upward and Rex Warner...

" for their shared (but not identical) left-wing views. Auden left Oxford in 1928 with a third-class
British undergraduate degree classification
The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

 degree.

He was reintroduced to Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 in 1925; for the next few years Isherwood was his literary mentor to whom he sent poems for comments and criticism. Auden probably fell in love with Isherwood and in the 1930s they maintained a sexual friendship in intervals between their relations with others. In 1935–39 they collaborated on three plays and a travel book.

From his Oxford years onward, his friends uniformly described him as funny, extravagant, sympathetic, generous, and, partly by his own choice, lonely. In groups he was often dogmatic and overbearing in a comic way; in more private settings he was diffident and shy except when certain of his welcome. He was punctual in his habits, and obsessive about meeting deadlines, while choosing to live amidst physical disorder.

Britain and Europe, 1928–1938

In the autumn of 1928 Auden left Britain for nine months in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, partly to rebel against English repressiveness. In Berlin, he said, he first experienced the political and economic unrest that became one of his central subjects.

On returning to Britain in 1929, he worked briefly as a tutor. In 1930 his first published book, Poems (1930), was accepted by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 for Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

; the firm also published all his later books. In 1930 he began five years as a schoolmaster in boys' schools: two years at the Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy
Larchfield Academy was a preparatory school for boys in Helensburgh, Scotland.It was founded in 1845. Among its famous pupils were Sir James Frazer and John Logie Baird. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Cecil Day-Lewis and W. H...

, in Helensburgh
Helensburgh
Helensburgh is a town in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and the eastern shore of the entrance to the Gareloch....

, Scotland, then three years at The Downs School
The Downs School (Herefordshire)
The Downs, Malvern College Prep. is an independent coeducational school in the United Kingdom, founded in 1900. It is located in Colwall in the County of Herefordshire, on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills.-Overview:...

, in the Malvern Hills
Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern...

, where he was a much-loved teacher. At the Downs, in June 1933, he experienced what he later described as a "Vision of Agape
Agape
Agape is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term...

," when, while sitting with three fellow-teachers at the school, he suddenly found that he loved them for themselves, that their existence had infinite value for him; this experience, he said, later influenced his decision to return to the Anglican Church
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 in 1940.

During these years, Auden's erotic interests focused, as he later said, on an idealized "Alter Ego" rather than on individual persons. His relations (and his unsuccessful courtships) tended to be unequal either in age or intelligence; his sexual relations were transient, although some evolved into long friendships. He contrasted these relations with what he later regarded as the "marriage" (his word) of equals that he began with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

 in 1939 (see below), based on the unique individuality of both partners.
From 1935 until he left Britain early in 1939, Auden worked as freelance reviewer, essayist, and lecturer, first with the G.P.O. Film Unit, a documentary film-making branch of the post office, headed by John Grierson
John Grierson
John Grierson was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. According to popular myth, in 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.-Early life:Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland...

. Through his work for the Film Unit in 1935 he met and collaborated with Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, with whom he also worked on plays, song cycles, and a libretto. Auden's plays in the 1930s were performed by the Group Theatre
Group Theatre (London)
The Group Theatre was an experimental theatre company founded in 1932 by Rupert Doone and Robert Medley. It evolved from a play-reading group in Cambridge that Doone had been involved with during his years studying with the Festival Theatre there...

, in productions that he supervised to varying degrees.

His work now reflected his belief that any good artist must be "more than a bit of a reporting journalist." In 1936 he spent three months in Iceland, where he gathered material for a travel book Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937), written in collaboration with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

. In 1937 he went to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 intending to drive an ambulance for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, but was put to work broadcasting propaganda, a job he left in order to visit the front. His seven-week visit to Spain affected him deeply, and his social views grew more complex as he found political realities to be more ambiguous and troubling than he had imagined. Again attempting to combine reportage and art, he and Isherwood spent six months in 1938 visiting the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, working on their book Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939). On their way back to England they stayed briefly in New York and decided to move to the United States. Auden spent the autumn of 1938 partly in England, partly in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

.

Many of his poems during the 1930s and afterward were inspired by unconsummated love, and in the 1950s he summarized his emotional life in a famous couplet: "If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me" ("The More Loving One"). He had a gift for friendship and, starting in the late 1930s, a strong wish for the stability of marriage; in a letter to his friend James Stern
James Stern
James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

 he called marriage "the only subject." Throughout his life, he performed charitable acts, sometimes in public (as in his marriage of convenience to Erika Mann
Erika Mann
Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

 in 1935 that gave her a British passport with which to escape the Nazis), but, especially in later years, more often in private, and he was embarrassed if they were publicly revealed, as when his gift to his friend Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert; she advocated the Catholic economic theory of Distributism. She was also considered to be an anarchist, and did not hesitate to use the term...

 for the Catholic Worker
Catholic Worker
The Catholic Worker is a newspaper published seven times a year by the Catholic Worker Movement community in New York City. The newspaper was started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to make people aware of church teaching on social justice...

 movement was reported on the front page of The New York Times in 1956.

United States and Europe, 1939–1973


Auden and Isherwood sailed to New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was later seen by many there as a betrayal and Auden's reputation suffered. In April 1939 Isherwood moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and he and Auden saw each other only intermittently in later years. Around this time, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, who became his lover for the next two years (Auden described their relation as a "marriage" that began with a cross-country "honeymoon" journey). In 1941 Kallman ended their sexual relations because he could not accept Auden's insistence on a mutual faithful relationship, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden's life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden's death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945/50 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman.
In 1940–41, Auden lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights is a culturally diverse neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Originally referred to as 'Brooklyn Village', it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834. As of 2000, Brooklyn Heights sustained a population of 22,594 people. The neighborhood is part of...

 which he shared with Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers
Carson McCullers was an American writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and two plays, as well as essays and some poetry. Her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South...

, Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

, and others, and which became a famous center of artistic life. In 1940, he joined the Episcopal Church, returning to the Anglican Communion he had abandoned at thirteen. His reconversion was influenced partly by what he called the "sainthood" of Charles Williams
Charles Williams (UK writer)
Charles Walter Stansby Williams was a British poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings.- Biography :...

, whom he had met in 1937, partly by reading Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 and Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

; his existential
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, this-worldly Christianity became a central element in his life.

After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 Auden told the British embassy in Washington that he would return to the UK if needed, but was told that, among those his age (32), only qualified personnel were needed. In 1941–42 he taught English at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

. He was called up to be drafted in the United States Army in August 1942, but was rejected on medical grounds. He had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

 for 1942-43, but did not use it, choosing instead to teach at Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia....

 in 1942–45.

In the summer of 1945, after the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in Europe, he was in Germany with the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey (Europe)
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey was established by the Secretary of War on 3 November 1944, pursuant to a Directive from President Roosevelt...

, studying the effects of Allied bombing on German morale, an experience that affected his postwar work as his visit to Spain had affected him earlier. On his return, he settled in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, working as a freelance writer, and as a lecturer at The New School for Social Research
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 and a visiting professor at Bennington
Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont, USA. The college was founded in 1932 as a women's college and became co-educational in 1969.-History:-Early years:...

, Smith
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

, and other American colleges. In 1946 he became a naturalized citizen of the US.

His theology in his later years evolved from a highly inward and psychologically oriented Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 in the early 1940s to a more Roman Catholic-oriented interest in the significance of the body and in collective ritual in the later 1940s and 1950s, and finally to the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 which rejected "childish" conceptions of God for an adult religion that focused on the significance of human suffering.

Auden began summering in Europe in 1948, first in Ischia
Ischia
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, about 30 km from the city of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. Roughly trapezoidal in shape, it measures around 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south and has...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, where he rented a house, then, starting 1958, in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 where he bought a farmhouse, and, he said, shed tears of joy at owning a home for the first time.

In 1951, shortly before the two British spies Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess
Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

 and Donald Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" while an undergraduate at Cambridge by...

 fled to the USSR, Burgess attempted to phone Auden to arrange a vacation visit to Ischia that he had earlier discussed with Auden; Auden never returned the call and had no further contact with either spy, but a media frenzy ensued in which his name was mistakenly associated with their escape. The frenzy was repeated when the MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 documents on the incident were released in 2007.

In 1956–61, Auden was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University where he was required to give three lectures each year. This fairly light workload allowed him to continue to winter in New York, where he now lived on St. Mark's Place, and to summer in Europe, spending only three weeks each year lecturing in Oxford. He now earned his income mostly by readings and lecture tours, and by writing for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

and other magazines.

During his last years, his conversation became repetitive, to the disappointment of friends who had known him earlier as a witty and wide-ranging conversationalist. In 1972, he moved his winter home from New York to Oxford, where his old college, Christ Church, offered him a cottage, but he continued to summer in Austria. He died in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in 1973 and was buried in Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten
Kirchstetten is a town in district of Sankt Pölten-Land in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.It was the home during part of their lives to the Austrian poet Josef Weinheber and the English poet W. H. Auden. Auden is buried in a Kirchstetten churchyard....

.

Overview

Auden published about four hundred poems, including seven long poems (two of them book-length). His poetry was encyclopaedic in scope and method, ranging in style from obscure twentieth-century modernism to the lucid traditional forms such as ballads and limericks, from doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 through haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

 and villanelles to a "Christmas Oratorio" and a baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 eclogue
Eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

 in Anglo-Saxon meters. The tone and content of his poems ranged from pop-song clichés to complex philosophical meditations, from the corns on his toes to atoms and stars, from contemporary crises to the evolution of society.

He also wrote more than four hundred essays and reviews about literature, history, politics, music, religion, and many other subjects. He collaborated on plays with Christopher Isherwood
Christopher Isherwood
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

 and on opera libretti with Chester Kallman
Chester Kallman
Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

, worked with a group of artists and filmmakers on documentary films in the 1930s and with the New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica
New York Pro Musica was a vocal and instrumental ensemble that specialized in Medieval and Renaissance early music. It was co-founded in 1952, under the name Pro Musica Antiqua, by Noah Greenberg, a choral director, and Bernard Krainis, a recorder player who studied with Erich Katz.The ensemble is...

 early music
Early music
Early music is generally understood as comprising all music from the earliest times up to the Renaissance. However, today this term has come to include "any music for which a historically appropriate style of performance must be reconstructed on the basis of surviving scores, treatises,...

 group in the 1950s and 1960s. About collaboration he wrote in 1964: "collaboration has brought me greater erotic joy . . . than any sexual relations I have had."

Auden controversially rewrote or discarded some of his most famous poems when he prepared his later collected editions. He wrote that he rejected poems that he found "boring" or "dishonest" in the sense that they expressed views that he had never held but had used only because he felt they would be rhetorically effective. His rejected poems include "Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

" and "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

". His literary executor
Literary executor
A literary executor is a person with decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate...

, Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson
Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

, argues in his introduction to Auden's Selected Poems that Auden's practice reflected his sense of the persuasive power of poetry and his reluctance to misuse it. (Selected Poems includes some poems that Auden rejected and early texts of poems that he revised.)

Early work, 1922–1939

Up to 1930

Auden began writing poems at thirteen, mostly in the styles of 19th-century romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, and later poets with rural interests, especially Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

. At eighteen he discovered T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and adopted an extreme version of Eliot's style. He found his own voice at twenty, when he wrote the first poem later included in his collected work, "From the very first coming down." This and other poems of the late 1920s tended to be in a clipped, elusive style that alluded to, but did not directly state, their themes of loneliness and loss. Twenty of these poems appeared in his first book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1928), a pamphlet hand-printed by Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

.

In 1928 he wrote his first dramatic work, Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides
Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

, subtitled "A Charade," which combined style and content from the Icelandic sagas
Sagàs
Sagàs is a small town and municipality located in Catalonia, in the comarca of Berguedà. It is located in the geographical area of the pre-Pyrenees.-Population:...

 with jokes from English school life. This mixture of tragedy and farce, with a dream play-within-the-play, introduced the mixed styles and content of much of his later work. This drama and thirty short poems appeared in his first published book Poems
Poems (Auden)
Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

(1930, 2nd edition with seven poems replaced, 1933); the poems in the book were mostly lyrical and gnomic mediations on hoped-for or unconsummated love and on themes of personal, social, and seasonal renewal; among these poems were "It was Easter as I walked," "Doom is dark," "Sir, no man's enemy," and "This lunar beauty."

A recurrent theme in these early poems is the effect of "family ghosts", Auden's term for the powerful, unseen psychological effects of preceding generations on any individual life (and the title of a poem). A parallel theme, present throughout his work, is the contrast between biological evolution (unchosen and involuntary) and the psychological evolution of cultures and individuals (voluntary and deliberate even in its subconscious aspects).

1931 to 1935

Auden's next large-scale work was The Orators
The Orators
The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

: An English Study
(1932; revised editions, 1934, 1966), in verse and prose, largely about hero-worship in personal and political life. In his shorter poems, his style became more open and accessible, and the exuberant "Six Odes" in The Orators reflect his new interest in Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

. During the next few years, many of his poems took their form and style from traditional ballads and popular songs, and also from expansive classical forms like the Odes of Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

, which he seems to have discovered through the German poet Hölderlin. Around this time his main influences were Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

, and Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

.
During these years, much of his work expressed left-wing views, and he became widely known as a political poet, although his work was more politically ambivalent than many reviewers recognized. He generally wrote about revolutionary change in terms of a "change of heart", a transformation of a society from a closed-off psychology of fear to an open psychology of love. His verse drama The Dance of Death
The Dance of Death (Auden)
The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

(1933) was a political extravaganza in the style of a theatrical revue, which Auden later called "a nihilistic leg-pull." His next play The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin
The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

(1935), written in collaboration with Isherwood, was similarly a quasi-Marxist updating of Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 in which the general idea of social transformation was more prominent than any specific political action or structure.

The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6
The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

(1937), another play written with Isherwood, was partly an anti-imperialist satire, partly (in the character of the self-destroying climber Michael Ransom) an examination of Auden's own motives in taking on a public role as a political poet. This play included the first version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks"), written as a satiric eulogy for a politician; Auden later rewrote the poem as a "Cabaret Song" about lost love (written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

 for whom he wrote many lyrics in the 1930s). In 1935, he worked briefly on documentary films with the G.P.O. Film Unit, writing his famous verse commentary for Night Mail
Night Mail
Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

and lyrics for other films that were among his attempts in the 1930s to create a widely-accessible, socially-conscious art.

1936 to 1939

These tendencies in style and content culminate in his collection Look, Stranger! (1936; his British publisher chose the title, which Auden hated; Auden retitled the 1937 US edition On This Island
On This Island
On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

). This book included political odes, love poems, comic songs, meditative lyrics, and a variety of intellectually intense but emotionally accessible verse. Among the poems included in the book, connected by themes of personal, social, and evolutionary change and of the possibilities and problems of personal love, were "Hearing of harvests", "Out on the lawn I lie in bed", "O what is that sound", "Look, stranger, on this island now" (later revised versions change "on" to "at"), and "Our hunting fathers."

Auden was now arguing that an artist should be a kind of journalist, and he put this view into practice in Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland
Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

(1937) a travel book in prose and verse written with Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice
Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

, which included his long social, literary, and autobiographical commentary "Letter to Lord Byron." In 1937, after observing the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 he wrote a politically-engaged pamphlet poem Spain
Spain (Auden)
Spain is a poem by W. H. Auden written after his visit to the Spanish Civil War and widely regarded as one of the most important literary works to emerge from that war. It was written and published in 1937....

(1937); he later discarded it from his collected works. Journey to a War
Journey to a War
Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

(1939) a travel book in prose and verse, was written with Isherwood after their visit to the Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. Auden's last collaboration with Isherwood was their third play, On the Frontier
On the Frontier
On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

, an anti-war satire written in Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 and West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 styles.

Auden's themes in his shorter poems now included the fragility and transience of personal love ("Danse Macabre", "The Dream", "Lay your sleeping head"), a theme he treated with ironic wit in his "Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson
Hedli Anderson
Antoinette Millicent Hedley Anderson was an English singer and actor.Known as Hedli Anderson, she studied singing in England and Germany before returning to London in 1934. Anderson joined the Group Theatre, and performed in cabaret and in the initial productions of plays by W. H. Auden,...

" (which included "O Tell Me the Truth About Love" and the revised version of "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

"), and also the corrupting effect of public and official culture on individual lives ("Casino", "School Children", "Dover"). In 1938 he wrote a series of dark, ironic ballads about individual failure ("Miss Gee", "James Honeyman", "Victor"). All these appeared in his next book of verse, Another Time
Another Time
Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

(1940), together with other famous poems such as "Dover", "As He Is", and "Musée des Beaux Arts" (all written before he moved to America in 1939), and "In Memory of W. B. Yeats", "The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen
The Unknown Citizen is a poem by W. H. Auden. Auden wrote it in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. It was first published in 1939 in The New Yorker, and first appeared in book form in Auden's collection Another Time...

", "Law Like Love", "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

", and "In Memory of Sigmund Freud" (written in America). The elegies for Yeats and Freud are partly statements of Auden's anti-heroic theme, in which great deeds are performed, not by unique geniuses whom others cannot hope to imitate, but by otherwise ordinary individuals who were "silly like us" (Yeats) or of whom it could be said "he wasn't clever at all" (Freud), and who became teachers of others, not awe-inspiring heroes.

1940 to 1946

In 1940 Auden wrote a long philosophical poem "New Year Letter", which appeared with miscellaneous notes and other poems in The Double Man
The Double Man
The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

(1941). At the time of his return to the Anglican Communion he began writing abstract verse on theological themes, such as "Canzone" and "Kairos and Logos." Around 1942, as he became more comfortable with religious themes, his verse became more open and relaxed, and he increasingly used the syllabic verse
Syllabic verse
Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed number of syllables per line regardless of the number of stresses that are present. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as Japanese or modern French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which...

 he learned from the poetry of Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.- Life :Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor...

.

His recurring themes in this period included the artist's temptation to use other persons as material for his art rather than valuing them for themselves ("Prospero to Ariel") and the corresponding moral obligation to make and keep commitments while recognizing the temptation to break them ("In Sickness and Health").

From 1942 through 1947 he worked mostly on three long poems in dramatic form, each differing from the others in form and content: "For the Time Being
For the Time Being
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

: A Christmas Oratorio", "The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror
The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

" (both published in For the Time Being, 1944), and The Age of Anxiety
The Age of Anxiety (poem)
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

: A Baroque Eclogue
(published separately 1947). The first two, with Auden's other new poems from 1940–44, were included in his first collected edition, The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (1945), with most of his earlier poems, many in revised versions.

1947 to 1957

After completing The Age of Anxiety in 1946 he focused again on shorter poems, notably "A Walk After Dark," "The Love Feast", and "The Fall of Rome." Many of these evoked the Italian village where he summered in 1948-57, and his next book, Nones
Nones (Auden)
Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

(1951), had a Mediterranean atmosphere new to his work. A new theme was the "sacred importance" of the human body in its ordinary aspect (breathing, sleeping, eating) and the continuity with nature that the body made possible (in contrast to the division between humanity and nature that he had emphasized in the 1930s); his poems on these themes included "In Praise of Limestone
In Praise of Limestone
"In Praise of Limestone" is a poem written by W. H. Auden in Italy in May 1948. Central to his canon and one of Auden's finest poems, it has been the subject of diverse scholarly interpretations. Auden's limestone landscape has been interpreted as an allegory of Mediterranean civilization and of...

" and "Memorial for the City." In 1949 Auden and Kallman wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

's opera The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

, and later collaborated on two libretti for operas by Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

.

Auden's first separate prose book was The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood
The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

: The Romantic Iconography of the Sea
(1950), based on a series of lectures on the image of the sea in romantic literature. Between 1949 and 1954 he worked on a sequence of seven Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 poems, "Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae
Horae Canonicae is a series of poems by W. H. Auden written between 1949 and 1955. The title is a reference to the canonical hours of the Christian Church, as are the titles of the seven poems constituting the series: "Prime", "Terce", "Sext", "Nones", "Vespers", "Compline", and "Lauds"...

", an encyclopedic survey of geological, biological, cultural, and personal history, focused on the irreversible act of murder; the poem was also a study in cyclical and linear ideas of time. While writing this, he also wrote a sequence of seven poems about man's relation to nature, "Bucolics." Both sequences appeared in his next book, The Shield of Achilles
The Shield of Achilles
"The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

(1955), with other short poems, including the book's title poem, "Fleet Visit", and "Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier."

Extending the themes of "Horae Canonicae", in 1955–56 he wrote a group of poems about "history," the term he used to mean the set of unique events made by human choices, as opposed to "nature," the set of involuntary events created by natural processes, statistics, and anonymous forces such as crowds. These poems included "T the Great", "The Maker", and the title poem of his next collection Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

Later work, 1958–1973

In the late 1950s Auden's style became less rhetorical while its range of styles increased. In 1958, having moved his summer home from Italy to Austria, he wrote "Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno"; other poems from this period include "Dichtung und Wahrheit: An Unwritten Poem", a prose poem about the relation between love and personal and poetic language, and the contrasting "Dame Kind", about the anonymous impersonal reproductive instinct. These and other poems, including his 1955–66 poems about history, appeared in Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio
Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

(1960).

His prose book The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand
The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

(1962) gathered many of the lectures he gave in Oxford as Professor of Poetry in 1956–61, together with revised versions of essays and notes written since the mid-1940s.

While translating the haiku and other verse in Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hammarskjöld
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author. An early Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. He is the only person to have been awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. Hammarskjöld...

's Markings, Auden began using haiku for many of his poems. A sequence of fifteen poems about his house in Austria, "Thanksgiving for a Habitat", appeared in About the House
About the House
About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

(1965), with other poems that included his reflections on his lecture tours, "On the Circuit." In the late 1960s he wrote some of his most vigorous poems, including "River Profile" and two poems that looked back over his life, "Prologue at Sixty" and "Forty Years On." All these appeared in City Without Walls
City Without Walls
City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

(1969). His lifelong passion for Icelandic legend culminated in his verse translation of The Elder Edda (1969).

He was commissioned in 1963 to write lyrics for the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha is a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. It is adapted from Wasserman's non-musical 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was in turn inspired by Miguel de Cervantes's seventeenth century masterpiece Don Quixote...

, but the producer rejected them as insufficiently romantic. In 1971 Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 commissioned Auden to write the words, and Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals
Pau Casals i Defilló , known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time...

 to compose the music, for a "Hymn to the United Nations", but the work had no official status.

A Certain World
A Certain World
A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

: A Commonplace Book
(1970) was a kind of self-portrait made up of favorite quotations with commentary, arranged in alphabetical order by subject. His last prose book was a selection of essays and reviews, Forewords and Afterwords (1973). His last books of verse, Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson
Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

(1972) and the unfinished Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog
Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

(published posthumously, 1974) include reflective poems about language ("Natural Linguistics") and about his own aging ("A New Year Greeting", "Talking to Myself", "A Lullaby" ["The din of work is subdued"]). His last completed poem, in haiku form, was "Archeology", about ritual and timelessness, two recurring themes in his later years.

Reputation and influence

Auden's stature in modern literature has been disputed, with opinions ranging from that of Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid
Hugh MacDiarmid is the pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve , a significant Scottish poet of the 20th century. He was instrumental in creating a Scottish version of modernism and was a leading light in the Scottish Renaissance of the 20th century...

, who called him "a complete wash-out", to the obituarist in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

(London), who wrote: "W. H. Auden, for long the enfant terrible of English poetry . . . emerges as its undisputed master."

In his enfant terrible stage in the 1930s he was both praised and dismissed as a progressive and accessible voice, in contrast to the politically nostalgic and poetically obscure voice of T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

. His departure for America in 1939 was hotly debated in Britain (once even in Parliament), with some critics treating it as a betrayal, and the role of influential young poet passed to Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 January 2008. who wrote exclusively in English. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself...

, although defenders such as Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Grigson
Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson was a British writer. He was born in Pelynt, a village near Looe in Cornwall.-Life:...

, in an introduction to a 1949 anthology of modern poetry, wrote that Auden "arches over all." His stature was suggested by book titles such as Auden and After by Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe
Francis Scarfe was an English poet, critic and novelist, who became an academic, translator and Director of the British Institute in Paris....

 (1942) and The Auden Generation by Samuel Hynes (1972).

In the US, starting in the late 1930s, the detached, ironic tone of Auden's regular stanzas set the style for a whole generation of poets; John Ashbery
John Ashbery
John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial...

 recalled that in the 1940s Auden "was the modern poet." His manner was so pervasive in American poetry that the ecstatic style of the Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 was partly a reaction against his influence. In the 1950s and 1960s, some writers (notably Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century...

 and Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist. He was the 11th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a role which now holds the title of US Poet Laureate.-Life:Jarrell was a native of Nashville, Tennessee...

) lamented that Auden's work had declined from its earlier promise.

By the time of Auden's death in 1973 he had attained the status of a respected elder statesman. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that "by the time of Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's death in 1965 ... a convincing case could be made for the assertion that Auden was indeed Eliot's successor, as Eliot had inherited sole claim to supremacy when Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 died in 1939." With some exceptions, British critics tended to treat his early work as his best, while American critics tended to favor his middle and later work. Unlike other modern poets, his reputation did not decline after his death, and Joseph Brodsky
Joseph Brodsky
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

 wrote that his was "the greatest mind of the twentieth century."

Auden's popularity and familiarity suddenly increased after his "Funeral Blues
Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues" or "Stop all the clocks" is a poem by W. H. Auden, first published in its final, familiar form in 1938, but based on an earlier version published in 1936.-Titles and versions:...

" ("Stop all the clocks") was read aloud in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a 1994 British comedy film directed by Mike Newell. It was the first of several films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant...

(1994); subsequently, a pamphlet edition of ten of his poems, Tell Me the Truth About Love, sold more than 275,000 copies. After 11 September 2001, his poem "September 1, 1939
September 1, 1939
"September 1, 1939" is a poem by W. H. Auden written on the occasion of the outbreak of World War II. It was first published in The New Republic issue of October 18, 1939, and was first published in book form in Auden's collection Another Time ....

" was widely circulated and frequently broadcast. Public readings and broadcast tributes in the UK and US in 2007 marked his centenary year.

Published works

The following list includes only the books of poems and essays that Auden prepared during his lifetime; for a more complete list, including other works and posthumous editions, see W. H. Auden bibliography.

In the list below, works reprinted in the Complete Works of W. H. Auden are indicated by footnote references.

Books

  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (London, 1930; second edn., seven poems substituted, London, 1933; includes poems and Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides
    Paid on Both Sides: A Charade was the first dramatic work written by W. H. Auden. It was written in 1928 and published in 1930. It was performed in New York in 1931 and then at the Cambridge Festival Theatre on 12 February 1934 in a programme of "experiments conducted by Joseph Gordon Macleod"...

    : A Charade
    ) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ).
  • The Orators
    The Orators
    The Orators: An English Study is a long poem in prose and verse written by W. H. Auden, first published in 1932. It is regarded as a major contribution to modernist poetry in English....

    : An English Study
    (London, 1932, verse and prose; slightly revised edn., London, 1934; revised edn. with new preface, London, 1966; New York 1967) (dedicated to Stephen Spender
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    ).
  • The Dance of Death
    The Dance of Death (Auden)
    The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer...

    (London, 1933, play) (dedicated to Robert Medley
    Robert Medley
    Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, , always known as Robert Medley, was an English painter who worked in both abstract and figurative styles, and a theatre designer...

     and Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone
    Rupert Doone was an English dancer, choreographer, theatre director, and teacher....

    ).
  • Poems
    Poems (Auden)
    Poems is the title of three separate collections of the early poetry of W. H. Auden. Auden refused to title his early work because he wanted the reader to confront the poetry itself...

    (New York, 1934; contains Poems [1933 edition], The Orators [1932 edition], and The Dance of Death).
  • The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin
    The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? A Play in Three Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the first Auden-Isherwood collaboration and an important contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s...

    (London, New York, 1935; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Robert Moody).
  • The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6
    The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936...

    (London, 1936; 2nd edn., 1937; New York, 1937; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden
    John Bicknell Auden was an English geologist and explorer, and an official with the World Health Organization.Auden was born in York, the second son of George Augustus Auden and older brother of W. H. Auden. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, then at Marlborough College and...

    ).
  • Look, Stranger! (London, 1936, poems; US edn., On This Island
    On This Island
    On This Island is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, first published under the title Look, Stranger! in the UK in 1936, then published under Auden's preferred title, On this Island, in the US in 1937.The book contains thirty-one poems...

    , New York, 1937) (dedicated to Erika Mann
    Erika Mann
    Erika Julia Hedwig Mann was a German actress and writer, the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann and Katia Mann.-Life:...

    )
  • Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland
    Letters from Iceland is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, published in 1937.The book is made up of a series of letters and travel notes by Auden and MacNeice written during their trip to Iceland in 1936....

    (London, New York, 1937; verse and prose, with Louis MacNeice
    Louis MacNeice
    Frederick Louis MacNeice CBE was an Irish poet and playwright. He was part of the generation of "thirties poets" which included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis; nicknamed "MacSpaunday" as a group — a name invented by Roy Campbell, in his Talking Bronco...

    ) (dedicated to George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden
    George Augustus Auden was an English physician, professor of public health, school medical officer, and writer on archaeological subjects....

    ).
  • On the Frontier
    On the Frontier
    On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938....

    (London, 1938; New York 1939; play, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ).
  • Journey to a War
    Journey to a War
    Journey to a War is a travel book in prose and verse by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1939.The book is in three parts: a series of poems by Auden describing his and Isherwood's journey to China in 1938 ; a "Travel-Diary" by Isherwood about their travels in China itself, and...

    (London, New York, 1939; verse and prose, with Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

    ) (dedicated to E. M. Forster
    E. M. Forster
    Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

    ).
  • Another Time
    Another Time
    Another Time is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1940.This book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1936 and 1939, except for those already published in Letters from Iceland and Journey to a War...

    (London, New York 1940; poetry) (dedicated to Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Double Man
    The Double Man
    The Double Man is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1941. The title of the UK edition, published later the same year was New Year Letter....

    (New York, 1941, poems; UK edn., New Year Letter, London, 1941) (Dedicated to Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer
    Elizabeth Mayer was a German-born American translator and editor, closely associated with W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and other writers and musicians. In the 1940s her homes in Long Island and New York served as an artistic salon for many émigré writers.Elizabeth Mayer was born in...

    ).
  • For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    (New York, 1944; London, 1945; two long poems: "The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror
    The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1942-44, and first published in 1944....

    : A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest", dedicated to James and Tania Stern
    James Stern
    James Stern Anglo-Irish writer of short stories and non-fiction.The son of a British cavalry officer of Jewish descent and an Anglo-Irish Protestant mother, Stern was born in County Meath, Ireland. After working in Southern Rhodesia as a young man, he worked for his family's bank in London and...

    , and "For the Time Being
    For the Time Being
    For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror".The poem...

    : A Christmas Oratorio", in memoriam Constance Rosalie Auden [Auden's mother]).
  • The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York, 1945; includes new poems) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Age of Anxiety
    The Age of Anxiety (poem)
    The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue is a long poem in six parts by W. H. Auden, written mostly in a modern version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse....

    : A Baroque Eclogue
    (New York, 1947; London, 1948; verse; won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
    The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry has been presented since 1922 for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. However, special citations for poetry were presented in 1918 and 1919.-Winners:...

    ) (dedicated to John Betjeman
    John Betjeman
    Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems, 1930–1944 (London, 1950; similar to 1945 Collected Poetry) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood
    The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea is a book of three lectures by W. H. Auden, first published in 1950.The book contains Auden's 1949 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia...

    (New York, 1950; London, 1951; prose) (dedicated to Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen
    Alan Ansen was an American poet, playwright, and associate of Beat Generation writers. He was a widely-read scholar who knew many languages. Ansen grew up on Long Island and was educated at Harvard. He worked as W. H...

    ).
  • Nones
    Nones (Auden)
    Nones is a book of poems by W. H. Auden published in 1951 by Faber & Faber. The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1946 and 1950, including "In Praise of Limestone", "Prime", "Nones," "Memorial for the City", "Precious Five", and "A Walk After Dark"."Nones" is a contemporary...

    (New York, 1951; London, 1952; poems) (dedicated to Reinhold
    Reinhold Niebuhr
    Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world...

     and Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Niebuhr
    Ursula Mary Niebuhr was an American academic and theologian. She was the founder and longtime head of the Department of Religion at Barnard College in New York City.Although known as an American, she was born in Southampton, England...

    )
  • The Shield of Achilles
    The Shield of Achilles
    "The Shield of Achilles" is a poem by W. H. Auden first published in 1952. The Shield of Achilles is also the title poem of a collection of poems by Auden, published in 1955.-Description:...

    (New York, London, 1955; poems; won the 1956 National Book Award for Poetry
    National Book Award for Poetry
    The National Book Award for Poetry has been given since 1950 and is part of the National Book Awards, which are given annually for outstanding literary works by American citizens...

    ) (dedicated to Lincoln and Fidelma Kirstein
    Lincoln Kirstein
    Lincoln Edward Kirstein was an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, and cultural figure in New York City...

    ).
  • Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio
    Homage to Clio is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1960.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written between 1955 and 1959, including a group of poems on historical themes first published as a pamphlet titled The Old Man's Road...

    (New York, London, 1960; poems) (dedicated to E. R. and A. E. Dodds).
  • The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand
    The Dyer's Hand and other essays is a prose book by W. H. Auden, published in 1962.The book contains a selection of essays, reviews, and collections of aphorisms and notes written by Auden from the early 1950s through 1962. Many items were not previously published; others appeared in revised form...

    (New York, 1962; London, 1963; essays) (dedicated to Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill
    Nevill Coghill was a British literary scholar, known especially for his modern English version of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.-Life:...

    ).
  • About the House
    About the House
    About the House is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1965 by Random House ....

    (New York, London, 1965; poems) (dedicated to Edmund and Elena Wilson
    Edmund Wilson
    Edmund Wilson was an American writer and literary and social critic and noted man of letters.-Early life:Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father, Edmund Wilson, Sr., was a lawyer and served as New Jersey Attorney General. Wilson attended The Hill School, a college preparatory...

    ).
  • Collected Shorter Poems 1927–1957 (London, 1966; New York, 1967) (dedicated to Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher Isherwood
    Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American novelist.-Early life and work:Born at Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire in North West England, Isherwood spent his childhood in various towns where his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, was stationed...

     and Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    ).
  • Collected Longer Poems (London, 1968; New York, 1969).
  • Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds
    Secondary Worlds is a book of four essays by W. H. Auden, first published in 1968.The four essays in the book are based on the four T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures that Auden delivered at the University of Kent in Canterbury in 1967...

    (London, New York, 1969; prose) (dedicated to Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot
    Valerie Eliot née Esmé Valerie Fletcher is the surviving widow and second wife of the Nobel prize-winning poet, T. S. Eliot...

    ).
  • City Without Walls
    City Without Walls
    City Without Walls and other poems is a book by W. H. Auden, published in 1969.The book contains Auden's shorter poems written from 1965 through 1968, together with his translations of the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and a few poems written earlier...

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1969) (dedicated to Peter Heyworth
    Peter Heyworth
    Peter Lawrence Frederick Heyworth was an American-born English music critic and biographer. He wrote the definitive biography of Otto Klemperer and was a prominent supporter of avant-garde music....

    ).
  • A Certain World
    A Certain World
    A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, by W. H. Auden, is a book containing quotations selected by Auden with his commentary, arranged in an alphabetical sequence of topics from "Accedie" to "Writing". It was published in 1970....

    : A Commonplace Book
    (New York, London, 1970; quotations with commentary) (dedicated to Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer
    Geoffrey Gorer, English anthropologist and author , noted for his application of psychoanalytic techniques to anthropology.He was educated at Charterhouse and at Jesus College, Cambridge. During the 1930s he wrote unpublished fiction and drama. His first book was The Revolutionary Ideas of the...

    ).
  • Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson
    Epistle to a Godson and other poems is a book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1972.This book was the last book of poems that Auden completed in his lifetime; its successor, Thank You, Fog was left unfinished at his death....

     and Other Poems
    (London, New York, 1972) (dedicated to Orlan Fox).
  • Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords
    Forewords and Afterwords is a prose book by W. H. Auden published in 1973.The book contains 46 essays by Auden on literary, historical, and religious subjects, written between 1943 and 1972 and slightly revised for this volume....

    (New York, London, 1973; essays) (dedicated to Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt
    Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

    ).
  • Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog
    Thank You, Fog: last poems by W. H. Auden is a posthumous book of poems by W. H. Auden, published in 1974.The book contains poems written mostly in 1972 and 1973; after Auden's death in September 1973 it was prepared for publication by his literary executor Edward Mendelson, who also included an...

    : Last Poems
    (London, New York, 1974) (dedicated to Michael and Marny Yates
    Michael Yates (television designer)
    Michael Yates was a British theatre, opera, and television designer.-Early life:One of five sons of James Yates, an English lawyer; the family lived in Brooklands, Sale, Lancashire...

    ).

Film scripts and opera libretti

  • Night Mail
    Night Mail
    Night Mail is a 1936 documentary film about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland, produced by the GPO Film Unit. A poem by English poet W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten...

    (1936, documentary film narrative, not published separately except as a program note).
  • Paul Bunyan
    Paul Bunyan (operetta)
    Paul Bunyan is an operetta in two acts and a prologue composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by W. H. Auden. It premiered at Columbia University on May 5, 1941 to largely negative reviews, and Britten revised it in 1976...

    (1941, libretto for operetta by Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    ; not published until 1976).
  • The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress
    The Rake's Progress is an opera in three acts and an epilogue by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is based loosely on the eight paintings and engravings A Rake's Progress of William Hogarth, which Stravinsky had seen on May 2, 1947, in a Chicago...

    (1951, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

    ).
  • Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers
    Elegy for Young Lovers is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.-Background:...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

    ).
  • The Bassarids
    The Bassarids
    The Bassarids is an opera in one act and an intermezzo, with music Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H...

    (1961, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

     based on The Bacchae
    The Bacchae
    The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

    of Euripides
    Euripides
    Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

    ).
  • Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost (opera)
    Love's Labour's Lost is an opera by Nicolas Nabokov, written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was first performed in Brussels in 1973.The orchestration was by the German-American conductor Harold Byrns....

    (1973, with Chester Kallman
    Chester Kallman
    Chester Simon Kallman was an American poet, librettist, and translator, best known for his collaborations with W. H. Auden and Igor Stravinsky.-Life:...

    , libretto for an opera by Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov was a Russian-born composer, writer, and cultural figure. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.-Life:...

    , based on Shakespeare's play
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

    ).

Printed sources

See also the listings on the criticism page at the W. H. Auden Society web site. In the list below, unless noted, publication data and ISBN refer to the first editions; many titles are also available in later reprints.

General biographical and critical studies

  • Carpenter, Humphrey
    Humphrey Carpenter
    Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter was an English biographer, writer, and radio broadcaster.-Biography:...

     (1981). W. H. Auden: A Biography. London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-928044-9.
  • Clark, Thekla (1995). Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17591-0.
  • Davenport-Hines, Richard
    Richard Davenport-Hines
    Richard Davenport-Hines is a British historian and literary biographer, best known for his biography of the poet W. H. Auden....

     (1996). Auden. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-17507-2.
  • Farnan, Dorothy J. (1984). Auden in Love. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-50418-5.
  • Fuller, John
    John Fuller (poet)
    John Fuller is an English poet and author, and Fellow Emeritus at Magdalen College, Oxford.Fuller was born in Ashford, Kent, England, the son of poet and Oxford Professor Roy Fuller, and educated at St Paul's School and New College, Oxford. He began teaching in 1962 at the State University of New...

     (1998). W. H. Auden: A Commentary. London: Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

    . ISBN 0-571-19268-8.
  • Hecht, Anthony
    Anthony Hecht
    Anthony Evan Hecht was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.-Early years:Hecht was born in New York...

     (1993). The Hidden Law: The Poetry of W.H. Auden. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    . ISBN 0-674-39006-7.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1981). Early Auden. New York: Viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

    . ISBN 0-670-28712-1.
  • Mendelson, Edward
    Edward Mendelson
    Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the literary executor of the Estate of W. H. Auden and the author or editor of several books about Auden's work, including Early Auden and Later...

     (1999). Later Auden. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux is an American book publishing company, founded in 1946 by Roger W. Straus, Jr. and John C. Farrar. Known primarily as Farrar, Straus in its first decade of existence, the company was renamed several times, including Farrar, Straus and Young and Farrar, Straus and Cudahy...

    . ISBN 0-374-18408-9.
  • Osborne, Charles
    Charles Osborne (music writer)
    Charles Thomas Osborne, born 24 November 1927 in Brisbane, Australia, is a journalist, critic, poet and novelist, and a recognised authority on opera. He was assistant editor of The London Magazine from 1958 until 1966, literature director of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1971 until 1986,...

     (1979). W. H. Auden: The Life of a Poet. London: Eyre Methuen. ISBN 978-0-87131-788-9
  • Smith, Stan, ed. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to W. H. Auden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    . ISBN 0-521-82962-3.
  • Spears, Monroe K. (1963). The Poetry of W. H. Auden: The Disenchanted Island. New York: Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    .
  • Spender, Stephen
    Stephen Spender
    Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

    , ed. (1975). W. H. Auden: A Tribute. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd is a British publisher of fiction and reference books. It is a division of the Orion Publishing Group.-History:...

    . ISBN 0-297-76884-0.
  • Stoll, John E. (1970). W.H. Auden: A Reading. (Full text)
  • Wright, George T. (1969; rev. ed. 1981). W. H. Auden. Boston: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-7346-0.

Special topics

  • Haffenden, John
    John Haffenden
    Professor John Haffenden is an academic in the field of Literature at the University of Sheffield.-Education and positions held:He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin , where he edited Icarus, and Oxford University . He has spent periods as a Fellow of the Yaddo Foundation, New York; as a...

    , ed. (1983). W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-9350-0. Selected reviews of Auden's books and plays.
  • Kirsch, Arthur (2005). Auden and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press
    Yale University Press
    Yale University Press is a book publisher founded in 1908 by George Parmly Day. It became an official department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous....

    . ISBN 0-300-10814-1.
  • Mitchell, Donald (1981), Britten and Auden in the Thirties: the year 1936. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-11715-5.
  • Myers, Alan, and Robert Forsythe (1999), W. H. Auden: Pennine Poet . Nenthead: North Pennines Heritage Trust. ISBN 0-9513535-7-8. Pamphlet with map and gazetteer.

Auden Studies series

  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1990) "The Map of All My Youth": early works, friends and influences (Auden Studies 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812964-5.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1994). "The Language of Learning and the Language of Love": uncollected writings, new interpretations (Auden Studies 2). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-812257-8.
  • Auden, W. H.; ed. by Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell
    Katherine Bucknell, American scholar and novelist who resides in England.Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood....

     and Nicholas Jenkins (1995). "In Solitude, For Company": W. H. Auden after 1940: unpublished prose and recent criticism (Auden Studies 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-818294-5.

External links

See also the descriptive list on the links page at the W. H. Auden Society web site.

  • Yale College Lecture on W.H. Auden audio, video and full transcripts from Open Yale Courses
  • Wikiquote page of quotations from W. H. Auden (with notes on misattributions).

  • Wystan Hugh Auden at University of Toronto Libraries
    University of Toronto Libraries
    The University of Toronto Libraries is the library system of the University of Toronto, comprising about 30 individual libraries that hold more than 10 million bound volumes and 5 million microform volumes...



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