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Additional resources for W.H. Auden
It is written in support of one side in a war’. (120) Visiting Iceland before he went to Spain, and sharing with Louis MacNeice the task of composing what Edward Sackville-West (No. 61) called the ‘extravaganza’ of ‘Letters from Iceland’, Auden found himself in suspension— forced, as he put it, ‘to reflect on one’s past and one’s culture from the outside’ (121)—and the work became in large part a deracinated address, wry and witty, to his own heritage of bourgeois attitudes and what life had taught him to make of them.
Yeats Despite his canny praise for ‘The Ascent of F6’, Yeats did not in general approve of Auden’s work, and represented it minimally in the ‘Oxford Book of Modern Verse’, explaining elsewhere that Auden and his associates ‘reject drama and personal emotion; they have thought out opinions that join them to this or that political party; they employ an intricate psychology, action in character, not as in the ballads, character in action…. They are determined to express the factory, the metropolis, that they may be modern’.
Day-Lewis, who had set course to join the Communist Party within two years, pursued Dilys Powell’s shrewd view that ‘The Dance of Death’ ‘takes on too Introduction 17 accurately the characteristics of what it burlesques’, (67) and expatiated soberly and incisively on the imbalance between Auden’s technical fertility and his unstable commitment of values (No. 29). While Auden presumably took to the theatre in the first place to clarify some of the obscurity of his earlier work and to find an immediate audience, it is clear only with hindsight that his shifting stance, which so vexed both his critics and his colleagues, evinced not merely a precocious and unsettled adolescence but a certain resistance to submitting what virtually all critics had to agree were his rich and varied gifts to a single frame of endeavour or a party line.