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W. H. Auden with Manuscript

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, but emigrated to the United States in January 1939. He is thus claimed on both sides of the ocean. That year Auden also fell in love with the American writer Chester Kallman, who became his lifetime partner. Auden took American citizenship in 1946, but thereafter he divided his time between New York and southern Italy.

Though modest about its potential impact on the world, there persists a didactic strain in his work, but it is moderated by the increasingly meditative, ironic, and conversational tone he adopted after the 1930s, a decade when he was a major spokesperson for the literary Left. Auden found Yeats too histrionic, but his fine elegy for the Irish poet seeks to save him from his politics and his mysticism. Auden over time would prove himself a master of almost all verse forms. For years his canonical status as the premier poet between high modernism and postmodernist experimentation was largely unchallenged.



In Memory of W. B. Yeats