Juvenilia: Poems, 1922-1928

W. H. Auden, Author, Katherine Bucknell, Editor
W. H. Auden, Author, Katherine Bucknell, Editor Princeton University Press $47.5 (263p) ISBN 978-0-691-03415-7
Paperback - 281 pages - 978-0-691-10281-8
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This posthumous publication, scrupulously edited and annotated by Bucknell, includes all of the still extant poems written by Auden (Selected Poems) between the ages of 16 and 22. The poems reveal Auden very deliberately cultivating influences: Walter de la Mare, W.H. Davies, Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot. If the work itself is unremarkable (though the poems in the manner of Thomas have a certain blandly ingenuous charm), it is still exhilarating to see just how quickly Auden learned from and, at least on the terms of technique, even surpassed his teachers. But what was he to use his phenomenal formal gifts for? Intelligently augmented by passages from his correspondence, Juvenilia shows him finding a cryptic, allusive language, at once intimate and hortatory, which allowed his intelligence free play and helped to transform the social and personal alienation he felt as a homosexual into a source of imaginative authority. But in another sense, the book suggests reasons for Auden's later decline: the prodigiously clever schoolboy, possessed of much information and an astounding technical facility, but emotionally adrift, seems the forerunner of the prematurely aged wise man, who, no longer gratified by his own amazing powers, resigned himself to having opinions and playing tricks in verse. (Sept.)
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