"With a face of distressed concrete, W. H. Auden drops into view:
Give me a doctor, partridge plump,
Short in the leg and broad in the rump,
An endomorph with gentle hands
Who’ll never make absurd demands
That I abandon all my vices
Nor pull a long face in a crisis,
But with a twinkle in his eye
Will tell me that I have to die.
In 1973 W. H. Auden dies, the words silenced, the heart finally given a rest, all in life’s shocking order. I do not know much about him, but there is so much wisdom in the unfolding words; flinching at the narrow-minded and sighing at the petty irritants. He had been interviewed on television, and I could sense the air of genius even before he spoke – as if a person’s greatness need never be pointed out, for it is there, anyway, in the silent being. Invisible behind a fog of cigarette smoke, W. H. Auden has a face of concentrated power, a voice that comes from somewhere deeper than the body, and a life too full and intense. W. H. Auden has lived through the lifetime that it takes in order to find all the right words. There is a stroking sensuality to the voice, and the richness of tone wards off the listless Yorkshire giggle of interviewer Michael Parkinson. Here, for me alone, is a glimpse of genius of the highest intellectual distinction which nobody could possibly be qualified to question. I am gradually beginning to grasp the meaning of W. H. Auden – with his eyes too large for their sockets, and his mouth stuck in the wrong part of his body. A half-asleep voice of broadcasting tones is carefully warning you that the only way to deal with him is to back down."
Wystan Hugh Auden (February 21, 1907 – September 29, 1973) was an English-American poet, often cited as one of the most influential English-speaking writers of the XX century. He was born in York and grew up in Birmingham. In 1939, W. H. Auden emigrated to the United States; he acquired US citizenship in 1946.
Wystan Hugh Auden (; 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973) was a British-American poet. Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form, and content. Some of his best known poems are about love, such as "Funeral Blues"; on political and social themes, such as "September 1, 1939" and "The Shield of Achilles"; on cultural and psychological themes, such as The Age of Anxiety; and on religious themes such as "For the Time Being" and "Horae Canonicae".He was born in York and grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family. He attended various English independent (or public) schools and studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. After a few months in Berlin in 1928–29, he spent five years (1930–35) teaching in British private preparatory schools, then travelled to Iceland and China to write books about his journeys. In 1939, he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1946, retaining his British citizenship. He taught from 1941 to 1945 in American universities, followed by occasional visiting professorships in the 1950s. From 1947 to 1957 he wintered in New York and summered in Ischia; from 1958 until the end of his life he wintered in New York (in Oxford in 1972–73) and summered in Kirchstetten, Lower Austria. He came to wide public attention with his first book Poems at the age of twenty-three in 1930; it was followed in 1932 by The Orators. Three plays written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood between 1935 and 1938 built his reputation as a left-wing political writer. Auden moved to the United States partly to escape this reputation, and his work in the 1940s, including the long poems "For the Time Being" and "The Sea and the Mirror", focused on religious themes. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 1947 long poem The Age of Anxiety, the title of which became a popular phrase describing the modern era. From 1956 to 1961 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford; his lectures were popular with students and faculty, and served as the basis for his 1962 prose collection The Dyer's Hand. Auden and Isherwood maintained a lasting but intermittent sexual relationship from around 1927 to 1939, while both also had briefer but more intense relations with other men. In 1939, Auden fell in love with Chester Kallman and regarded their relationship as a marriage, but this ended in 1941 when Kallman refused to accept the faithful relations that Auden demanded. However, the two maintained their friendship, and from 1947 until Auden's death they lived in the same house or apartment in a non-sexual relationship, often collaborating on opera libretti such as that of The Rake's Progress, to music by Igor Stravinsky. Auden was 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, and critical views on his work ranged from sharply dismissive—treating him as a lesser figure than W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot—to strongly affirmative, as in Joseph Brodsky's statement that he had "the greatest mind of the twentieth century". After his death, his poems became known to a much wider public through films, broadcasts, and popular media.