|American Civil War||Spanish Civil War||the Vietnam War|
Wystan Hugh Auden
While at university Auden emerged as a promising poet. His early books include Poems (1930), The Orators (1932), The Dance of Death (1933) and Look Stranger! (1936). In collaboration with Christopher Isherwood he also wrote the plays The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935) and The Ascent of F6 (1936).
In January 1937 Auden went to Spain to support the I fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He visited Barcelona and Valencia where he wrote articles on the war for the New Statesman. When he returned to England he was active in the campaign in favour of the Popular Front government.
Auden's poem, Spain 1937, caused an impact on European left-wing intellectuals. In later years, Auden rejected his Marxist past and described the poem as "trash" and that he was "ashamed to have written."
In 1947 Auden became an American citizen. He completely rejected his left-wing past and his post-war work reflected his growing interest in religion. This included The Age of Anxiety (1947), Nones (1951), The Shield of Achilles (1955) The Old Man's Road (1956), Homage to Clio (1960), About this House (1967),City Walls and Other Poems (1969), American Graffiti (1971) and Epistle to a Godson (1972).
Wystan Hugh Auden died in 1973.
(1) W. H. Auden, Spain (1937)
And the life, if it answers at all, replies from the heart
And the eyes and the lungs, from the shops and squares of the city:
"O no, I am not the Mover,
Not today, not to you. To you I'm the
"Yes-man, the bar-companion, the easily-duped:
I am whatever you do; I am your vow to be
Good, your humorous story;
I am your business voice; I am your marriage.
"What's your proposal? To build the Just City? I will,
I agree. Or is it the suicide pact, the romantic
Death? Very well, I accept, for
I am your choice, your decision: yes, I am Spain."
The stars are dead; the animals will not look:
We are left alone with our day, and the time is short and
History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help or pardon.
(2) Kenneth Sinclair Loutit, Very Little Luggage (2009)
During my December visit, Auden dropped into the Committee's offices during a lunch hour when I happenned to be there alone. He had come in on impulse; he was very broke. He wanted to help but he could not give us any money. He did have a small bundle of poems with him that he placed in my hand. Some of them directly related to Spain, and we stayed chatting together when suddenly he got up and left. I was going back to Spain the next day so instead of taking them with me I passed the poems to the Secretariat. It is a pity that the Spanish Medical Aid Archives have been lost. I cannot believe they have simply been burnt and Auden's poems along with them. They must be somewhere lying around, hidden and forgotten to this day. This was the nearest Auden got to working as a stretcher-bearer. There was never any need to make that claim because the support of poets and writers was real and precious in itself. Perhaps those poems were sold in manuscript and the little they then fetched joined with all the other mites from the hundreds of thousands of our supporters who were often themselves on the poverty line.