I have been, for reasons pretty much unknown to me, spending this summer immersed in William Butler Yeats and Oscar Wilde. And so it was I came to discover that W. H. Auden, the poet about whom I knew very little, had written a poem about Yeats after his death in January of 1939.
The book, Another Time, Poems – Auden, was published in 1940, and it took a while for the Cincinnati Public Library to find it for me. The reviews, extracted and glued into the front inside, were very varied – one talking about Auden mellowing, being more clear, easier to comprehend. Another reviewer thought it should have been called Marking Time. Auden, it seems, was always thus – controversial and gifted.
I missed many of the references and allusions – I was born in 1940, but was not reading for quite a while after that. I loved the rhythm, the breadth, the beautiful lines.
This book is all about the coming war, the fear, the death. And it is full of rememberances – Edward Lear, Sigmund Freud, and In Memory of W. B. Yeats.
A repeated line – The day of his death was a dark cold day. A very true line – You were silly like us; your gift survived it all…
More – Follow, poet, follow right To the bottom of the night, With your unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice.
Earth, receive an honoured guest;
William Yeats is laid to rest:
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
Thank you, W H Auden, for your perception, your gifts in generous praise of another gifted, gifted poet.