W H Auden

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Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, North Yorkshire, as the son of George Augustus Auden, a distinguished physician, and Rosalie (Bicknell) Auden. Solihull in the West Midlands, where Auden was brought up, remained important to him as a poet. Auden was educated at St. Edmund's Hindhood and then at Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk. In 1925 he entered Christ Church, Oxford. Auden's studies and writing progressed without much success: he took a disappointing third-class degree in English. And his first collection of poems was rejected by T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber. At one time in his undergraduate years he planned to become a biologist. From 1928 to 1929 he lived in Berlin, where he took advantage of the sexually liberal atmosphere, and was introduced to the psychological theories of Homer Lane. After returning to England Auden taught at a prep school, in 1930 privately in London, at Larchfield Academy, a boys' school in Helensburgh (Scotland), and at Downs School, Colwall, Herefordshire in 1932-35. He was staff member of GPO film Unit (1935-36), making documentaries such as 'Night Mail' (1935). Music for this film was provided by Benjamin Brittein, with whom Auden collaborated on the song-cycle 'Our Hunting Fathers 'and on the unsuccessful folk-opera 'Paul Bunyan'. In 1936 Auden traveled in Iceland with Louis MacNeice - Auden believed himself to be of Icelandic descent. Auden first gained attention in 1930 when his short verse play called ''Paid on Both Sides'' was published in T. S. Eliot's periodical The Criterion. In the same year appeared Auden's POEMS, his first commercially published book, in which he carefully avoided Yeatsian romantic self-expression - the poems were short, untitled, and slightly cryptic. Auden soon gained fame as a leftist intellectual. He showed interest in Marx and Freud and he wrote passionately on social problems, among others in LOOK, STRANGER! (1936). However, by 1962 he argued that art and politics were best kept apart, stating in his essay 'The Poet and the City' that "All political theories which, like Plato, are based on analogies drawn from artistic fabrication are bound, if put into practice, to turn into tyrannies." Compressed figures of speech, direct statement, and musical effect characterized ON THIS ISLAND (1937) and ANOTHER TIME (1940). In the late 1930s Auden's poems were perhaps less radical politically, suffering and injustice are not rejected as a part of ordinary life. The last works from this decade astonished readers with their light comic tone and domesticity.
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