Essay english: Auden
BIOGRAPHY: W. H. Auden (Wystan Hugh Auden), 1907–73, Anglo-American poet, born in York, England, educated at Oxford. A versatile, vigorous, and technically skilled poet, Auden ranks among the major literary figures of the 20th century. Often written in everyday language, his poetry ranges in subject matter from politics to modern psychology to Christianity.
Auden's first volume of poetry appeared in 1930.
In 1939, Auden moved to the United States, he became a citizen in 1946, and beginning that year taught at a number of American colleges and universities. From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford. Subsequently he lived in a number of countries, including Italy and Austria, and in 1971 he returned to England. He was awarded the National Medal for Literature in 1967.
The 20th century is a revolt against the 18th and the 19 century ideas. After the First World War, and even more so after the Second, literature has been influenced by the rapid economic, social, political and technological changes.
There were three important changes. The believe in reason has crumbled down and man is thought to be an irrational being. The concept of progress is questioned. It was believed that knowledge ans technology would eventually “make a world a better place to live in”. Nineteenth century optimism and selfsatisfaction were replaced by pessimism and doubt. These changes were reflected in literature. The early 20th century is a period of revolt, especially in poetry. Since the Second World War, it has been primaliry the novel and the drama that have tried to give a faithful picture of the twentieth century life.
At the end of the Victorian Age it became clear that the old tradition of poetry had reached a dead end. Technically, the poetry of the late Victorians and the early 20th century poets who continiued writing in this tradition was a high level, but it no longer had its roots in the reality of a fast changing world. A new start had to be made to re-establish contact between poetry and life. This was also reflected in art.
2. THE SHIELD OF ACHILLES
THE STORY: Achilles was overwhelmed with grief for his friend and rage at Hector. His mother obtained magnificent new armor for him from Hephaestus, and he returned to the fighting and killed Hector. He desecrated the body, dragging it behind his chariot before the walls of Troy, and refused to allow it to receive funeral rites. When Priam, the king of Troy and Hector's father, came secretly into the Greek camp to plead for the body, Achilles finally relented; in one of the most moving scenes of the Iliad, he received Priam graciously and allowed him to take the body away. After the death of Hector, Achilles' days were numbered. He continued fighting heroically, killing many of the Trojans and their allies, including
Memnon and the Amazon warrior Penthesilia. Finally Priam's son Paris (or Alexander), aided by Apollo, wounded Achilles in the heel with an arrow; Achilles died of the wound. After his death, it was decided to award Achilles' divinely-wrought armor to the bravest of the Greeks. Odysseus and Ajax competed for the prize, with each man making a speech explaining why he deserved the honor; Odysseus won, and Ajax then went mad and committed suicide.
The image that Haephaistos had put on the shield, wasn’t something heroic. Achilles mother was shocked, because she saw with her own eyes that her son would be destroyed. The Greec mentalily was: the more wars we win, the better we’ll become! And Auden thinks that’s absurd. He sais that it’s about disillusions. For instance: Hitler and the nazi’s. How all the soldiars are brainwashed while they stand in lines to salut Hitler. They think that weapons will give them more power to take over the world with Hitler as their mighty leader. Today we also want to change other peoples cultures. Why can’t men just let it be and let everybody do what they want and like, or what these people believe in? Auden critizises it and I follow his words that are written down in the book. I think that the Greec way of thinking is absurd, stupid and irrisponsible and especially destructive to the people that live on this planet and who’s ways of talking and thinking is different from their sick ideals.
To compare the poem “O what is that sound” to Achilles, it is about the same theme: war and distruction. In that poem the soldiers think that weapons are powerful, but instaed they distroy other peoples life. The woman speaking in that poem is petrifide form the sound that she hears and her husband doesn’t answer her questions although he notices how scared she is. Than he leaves and his wife is left there all alone with soldiers with eyes of fire.
James Honeyman was a silent child. He thought that his mission in life is to find out the most powerful massadestruction weapon. He works on it night and day until he’s finally ready. Meanwhile he ignores every other important aspect of his life. He only wants te be known as the smartest scientist. At the end of the poem his wife is also scared and cries out for her husband. The gas that Honeyman has invented, eventually also destoyed him and his wonderful home and family.
3. MUSéE DES BEAUX ARTS
The poem Musee des Beaux Arts is about a painting. Icarus falls down in the water from the sky because he wanted to see the sun. He’s pictured very little on the painting, so you can barely see him. But the live around him continues, and nobody has noticed that he’s in great pain, they just go on with what they are doing. So I think Auden is right and that it’s still the same in our society today. Miss Gee went trough the same ignorance, although she also ment well. Also she wasn’t noticed. The people who she passes when she rides her bike every day, they didn’t ask her to stay. But the religion is different because she’s a catholic and Icarus believed in different Greec gods. Her pain wasn’t noticed, the doctors were only interested in her desease, but not in miss Gee her personality. They won’t remember her as Miss Gee, but as some stranger or that woman who had cancer. When Victor was a little baby his father taught him to be brave and to listen to the good advice he gave his son. He was raised very catholic. The social life didn’t interest him this much, because of the words his father said to him when he was just a little innocent child. But one day he fell in love with Anna. He did his best and the third time he proposed, she said yes. His life was beginning to get normal. Finally he discoveres that he’s gay and that the marriage was for nothing. He returnes back to his inner child and hears the words of his father in his head. He did dishoner the familyname and I think Victor blames Anna. He kills Anna with the believe that his father (or god) wanted that, like it was his mission, the reason why he was born. I think that Victor thinks that he’ll become god one day, so he’s gone completely mad. The society didn’t understood his either.
I think Auden’s ideas are most of the time right. He sees the world like I see it, capitalistic and everything turns around money. The slogan: “Time is money” would be appropriat here. His poems are very ironic and I like that style. Sometimes when I’ve read a poem, I’m quiet inside because of the cruelty that he describes things, e.g. how the doctor reacts when he finds out Miss Gee had cancer “Cancer is a funny thing”. I can’t believe that someone would say words like that. So I’m shocked in a possitive kind of way. That’s the feeling I get when I read Auden’s poems. It was very interesting to read them and I think that I’ve learned a lot.