September 1, 1939


Image result for w h auden painting

In today’s Writers Almanac, Garrison Keillor mentions a poem by W. H. Auden called “September 1, 1939.” Though he read a bit of it, my appetite was whetted to read the entire poem. Oddly, It’s not in my Collected Poems by Auden. I did find it in my copy of The Oxford Book of American Verse.

Image result for w h auden painting

There’s some interesting information in the Wikipedia article on this poem. From that entry and from reading about this poem in Fuller’s W. H. Auden: A Commentary (p. 290-3), it’s obvious that Auden had second thoughts about this poem. He even went so far as to put it in a list of five poems that he thought were “trash.”

Image result for freud jung

However, I think it is a good poem. In The Oxford Book of American Verse it is immediately followed by the poem, “In Memory of Sigmund Freud, d. 1939.” Auden has psychology on the brain. There are Jungian images in the first poem (“imago”) and obviously the second kicks around Freudian ideas. Both poems seem to have been written within a month of each other.

Image result for yeats portrait

The Wikipedia article on “September 1, 1939” mentions Yeats “Easter 1916” as a model for the stanza form Auden chose.  I like that poem also. the Poetry Foundation has a poem guide for the Yeats. I have it bookmarked to read.

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