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Collected Poems (Modern Library) Hardcover – February 13, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Between 1927 and his death in 1973, W. H. Auden endowed poetry in the English language with a new face. Or rather, with several faces, since his work ranged from the political to the religious, from the urbane to the pastoral, from the mandarin to the invigoratingly plain-spoken.
This collection presents all the poems Auden wished to preserve, in the texts that received his final approval. It includes the full contents of his previous collected editions along with all the later volumes of his shorter poems. Together, these works display the astonishing range of Auden's voice and the breadth of his concerns, his deep knowledge of the traditions he inherited, and his ability to recast those traditions in modern times.

About the Author

W. H. Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. His first book of poems was published in 1930, followed by a dozen volumes of shorter and longer poems. He collaborated on three plays with Christopher Isherwood and wrote books about his travels to Iceland (with Louis MacNeice) and wartime China (with Christopher Isherwood). In 1939 he settled in New York and became an American citizen in 1946. In collaboration with his companion Chester Kallman, he composed opera libretti for Igor Stravinsky, Hans Werner Henze, and Nicholas Nabokov. In 1972 Auden left his winter home in New York and returned to Oxford. He died in Vienna in 1973.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; First Printing edition (February 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679643508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679643500
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By N. Dorward on December 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are two separate matters to consider here: the nature of this volume of Auden's collected poems, & the poetry itself. To tackle the first issue: this is not a _Complete_ but a _Collected Poems_, & this is a crucial difference. Auden was a perpetual reviser & assembled his canon with care. As with Robert Lowell his revisions are sometimes bewildering attempts to remake himself & his work in a very public manner. Auden grew to hate many of his best & most famous poems, notably "Sir, no man's enemy", "September 1, 1939" & "Spain 1937", & these are all excluded here, along with countless others. Late in his career Auden massively revised & pruned his canon, a project that was apparently prompted by his horror at the unprincipled use of his most famous line ("We must love one another or die") by Lyndon B Johnson in a notorious 1964 t.v. ad. (He was right to distrust that line's easy quotability: in the wake of Sep 11th the poem has enjoyed renewed popularity, which is pretty bizarre for a poem with lines like "Out of the mirror they stare, / Imperialism's face / And the international wrong.") Thus this volume presents a drastically lopsided view of Auden's work, & for this reason I cannot recommend it to anyone as an introduction to Auden's work. Nearly half of this book's 927 pages is taken up by work from the late 1940s up to Auden's death in 1973, & only the most ardent admirers of Auden will be able to find much of value in the final few hundred pages, facile, prolix & chatty verse which greatly disappointed Auden's contemporaries in his lifetime & which reads no better now. Anyone actually interested in the poetry that made Auden an important & influential poet should turn to the _Selected Poems_ & _The English Auden_.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Auden is funny, sad, strange, wonderful. Here's a selection from of my favorites:
'When it comes,will it come without warning/ Just as I'm picking my nose?/ Will it knock on my door in the morning;/ Or tread in the bus on my toes?/ Will it come like a change in the weather?/ Will its greeting be courteous or rough?/ Will it alter my life altogether?/ O tell me the truth about love.'
Auden talks about not only love but also truth, justice, every part of the human experience. Here's a short part of "Musee des Beaux Arts":
'About suffering they were never wrong,/ The Old Masters: how well they understood/ Its human position; how it takes place/ While someone else is eating or opening a window or/ just walking dully along.'
I cannot find words strong enough to convey how powerful, and how human, this work is.
By the way, in his original 'selected works' Auden re-edited several of his most beloved works - many critics said for the worse. In this particular edition the editor included all of the poems that Auden selected as his best, but in their original forms.
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Format: Paperback
This is a volume for readers who already know that they enjoy Auden's poetry. The editor Edward Mendelson explains that, in calling the book the "Collected Poems," he means that the book includes all the poems Auden wanted to retain in his canon, in their final (sometimes revised) forms. As another reviewer (N. Dorward) warns, that means some popular poems have been left out. But I also think Dorward exaggerates. The number of poems Auden excised from his canon are not "countless," but perfectly countable. And the number of poems excised which readers actually care about is smaller still. In fact, there are really only three poems notably absent from the canon, which Dorward names: "Sir, no man's enemy," "Spain 1937," and "September 1, 1939." These poems are available in both _The English Auden_ and the _Selected Poems_, also edited by Mendelson.

The matter of revision is more serious, but what was a responsible editor to do? Mendelson might have printed both original and revised versions, but the volume is already over 900 pages, and most readers don't even notice the minor tinkering Auden sometimes did with wording. (We may notice that Auden deleted stanzas from "Summer Night" and "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," but how many Auden fans are aware that "Lullaby" was lightly revised? And who is to say that the revisions were always unwarranted?) Or, Mendelson might have added a "notes" section indicating where Auden made changes after initial publication. Or, he could have added the excised poems in an appendix. None of these solutions is really suitable given the aims of the volume. There had to be a volume that represented the author's final wishes about his works, and this is it.
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Format: Paperback
Auden is at once one of the most interesting and heartfelt poets of the 20th Century, whilst being quite underrated as one of the world's best. This volume does an exceptional job in capturing Auden's works in the way that he himself wanted them to be seen. While there are a multitude of purists who cannot abide by any poet's natural tendency to revise his works as life experiences mold his perspective, that Mendelson made the relatively bold decision to publish the augmented Auden is quite refreshing, in my view. These are the works of a man who transgressed the need for set structures, and didn't sacrifice substance for the sake of style. In essence, his poetry was the truest expression of his ideals.
In regards to the book itself, it was tastefully put together, and is a definite asset to any poetry collection. The font and paper stock are smooth and refined, making the poetry easy to read in varying degrees of light. The poems are arranged in a roughly chronological order...once again, the way that Auden himself preferred.
Considering that I own a number of old volumes of Auden's poetry --including first editions-- I can assure any potential buyer that Mendelson took no liberties with this volume. I wish other collections could claim the same.
"Ah, to find a book of a certain Wystan Hugh,
Is to find a gem in a field of residue;
It has been a long time coming, but in my hands I hold
A paper book of Auden, worth its weight in gold"
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