Today's Birthdays: February 21

February 21

W. H. Auden

1907–1973, Anglo-American Poet.

Born in York, England, educated at Oxford. A versatile, vigorous, and technically facile poet, Auden ranks among the major literary figures of the 20th cent. Often written in everyday language, his poetry ranges in subject matter from politics to modern psychology to Christianity. During the 1930s he was the leader of a left-wing literary group, which included Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender. With Isherwood he wrote three verse plays, The Dog beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936), and On the Frontier (1938), and also Journey to a War (1939), a record of their experiences in China. Auden lived in Germany during the early days of Nazism, and he was a stretcher-bearer for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. His first volume of poetry appeared in 1930. Later volumes include Spain (1937), New Year Letter (1941), For the Time Being, a Christmas Oratorio (1945), The Age of Anxiety (1947; Pulitzer Prize), Nones (1951), The Shield of Achilles (1955), Homage to Clio (1960), About the House (1965), Epistle of a Godson and Other Poems (1972), and Thank You, Fog (1974). His other works include Letters from Iceland (with Louis MacNeice, 1937); the libretto, with Chester Kallman, for Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress (1953); A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970); and The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (1968). In 1939, Auden moved to the United States, and he became a citizen in 1946. Subsequently he lived in various places, including Italy and Austria, and in 1971 he returned to England. From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford. He was awarded the National Medal for Literature in 1967.


See his Collected Poetry (1945), Collected Shorter Poems, 1927–1957 (1967), and Collected Longer Poems (1969); biography by Edward Mendelson (1983); studies by Samuel Hynes (1977, repr. 1982) and Edward Callan (1983).

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