You know the terror that for poets lurks
Beyond the ferry when to Minos brought.
Poets must utter their Collected Works,
Including Juvenilia.. . .
--from "Letter to Lord Byron" (1936)
Regardless of how poets feel about their youthful attempts at verse, their early poems not only enrich our understanding of their artistic growth, but also reveal much about the nature of literary genius. No other twentieth-century poet has left behind such a wealth of early poetry as did W. H. Auden. By bringing together for the first time all the poems written by Auden between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one (1922-1928), this book allows us a rare, detailed look at the literary personality, development, and preoccupations of a major poet. Auden's readers will be fascinated to find in these poems the earliest evidence of his interest in psychoanalysis, his conflicted attitude toward his homosexuality, his self-conscious approach to poetry, and his life-long journey toward a religious sense of the world.
This collection includes over two hundred poems, most of them never published before, concluding with the contents of Auden's privately printed volume, Poems (1928). The poems are generously annotated with information on Auden's education, reading, literary concerns, and personal life. In her introduction, Katherine Bucknell traces important themes relating to the poet's entire career, and describes crucial but hitherto unknown aspects of his youth during his years at Gresham's School and at Christ Church, Oxford. Throughout this work we see in Auden an admirable instinct for experiment, a thorough testing of tradition, and a gathering mastery of technique and thematic argument.
"Katherine Bucknell has done an excellent job as an editor. . . . [Auden] would have acknowledged that this is the way scholarship should go about its job."--John Bayley, Times Literary Supplement
"Auden's Poems (1930) [is] one of the century's most weirdly original first books. Thanks to Katherine Bucknell, we can now ponder in detail how he got there."--Ian Hamilton, London Review of Books
"As loving and meticulous and informing an edition as any writer, young or old, could wish for. . . . Watching Auden invent Audenesque is one of the many joys of this volume."--Valentine Cunningham, Chicago Tribune
"Containing more than two hundred poems, the book chronicles Auden's progress from his first verses, written when he was fifteen years old . . . As one of the most complete and scrupulous accounts of a major poet's apprenticeship, it offers what amounts to a series of master classes in the development of poetic talent and the acquisition of rhetorical skill."--Poetry
"Auden's early poems form a crucial chapter in the history of his imagination. By collecting and annotating these poems with an elegant scrupulosity, Katherine Bucknell has produced a very valuable addition to Auden studies and an indispensable book for the study of modern poetry."--J. D. McClatchy, Editor, The Yale Review
"The evolution of a great poet is abundantly manifest here, in a volume essential not only to lovers of Auden himself, but to all who are intrigued by chrysalid mysteries."--John Fuller, Magdalen College, Oxford
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by W. H. Auden:
Hardcover published in 1994
Cloth: Not for sale in the Commonwealth (except Canada)