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The All-Sustaining AirRomantic Legacies and Renewals in British, American, and Irish Poetry since 1900$
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Michael O'Neill

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299287

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299287.001.0001

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‘The Guts of the Living’: Auden and Spender in the 1930s

‘The Guts of the Living’: Auden and Spender in the 1930s

(p.83) 4 ‘The Guts of the Living’: Auden and Spender in the 1930s
The All-Sustaining Air

Michael O'Neill (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the poetry of W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, exploring the complicated response of both to the Romantic bequest. The first section focuses on a variety of texts by Auden, including his Letter to Lord Byron, in order to bring out the intricately post-Romantic nature of his voice in his Thirties poetry. The section examines early poems such as ‘Who stands, the crux left of the watershed’ for their evidence of thwarted post-Romantic longing, as well as later poems such as ‘In memory of W. B. Yeats’ for the ways in which Auden reinvents for the modern age a poetry akin to the Romantics' in its concern to be both undidactic and ‘A way of happening’. Auden's practice in Letter to Lord Byron is compared with Byron's comic mode, and a mixture of admiration and necessary distance in Auden's view of Byron is discovered. The second section looks at Spender's attempts to preserve a Romantic lyric voice in the modern age; it compares, for example, his poem ‘Moving through the silent crowd’ with Blake's ‘London’, and sees his poetry voicing doubts about poetry of a kind inaugurated by the Romantics.

Keywords:   Stephen Spender, Letter to Lord Byron, Moving through the silent crowd, the comic, London, Blake

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