What are the dominant themes in Auden’s works? Discuss his poetry with reference to three poems. Without question Auden’s poetry moulds into a variety of forms and takes a stance on subjects that often affect our judgement on topics and issues that directly influence us or are merely ignored. His reasoning mainly centered on moral issues and showed strong political, social and psychological orientations. This assertion is clearly expressed through ‘ September 1, 1939’, ‘ Refugee Blues’ and ‘ The Lesson’. Auden’s early poetry, influenced by his interest in the Anglo-Saxon language as well as in psychoanalysis, was sometimes riddle-like and clinical. Auden was clearly intrigued in discovering how the mind works and the impact it has on society as a whole. ‘ The Lesson’ examines the prejudice, unacceptance and isolation that an individual may face when differing from normal social boundaries. Taking into account Auden’s homosexuality it is acceptable to to perceive the poem as a portrayal of Auden’s previous exclusion from social norms. This theory is supported by various statements that are produced through the language and imagery in the poem.
Auden plays with double meanings “ We were in flight, and fagged with running”, in the modern sense of the word “ fag” can also mean homosexual in an derogatory and informal manner. Throughout the description of the three dreams incorporated in the poem, Auden is careful never to reveal the gender of neither the speaker or his partner. Although this interpretation is predominatly subjective, the whole poem is a depicition of a relationship that is looked down upon. The second part of the poem embeds nature as a major theme, all four elements are described. This reflects how necessary the speaker’s partner is to him, the partner is a necessity for survival and makes up the properties of the elementary world. The last part of the poem breaks the fantasy of the couple to be accepted by other and infroms the reader of the present situation; reality “ I woke. You were not there”. The poem ends with feelings of shame and self-consciousness, the speaker expressed that the three dreams he had were prohibited thoughts that the population would share disapproval and criticism over them due to their beliefs and actions in request for euphoria. “ Refugee Blues” is the most known poem where Auden openly expresses his concern and disgust over the society in which we live in.
The main theme that runs through this ‘ song’ is the abuse of human rights experienced not only by German Jews but by other Jews and refugees around the world. Auden uses the Blues tradition as a form, which developed through the Black people of the United States and has it’s orgin in slave songs. Though composed under impovisation, the blues has a rigid pattern concerning the use of repetition and a simple rhyme scheme. Almost every stanza starts with a verb and this device helps to convey in the poem the idea of impovisation and common speech. This expresses his views in terms of the commoness of the problem that centers the poem. The difference between contrasting social classes is further emphasised by the continuous opposing imagery “ some are living in mansions, some are living in holes: yet there is no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us”. In this poem Auden takes a single main theme and makes variations on it, leading to a particularly powerful finale that make us question the subject at hand “ ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro: looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me”. Auden’s views and theme of Politics and War are carefully translated through his most known poem ‘ September 1, 1939’.
The title refers to the beginning of the Second World War, the day Adolf Hilter invaded Poland. Auden uses this occasion to write a farewell to peace and to mediate the social and psychological causes of War. Auden reports directly his and the population’s feelings of uncertainty and fear for the future. The poem is an open direct critcism to state leaders of the insitution of war throughout history. Auden uses ancient greek leaders to show how unaffected each historical age is to others and how each fails to learn from its predecessors ‘ Exiled Thucydides knew all that speech can say about Democracy….. we must suffer them all again’. The urge to find an explanation for destructive behaviour prevails in the poem, Auden explains acts of war as a result of psychological difficulties in the past, this is influenced by Sigmund Freud’s famous theory on childhood traumas that lead to a negative change of behaviour ‘ find what occurred at Linz. What huge imago made a psychopathic god’ exploring Hitler’s childhood in Linz is an attempt made my Auden to understand how a human being can show so much hatred. Auden’s poetry takes on a lot of different phylosophical aspects of life such as humanity’s lack of concern and indifference towards particular situations. Auden looked at things with face value, he was not blurred by other subjective opinions. Manifestly the main themes explored in his work are social boundaries, love, war and politics.