Explore the theme of love in Auden’s poetry
Although he married the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann in 1935, Auden did not love her. This was an arranged marriage which allowed her to have the British citizenship and escape from Nazi Germany. Auden met his true love, the poet Chester Kallman, in New York in 1939. Kallman became Auden’s companion for the rest of his life. Love is a recurrent theme in Auden’s poetry but so are many others such as world war two, politics, indifference, nature or time. Therefore, we could ask ourselves how important love is in Auden’s poetry.
As Auden has been in love for the major part of his life, a lot of his poems talk about it or at least mention it. Among them, the most famous one is Funeral Blues as it has been used in the movie “Four weddings and a funeral”. In this poem, Auden talks about the death of his lover. It is one of the rare poems in which Auden assumes his homosexuality when he says ‘He Is Dead’. It must be said that at this time, being gay was unacceptable and people could even end up in jail for that (this might be one of the reasons why in the poem Roman Wall Blues, Auden talks about ‘my girl’ though we know that his lover was a man). In Funeral Blues, the poet describes how the lover meant everything to him, by using the lexical field of space ‘North’, ‘South’, ‘East’, ‘West’, time ‘noon’, ‘midnight’, but also senses such as the view or hearing especially in the first stanza. The entire poem is about the void that the death of the lover has left and how much he counted in Auden’s life. This is pretty much the same in the poem Underneath the abject willow. Indeed, in the two poems the lover is dead. But in the second one, there is a positive note by the middle of the poem ‘Strike and you shall conquer’ which become more and more imposing by the end of it. It ends up on a sign of hope ‘walk then, come, no longer numb into your satisfaction’ which is contrasting with the...
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