THANK YOU, FOG: Last Poems by W.H. Auden by W.H. Auden

THANK YOU, FOG: Last Poems by W.H. Auden

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Auden began as the bad conscience of his generation, the wily analyst of the '30's. His early poems have a harsh, moonstruck wit -- are terribly knowing and condemning; they brought a didactic style to a neurotic temper, the age's ""intolerable neural itch."" Later, in the '40's, he moved away from a world of psychological and political unrest to become a commentator on unreason, an unexpected spiritual guide, a Kierkegaardian gadfly mocking those of us who ""dance/Jigs of self-deliverance."" His pilgrimage from a collapsing England to the mindless suburban affluence of America is, of course, among the most famous literary journeys of our time. Even more memorable is the verbal invention, the quotable lines that made him, as he wrote of Freud, ""no more a person/ Now but a whole climate of opinion."" These ""last poems,"" gathered in a sparse collection, whimsically entitled Thank You, Fog, though hardly representative of his best work, have, nevertheless, the singularity and audacity with which we're all familiar -- a talent and a sensibility always able to organize, advance, explore: to get beyond the age and tell the age what's what. Naturally, given his eccentricity, Auden as an ""old man,"" which is how he saw himself in his later years, is not particularly au courant: indeed his parting shot here is the mocking and testy ""Be with-it, with-it, with-it till you're dead."" Elsewhere he speaks of the diesel engine as ""more vicious, more criminal/ than the camera,"" and of ""the Daily Papers/ vomiting in slip-shod prose/ the facts of filth and violence/ that we're too dumb to prevent."" But for those who thought Auden lost his ear, there's the exquisite ""Nocturne"" and ""Lullaby,"" while ""Unpredictable But Providential,"" ""Address to the Beasts,"" and ""Archaeology"" are distilled pageants of austere humor and wisdom. A minor memorial to a major poet.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1974
Publisher: Random House