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Book Title: Tell me the truth about love: ten poems|
The author of the book: W.H. Auden
Edition: faber and faber
Date of issue: January 1st 1994
ISBN 13: 9780571174447
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 554 KB
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Had he been writing now, Auden might well have penned a poem entitled "Tell me the Truth About Publishing", for the publication of this special, short collection was directly inspired by the runaway success of the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral in which one of Auden's poems was recited. Stretching from October 1932 to June 1948, the poems may have been more revelatory had they been arranged chronologically but commercial demands have placed "Funeral Blues", forevermore known as the poem in the movie, at the end, while "Lullaby", arguably a better poem, is tucked away inside. The period partly coincides with Auden going to America in January 1939 and "Calypso" pulses with the rhythm of a train taking him to his New York rendezvous at Grand Central. "For there in the middle of that waiting-hall, / Should be standing the one that I love best of all." Many of the poems have the same jolly air and belting rhythm and indeed were written as cabaret songs. "At Last the Secret is Out" must have been tongue-in-cheek considering Auden's sexuality, yet the cover of this slim tome is resolutely heterosexual. But for dipping into Auden's work, this volume serves its purpose. "Funeral Blues" captures the sense of disbelief that the world has the audacity to continue after one has been bereaved. The Cole Porter tone of flippancy and humour--"Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves", makes the understated grief all the more poignant. He declares the emblems of romance redundant. "The stars are not wanted now; put out every one." He swings from the grandiose to the mundane and in doing so, sweeps the reader up in the aura of all-emcompassing love. "He was my North, my South, my East and West, / My working week and my Sunday rest." "Lullaby" retains immense mystery and power. Here he evokes the preciousness of one night spent with someone who isn't his. "Let the living creature lie, / Mortal, guilty, but to me, / The entirely beautiful." It leaves much unexplained, yet quite particular, so that it draws one back again and again: "Lay your sleeping head, my love, / Human on my faithless arm..." What an astonishing opener.
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Read information about the authorWystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, best known for love poems such as Funeral Blues, poems on political and social themes such as September 1, 1939 and The Shield of Achilles, poems on cultural and psychological themes such as The Age of Anxiety, and poems on religious themes such as For the Time Being and Horae Canonicae. He was born in York, grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family. He attended English independent (or public) schools and studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. After a few months in Berlin in 1928–29 he spent five years (1930–35) teaching in English public schools, then travelled to Iceland and China in order to write books about his journeys. In 1939 he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1946. He taught from 1941 through 1945 in American universities, followed by occasional visiting professorships in the 1950s. From 1947 through 1957 he wintered in New York and summered in Ischia; from 1958 until the end of his life he wintered in New York (in Oxford in 1972–73) and summered in Kirchstetten, Austria.
Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form and content. He came to wide public attention at the age of twenty-three, in 1930, with his first book, Poems, followed in 1932 by The Orators. Three plays written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood in 1935–38 built his reputation as a left-wing political writer. Auden moved to the United States partly to escape this reputation, and his work in the 1940s, including the long poems For the Time Being and The Sea and the Mirror, focused on religious themes. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 1947 long poem The Age of Anxiety, the title of which became a popular phrase describing the modern era. In 1956–61 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford; his lectures were popular with students and faculty and served as the basis of his 1962 prose collection The Dyer's Hand.
From around 1927 to 1939 Auden and Isherwood maintained a lasting but intermittent sexual friendship while both had briefer but more intense relations with other men. In 1939 Auden fell in love with Chester Kallman and regarded their relation as a marriage; this ended in 1941 when Kallman refused to accept the faithful relation that Auden demanded, but the two maintained their friendship, and from 1947 until Auden's death they lived in the same house or apartment in a non-sexual relation, often collaborating on opera libretti such as The Rake's Progress, for music by Igor Stravinsky.
Auden was a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays, and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential, and critical views on his work ranged from sharply dismissive, treating him as a lesser follower of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, to strongly affirmative, as in Joseph Brodsky's claim that he had "the greatest mind of the twentieth century". After his death, some of his poems, notably Funeral Blues, Musée des Beaux Arts, Refugee Blues, The Unknown Citizen, and September 1, 1939, became known to a much wider public than during his lifetime through films, broadcasts, and popular media.
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