W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage

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passion can be regarded as a rediscovery of the Greek and Catholic doctrine that every organism is moved by instinct towards the actualization of its nature.

The individual who aspires to be an integrated organism is hindered by the bourgeois society which is organized mainly for the encouragement and satisfaction of the acquisitive instinct; other human impulses cannot usually be expressed in forms provided by society and are therefore liable to be frustrated. The conflict with society, which is the theme of 'The Orators, ' has been the normal experience of the sensitive individual during the past century or century and a half. Mr. Auden states the problem in universal terms, avoiding aspects of it which are peculiar to himself; but, unlike most of his predecessors (except, possibly, Rimbaud, who, however, did not explain his surrender), he realizes the futility of the romantic revolt. The individual needs an appropriate environment in which to exercise his powers; he cannot achieve harmony and integration except in a regenerated society.

Since writing 'The Orators' Mr. Auden has become a Communist. Communism, perhaps, if it is accepted as a technique for making the necessary changes and not as a dogmatic religion, is the best available method of regeneration; it does, at least, aim at prohibiting individual acquisitiveness. But it remains to be seen whether artistic honesty and the organic growth of the individual, with which Mr. Auden is chiefly concerned, can be reconciled with its present intolerance.


21.

JOHN GOULD FLETCHER ON A POET OF COURAGE, 'POETRY' (CHICAGO)

xlii, May 1933, 110-13

Fletcher (1886-1950), American poet and author, lived in Europe from 1908 to 1933. His early poetry earned praise from Ezra Pound; later works include 'The Epic of Arkansas' (1936), 'Life Is My Song' (autobiography, 1937), and 'Selected Poems' (1938), which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Despite Fletcher's welcoming appraisal of the early Auden (and his preference for Auden's viewpoint to Eliot's), it is reasonable to infer that by the mid-1940s his tolerance for Auden had declined so far as to share the sentiments of this extract from a letter (dated 6 December 1946) by his contemporary Conrad Aiken:

-125-

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