Selected Writings

Selected Writings

Selected Writings

Selected Writings

Excerpt

Dylan Thomas was twenty years old when his first book of poems was published in England in 1934. At that time the most attentively observed of the young British poets were a Revolutionary coterie headed by Auden, Day Lewis, MacNcice and Spender. Like them, Thomas was concerned with the problem of man's regeneration, but he never became identified with their group. His interest in the reconstruction of the individual contrasted sharply with their interest in the reconstruction of society. His poetry reflected an influence more Freudian than Marxian. He was primarily concerned with the spiritual regeneration of the individual. That individual was himself.

Since 1939, English poetry has undergone a shift of emphasis from social-consciousness to self-consciousness. Today Thomas' attitudc does not seem as unusual as it did when his poetry first appeared. Disillusion perhaps -- the war certainly -- had something to do with this shift of emphasis. The individual self is now the compositional key not only for the younger English poets who followed Thomas, such as those of the Apocalypse movement who acknowledge his influence, but also for some of their immediate predecessors, the leaders of the Revolutionary poets. Auden has become an exponent of Sören Kierkegaard, the philosopher of individual responsibility, who had asked the critical question: "Then art thou so living as to be aware of thyself as an individual?" Day Lewis' latest work is fine and private, self-embracing song. And MacNeice recent Prayer Before Birth clearly shows the subjective, self-critical turn which English poetry has taken since 1939: . . .

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