John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

By Anthony S. G.Edwards | Go to book overview

I will take a risk on it. So:


Walk, Scot,
Walk, sot,
Rail not so far! [‘…Dundas…Caudas contra Angligenas’, lines 61-3]

Not that Mr. Henderson rails. With a scholar’s moderation he merely scoffs.


52.

W.H.AUDEN ON SKELTON ‘THE ENTERTAINER’

1935

John Skelton by Wystan Hugh Auden, included in ‘The Great Tudors’, edited by K. Garvin (London, 1935), pp. 55-67. This essay has not hitherto been reprinted: several corrections subsequently made to the text by Auden are included here for the first time.

Auden (1907-73) was one of the foremost twentieth-century poets as well as an important critic.

To write an essay on a poet who has no biography, no message, philosophical or moral, who has neither created characters, nor expressed critical ideas about the literary art, who was comparatively uninfluenced by his predecessors, and who exerted no influence upon his successors, is not easy. Skelton’s work offers no convenient critical pegs. Until Mr. Robert Graves drew attention to his work some years ago, he was virtually unknown outside University-honour students, and even now, though there have been two editions, in the last ten years, those of Mr. Hughes and Mr. Henderson, it is doubtful whether the number of his readers has very substantially increased. One has only to compare him with another modern discovery, Hopkins, to realise that he has remained a stock literary event rather than a vital influence.

My own interest dates from the day I heard a friend at Oxford, who had just bought the first Hughes edition, make two quotations:


Also the mad coot
With bald face to toot [‘Philip Sparrow’, lines 410-11]

and

-176-

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