W.H. Auden


'In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise'


Wystan Hugh Auden is buried in Kirchstetten, Austria, Europe.

Grave of Auden.

Auden was educated at Gresham's School in North Norfolk and Christ Church College, Oxford. As a student he became associated with the  group of left-wing poets which included: Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis and Stephen Spender. (See MacSpaunday.)

Auden's first collection of poetry entitled Poems was accepted for publication by T.S.Eliot (the poetry editor at Faber and Faber) and appeared in 1930. It was well received by the critics and established him as one of the leading poets of his generation. 

Auden famously worked with the GPO to produce a documentary which included his poem Night Mail. He also worked with Benjamin Britten, who set many of his poems to music.

Although gay, Auden married  Erika Mann in 1935 to enable her to escape persecution in Nazi Germany.

In 1939 Auden and Christopher Isherwood left Europe for America. He had earlier collaborated with Isherwood to write the stage play The Dog Beneath the Skin. While in America, Auden met Chester Kallman who was to be his companion for the rest of his life.

Auden was a skilled exponent of traditional verse and meter forms, but also had the knack of making his poems modern and relevant. (See Pylon Poets.)

W.H. Auden

In 1956 Auden was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

Auden died in his sleep on September 28 1973, after a poetry reading to the Austrian Society of Literature in Vienna; he was 66 years old.

His funeral was held at Kirchstetten on the 14th October and drew mourners from Britain and the United States. The procession to the church was led by Chester Kallman who died two years later in Athens.

Auden is commemorated with a plaque in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey, London.

One of the poems from Twelve Songs (sometimes known as Funeral Blues) was famously featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.


The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

From Twelve Songs

The Auden Society






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