Louis MacNeice : Poetical Achievements

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      Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), the son of an Irish bishop, was born in Belfast and educated at Marlborough and Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar. In 1930 he was appointed classics lecturer at Birmingham University, and six years later he became lecturer in Greek at Bedford College, London. He travelled in Europe and America, and for a while in 1940 he lectured on poetry at Cornell University. In 1941 he joined the B.B.C.

A purer artist than Auden, MacNeice is acutely aware of the musical and rhythmical potentialities of language, and he writes with a control, finish, lightness of touch, and a structural sense which are often lacking among the members of his group, though, on occasion, he will, for effect, fall into a looser manner.A purer artist than Auden, MacNeice is acutely aware of the musical and rhythmical potentialities of language, and he writes with a control, finish, lightness of touch, and a structural sense which are often lacking among the members of his group, though, on occasion, he will, for effect, fall into a looser manner.
Louis MacNeice

      Like Day Lewis, MacNeice was a member of the Auden group, but, unlike the others, he never embraced wholeheartedly any political creed, though he was as acutely aware as any of them of the failings of the inter-war years. He combines a keen, analytical observation of contemporary life with a strong common sense, and a very definite sense of humour, while his classical training has impressed itself upon the form and style of his work.

      A purer artist than Auden, MacNeice is acutely aware of the musical and rhythmical potentialities of language, and he writes with a control, finish, lightness of touch, and a structural sense which are often lacking among the members of his group, though, on occasion, he will, for effect, fall into a looser manner. His poetry is in the main didactic or lyrical, and it is in the short lyric that he has done his best work. Perhaps the unwillingness to adopt a positive attitude toward the problems of modern life, which has, in other ways, been an asset, deprives his work of that driving force which is essential in good didactic poetry. Even in his lyrics a veneer of casualness too often conceals the underlying emotions.

      In another medium MacNeice did valuable work as a pioneer in the use of poetic drama for broadcasting (see The Dark Tower (1946)). His critical study, The Poetry of W, B. Yeats (1941), is one of the best books on the subject. MacNeice's poetry has appeared in the following collections Poems (1935); The Earth Compels (1938); Autumn Journal (1939); Plant and Phantom (1941); Springboard (1944); Holes in the Sky (1948); and Collected Poems (1949).

      Mention should also be made of his prose' books, Modern Poetry: A Personal Estimate (1938) and Letters from Iceland (1937) - written with W. H. Auden; and of his drama in the Auden-Isherwood tradition, Out of the Picture (1937).

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