Auden is the Satirist of Twentieth Century

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      A different poet Auden is a satirist. He has exposed the crudities and complexities of modern society through him satirical verses. He had assimilated many ideas with his customary zest and ease, adding to them a touch of extravagance which was peculiarly his own. Auden, unlike most contemporary poets has always conceived of himself as an entertainer, and he would like to be a popular one. He is serious, simple, but a complex poet. C. Day Lewis says that his poetry "does not know how serious it supposes itself to be" and thinks him too fashionable and topical. The social critics termed him too equivocal, a private:" and ironic. The new critics generally tend to think him too much committed to ideas, too didactic and impure.

      Auden in his poetry gave emphasis on reason rather than Cambridgian Imagination. This made him Auden as a quite different poet.

Satire as its etymology implies is essentially an impure form usually the term designates a quality, an attitude dominant in the types treated by Swift and Pope. Satire is always didactic and usually topical. A satirist is a man with a keen sense of public responsibility and social consciousness. A Satire always calls for specific reforms. The satirist being realistic, aims at reform through literature, his compulsion is to unmask, to reveal men to themselves and to their fellows as they are, and not as they pretend to be. The great satirists hope tor a spiritual and individual reform, a change of heart. This is accomplished through the mirror of satire.
W. H. Auden

Satire and The Aim of Satirist:

      Satire as its etymology implies is essentially an impure form usually the term designates a quality, an attitude dominant in the types treated by Swift and Pope. Satire is always didactic and usually topical. A satirist is a man with a keen sense of public responsibility and social consciousness. A Satire always calls for specific reforms. The satirist being realistic, aims at reform through literature, his compulsion is to unmask, to reveal men to themselves and to their fellows as they are, and not as they pretend to be. The great satirists hope tor a spiritual and individual reform, a change of heart. This is accomplished through the mirror of satire.

Satire in Light Verses:

      A satire also demands a quality of lightness, which Auden has brilliantly defined in his poetry. Light verses are produced only when the poet's interest and perceptions are much the same as those of audience, when he is close to every day life it is harder for him to see honestly and truthfully. Light verse tends to be conventional. It accepts the attitudes of the society in which it is written. When , the poet is more remote from the society, he finds it easier to see clearly, but harder to communicate. Auden explains the modern failure of communication in Letters from Iceland. He says:

Art, if it does not start there, at leads ends,
Whether aesthetics like the thought or not,
In an attempt to entertain our friends
And our first problem is to realize what
Peculiar friends the modern artist's got.

      Satirical picture of Society in Auden's early Verse Auden in his earlier verse, presented a satirical picture of society in terms of Marxist Freudian Psychological analysis. Auden had a very little interest in politics until his visit to Berlin. So he exposed his contemporary society in his early verse quite plainly and moderately. Auden has retained the satire in his verse as a therapy. He always avoided propagandism. The significance of Border situation which is beyond understanding of general people has been transported by Auden from the political to the religious realm. Auden always uses therapeutic scientific terms while giving the Border situation.

      Auden's poem The unknown citizen is among the funniest of these satires, portraying ideal citizen of the bureaucratic state. "He was found by the Bureau of statistics to be/one against whom there was no official complaint,/...our researchers into Public opinion are content / That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year; / when there was peace, he was for peace, when there was war, he went". The state ignores the individuality of a persons as also all ultimate questions:

Was he free? Was he happy!
The question is absurd,
Had anything been wrong, who
should certainly have heard.

      Auden in this poem The unknown citizen satirizes the modern society, which is devoid of religion and all other values of life. Modern Society is committed to materialism, which makes the modern man unhappy. Social critics want a change in the values of modern society by advocating a revolution.

      In this poem some details of the average man has been sketched. Bureaucracy cannot be concerned with the happiness of the individual, The question at the end of the poem is quite thought providing. The question is - if the man was free. But the answer is negative. Because freedom means freedom of conscience.

      Technically Auden was an artist of great virtuosity, a ceaseless experimenter in verse form, with a fine ear for the rhythm and music of words. Essentially modern in tone, Auden had a wide variety of styles. His cynical satirical vein is one of these variety. Auden took the help of satire as an weapon to portray the critical condition of twentieth century. His enemy to target was the capitalist.

Beethameer, Beethameer, bully of
Britain,
With your face as fat as a farmer's
bum...
Are you sure you're our saviour?
we're certain you smell...

      Auden also portrays the doomed middle class. In On This Island Auden is identifying himself with the bourgeoisie, and tends to produce generalized self-portraits. A note of pity is found absent;

"what was god-like in this generation,
was never to be born"

      Miss Gee has been portrayed with light satires. She dreams that a bull with the face of the Vicar of the church of Saint Aloysius charged on her in a field of corn. The stanza describing the incident is hilarious:

But a storm below down the palace,
She was liking through a field of corn,
And a bull with the face of the vicar
Was charging with lowered horn.

      The contrast between her dress manners and her guilty desires become the subject of Auden's mild satires. Auden's satire is never pure denunciation, but always partly self desire, done with mixed feeling; and undoubtedly this fact has much to do with its richness and continuing interest. At the end Nature explains that there is no escape: "Do not imagine you can abdicate / Before you reach the frontier, you are caught". The frontier being the metaphorical one we have seen before, both sociological and chronological. An awareness of doom makes no difference, for it does not affect the essential rigidity, failure to adopt, which means biological; adolescence: "Holders of one position, wrong for years.

      Auden tried to reform the modern civilization which has been degenerated. He took refuge to the latest philosophy. Modern psychologists emphasize on sub-conscious mind. They want free flow of human energy rather than suppressing it. Kierkegaard and other German philosophers have but Auden's tone handling the modern complexes is quite modest and very sympathetic. Influence of religion and metaphysics have softened his satirical tone. His formative influences were quite beneficial to write the light verses and serious verses. The atmosphere of his poetical works is very tolerable and not pinching at all.

      His style is also very effective. It is not crude and indecent. It is very arduous. Contemporary life is very heterogenous but he uses the poetic diction that the effect is very soothing and illuminates the human difficulty. His motive is to reform the society and he has done this quite successfully. The comic effects of his verse makes the atmosphere very sympathetic. Sometimes he uses parodies to make the style very effective. Often his material poems are mock-metrical, and use mock-rhyme and stanza-forms. Letter to Lord Byron' is the largest single example but many of his ballads also do this. In his earlier verse, Auden presented a satirical picture of society in terms of Marxist Freudian Psychological analysis.

Auden's Ironic Arguments in Prose:

      Auden has the quality of employing ironic arguments in prose. It was possible for him for his extraordinarily sense of mimicry, parody and strong drama. Auden exaggerated further, the complex device of ironic arguments of Swift. Auden has never offended his victim. To quote from The orators as examples;
(i) Letter to a Wound is a parody of a love-letter, and specifically of the kind written by a bourgeois intellectual. The whole piece is an elaboration of the psychosomatic disease metaphor. The writer loves his wound, wills it, wills his death, and he is typical of his class.
(ii) "Address for a Prize-Day" is in part specific parody. Isherwood quotes Auden as mimicking the headmaster of their school. The main content of the poem is the analysis of "this country of ours where nobody is well," and the location of the cause is in a failure of love, with the Dantean division into excessive, defective and perverted lovers.

Auden's Important Letter to Lord Byron Revealing Satirical Tone:

      The Byron mask gives Auden a focus, a point of departure for discursive comment on modern life and literature. Auden strives to attain lightness through adopting the persona of an earlier poet in Letter to Lord Byron.

Conclusion:

      In 20th century satirical tone is very essential. Hence W.H. Auden made use of this device to present the vivid picture of the society. He assimilated the ideologies of his age. He targetted the many facets of the age. His satire became rich because of his deep knowledge in metaphysics. Freudism, Marxism and theology. Hence he has been considered the satirist as lunatic clergy man. He jolted the modern age by pricking his satirical tone.

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