Consider: by W. H. Auden || Summary and Analysis

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Introduction:

      The poem Consider was first published in Poem 1930, and was also later included in the Collected Shorter Poems, 1950. It is one of the most admired, as well as the most criticized, poem of Auden. The poem shows a strong impact of Marx and Modern psychology on Auden. The poem is daring in its imagery and in depleting in concrete terms the malaise of the modern civilisation. It is a sick culture and social sickness and reflection of diseased psyche. Auden draws heavily on Freudian psychology to select his metaphors and phrases to present the psychopathic condition of the modern man overlaying which are also political implication and forebodings of a catastrophe.

      The speaker in the poem is the poet himself. He is neither sick nor healthy, but a neutral observer. As the omniscient, he looks down on a sick culture. In the first three sections of the poem, the poet attempts to capture the reader's interest in a few ominous and suggestive images of the contemporary social climate. The second section is addressed to Death, the Supreme Antagonist, who has not only led earlier civilization to self-destruction, but also at the present time commande numerous admirers. The third stanza is a direct attack on the reader as of Death's admirers:

Seekers after happiness, all who follow the
convolutions of your simple wish,
It is later than you thank.

      Using the cinematic technique, Auden creates an impressive image - "As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman" - to present a panoramic overview of the diseased and decayed world. We are shown a highly artificial world: the cigarette - end smouldering on the border and a garden party. Then comes into view an assorted gathering in a winter sport hotel, looking trapped by their superficial sense of entertainment and relying pitifully on the hotel band for the supply of their feelings. Finally the scene shifts to the countryside where the music of the band is relayed to farmers 'sitting in kitchens in the stormy fens.

The poem Consider was first published in Poem 1930, and was also later included in the Collected Shorter Poems, 1950. It is one of the most admired, as well as the most criticized, poem of Auden.
Consider

Summary

      Auden's Consider is a typical poem. It attempts the genesis of evil in society. Auden thinks evil in society has a psychological origin. The poem is therefore a sharp criticism of modern society, which is corrupt and devoid of all spiritual values. In the first section of the poem, when the readers look at the earth from high above like the hawk or "the helmeted airman" we see a garden party being held at a tourist centre. There are burning ends of cigarettes scattered everywhere. The next scene takes place on the serene of the world. Through the window-plane comes into focus a central mountain mass being held in a Sport Hotel. In the hotel there are different people clad in furs, in uniforms, sitting around reserved tables. There feelings are being supplemented by an efficient band, which is being relayed elsewhere to the farmers. It is seen that the dogs of the farmers are sitting in kitchens in the stormy and marshy places. The farmers are also listening to the same music via radio. All the people gathered in the luxury hotel. Here the readers have a bird's eye view of corrupt and sick bourgeois society.

      In the second section of the poem the poet gives a traditional explanation of evil, in terms of the 'Supreme Antagonist' which is the 'Christian Satan'. Here there are Miltonic echoes, and a Biblical reference to Satan. The upper strata of society is under the direct influence of Satan. It is said in the poem that all businessmen, leaders, industrialists are, status. For them, the life force is a death force, their healthy instincts are stiffed. The sick society knows that the 'supreme Antagonist' is the killer of the unhealthy cultures. The poet says in this section that the 'supreme Antagonist' visits the poets and interrupts "the leisurely conversation in the bar". The physical landscape mirrors the sickness of society. The "supreme Antagonist mobilizes all the powerful forces to make farmers brutal in the infected notches, where they become like "Weasels fighting in a hole". The Antagonists also causes communal riots, which make people terrified and mentally tensed.

      The poet, in the third stanza, says that those who are trying seek happiness are actually following their desires, and this leads them to unhappiness. There is also the imagery of war. Itis said in stanza that one can runaway from the war and save himself but cannot escape the clutches of the "Supreme Antagonist". The Antagonist works both externally and internally The poem actually shows the vision of the poet about decayed modern bourgeois society for which man himself is responsible. In the last two lines the poet says that the people like the financier and his friends will either be insane or Helpless and hopeless in thin world. The middle-class escape from society by means of motoring and its pleasures, is rejected in two compact lines which exhibit Auden's talent for the memorable phrase:

Not though you pack to lave within an hour, Escaping humming down arterial roads.

      It is shown in the stanza that the bourgeois ends with a psychosis. If the ruling classes are really as sick as Auden says, one wonders why in other poems he asserts that they can and should be cured.

Critical Appreciation

      Using the cinematic technique, also known as montage, Auden creates an impressive image - "As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman" - to present a panoramic overview of the diseased and decayed world. We are shown a highly artificial world; "the cigarette-end smouldering on the border, and a garden party. Then comes into view an assorted gathering in a winter sport hotel, looking trapped by their superficial sense of entertainment and relying pitifully on the hotel land for the supply of their feelings. The dovetailing of the images in the first section of the poem is very effective. It becomes a compact. Having cleverly made an impact on the mind of the reader, Auden starts sounding the depths and comes to grips with his subject in the second section of the poem. The 'supreme antagonist' which has been interpreted as Death and Satan, is shown at work with the modern world. The 'Supreme Antagonist' has separated man from his surrounding and from the rest of the animal kingdom which has led to the suppression of the natural desires and instincts of man. Such suppression has created a psychopathic condition for man. The rich industrialists and capitalist - the high born mining captains - have heard the comments of the Supreme Antagonist and are overcome with a wish to die. They have failed to find an answer to the enigma of the forces of decay which have menacingly besieged their world. There is decay and sickness all around:

You talk to your admirers everyday
By silted harbours, derelict works,
In strangled orchards, and a silent comb
where dogs have wounded or a bird was shot.

      The scene is as dreary as a grave yard. The 'Supreme Antagonist is invited by the poet to visit the parts where the 'Supreme Antagonist disturbs the conversation in the bar.

      'The Supreme Antagonist' infects the soul which makes the farmer brutal, spreads disease and destruction. He is also bidden by the poet to start his rumour which would produce a catastrophe - A polar peril, a prodigious alarm - and a social break-up scattering the people, as torn-up paper - and a 'neurotic dread'.

      The third section of the poem spells the doom in more positive terms. The capitalist and seekers after happiness will realise that it is too late for their survival and cure. The forces of decay and destruction have gone too far to leave any hope for the modern world. Auden visualises the political, social and economic set-up of the world as hopelessly doomed, beyond redemption. The final lines are enigmatic. It looks as though the fate of the bourgeoisie is to end in psychosis - either a mania' or a 'fatigue' - but there is no concluding clarity in these congested, abscure phrases:

To disintegrate on an instant in the explosion of mania
or lapse for ever into a classic fatigue.

      Auden has aptly described through these lines how the bourgeois ends, not with a bang but with a psychosis. There is a special situation in the poems he wrote around 1935. In these poems he exhibited more trust in the efficaciousness humorous of words that he later found acceptable. His most frequent exhortation was that the render should step out of the narrow confines of his ordinary vision for the sake of a detached re-valuation of himself and his time. In the first three sections of the poem, consider the poet attempts to capture the reader's interest in a few ominous and suggestive images of he contemporary social climate. The second section is addressed to Death, The "Supreme Antagonist". The third Stanza is a direct attack on the reader as of Death's admirers:

"Seekers after happiness, all who follow the convolutions of your simple wish, It is later than you think".

      The poem assaults the reader's consciousness in order to sting him, if possible, into some kind of action, yet no particular course of action in recommended for. In effect the poet says; "consider and if this is the way things are, something must be done before it is too late"

Conclusion:

      Auden's poem Consider shows a strong impact of Mars and modern psychology on Auden. The poem in daring in its imagery. The poet expresses in concrete terms the disease of the modern civilisation. The poet draws tremendously on Freudian psychology to select his metaphors and phrases. It helps him to portrait the psychopathic condition of the modern man.

      The poem no doubt succeeds in making an impression of chaos, disorder, impending destruction by virtue of its unnecessarily powerful and violent images. Still it suffers from the obscurity which seems unnecessary. Moreover the readers are in dark about the picture of thee world Auden created in he poem. Some vague expressions and esoteric (unusual) references rave created this obscurity. Moreover to the poem is weighed down to some extent by profuse use of psychological terms and mention of psychic condition. With all its obscurities and ambiguities the poem is of great significance for its histrionic quality and diction.

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