Versatile Style of Auden in his Poetry

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      Auden's Style: Diverse Style reveals the aesthetic personality of a writer. It gives a special direction or form to his writings. A new insight stimulates a poet to develop a new style. Auden's new thought or approach also provoked him to develop a new style. Being a twentieth-century poet Auden was quite different in his style from his contemporary writers. Auden is so versatile that the styles at his command are bewilderingly diverse. Auden's style was nothing of artificial; it was rather quite free and spontaneous. He applied his style spontaneously to meet the necessity of his writing or to express in other way to reveal his inventive thoughts. His diction ranges from the conventionally poetic to thee technically scientific and the obscene. Auden's habit of consulting dictionary helped him to enrich his poetic creations with different new words and thus stopped the words to become obsolete. A genuine survey of his style will be possible only while his poetic works are properly reviewed. Auden's span of active poetic production extended over a period of thirty-five years, and during this long time he was constantly experimenting, 'changing, becoming and growing. This accounts for the immense variety of his style, so much so that J.W. Beach in his monumental work The making of the Auden Cannon raises the question of identity and say's that it all seems to be the work not of one man but of many men.

In 1964 Auden said, "I want every poem I Write to be a human in praise of the English language: hence my fascination with certain speech rhythms which can only occur in an uninflected language rich in monoyllables, my fondness for peculiar words with no equivalent in Other tongue and my deliberate avoidance of that kind of visual imagery which has no bias in verbal experience and can therefore the translated without loss.
W. H. Auden

Auden's use of Colloquial English:

      In 1964 Auden said, "I want every poem I Write to be a human in praise of the English language: hence my fascination with certain speech rhythms which can only occur in an uninflected language rich in monosyllables, my fondness for peculiar words with no equivalent in Other tongue and my deliberate avoidance of that kind of visual imagery which has no bias in verbal experience and can therefore the translated without loss.

      The above quotation from Dame kind reveals Auden's homage to the English language. Auden chooses unexpected words which capitulate the unique composition of English out of Greek, Latin and Anglo-Saxon roots.

      Auden inclined to use words and images in an "unserious" way after 1935. As a beginning poet, Auden was not instinctively drawn to an unserious technique. His early work suggests that he took himself as a more serious poet. Starting about 1935, however, he began the experiments in light verse which proved to be the testing ground for his mature technique. Auden finds that lightness in poetry reflects an intimate relation between the poet and his audience. In the late 1930s light verse seemed to Auden for a time a promising means for reaching a large audience. It also served as a stimulus in developing his unserious technique.

      In his early poetry, the poetry of the thirties, his style is characterized by extreme difficulty, even obsenrity. He writes, what John Bayley calls, Pidgin English, a telegraphic style in which whose conversational verse he has always greatly admired. Auden's short poem, Muses des Because Arts might serve to show the main virtues and weakness of this manner as Auden adopts it. With a laconic casualness, it makes a searching and moving observation on human suffering, and this is its strength: it is also in parts both knowing and uneasily colloquial Non-oratorical syntax and other, colloquial features are the very things hat separate the light verse from the serious one.

      This type of style created a problem for Auden; he could never find a comfortable style for his poetic voice. Neither could he seem to lower it with ease, even though he obviously had a knock for writing colloquial speech. The colloquial voices Auden used seems to be firmly part of Auden's joking, farcical sense of life's foolishness and he seldom speaks colloquially connectives and conjunctions even pronouns are missing. Such telegraphic style, such ellipses, create difficulty for the reader. Auden had an amazing capacity for assimilation, and so the style and rhythms of a number of writers whom he had read and assimilated, from Anglo-Saxon time to modern age, have gone into the making of the texture of his poetry.

      Auden uses colloquial or middle style, which not only approximates the language of civilization conversation but suggests the specialized attitude of particular kinds of civilized persons to produce special effects. He uses language that is clinically flat and academically colorless to produce the effect of a schoolmasterly demonstration.

      The Another Time is markedly easy and conversational. The tone of his poem appears that we are listening to the poet thinking aloud. Here Auden owes much to the example of W.B. Yeats, without being comic.

      Auden had a keen interest in listening to his speakers talking. He watches their language, play with it, makes rhetorical invention of it, raises, lowers and reveals in it. Auden had for years been searching without much success for a suitable language with the passing of time his style acquired greater clarity, and displays greater control over his language ana imagery. He displays greater mastery, greater ease and fluency and less awkwardness.

      Auden's poetry is a poetry moving toward talk. The reader must hear it not for the ecstasy of its. sensual sound but to catch the voice sounds that will tell him what the words mean and non-emotive syllable sounds have worked against him making his poetry seem "unpoetic" to some, and they have earned him a slow and grinding acceptance among many fine critics and readers who can clearly detect other of his excellent qualities.

      "Auden's animating procedures are among the most distinctive features of his verse". First, the conceptual nouns are personified by the mere removal of the article which should precede them. Thus in "Not as the dream Napoleon, rumor's dread and center", 'rumor' has been personified by the removal of the which should come before it. Such personification acquire life and vitality, they are animated in the true sense of the word, when a verb is attached to them. Auden's poems overflow with such concepts ("Spacious days", "Intransient nature", (betraying smile") Attack a verb to one and they begin to move cross a landscape, blank and featureless though it may be:

Let his thinning hair,
And his hauteur
Give thanks.

      Auden turns into concepts even words that might easily suggest solid three-dimensional objects we could state, touch, see, or smell. Carefully removed from the sensual "real world these are made to dance through an allegorical one: "the lilac bush like a conspirator / shams dead upon the lawn". If image is added to image, allegorical landscapes will simple grow more elaborately populated with actors like this one from Herman Melville: Terror,

"....was the gale had blown him
past the Cape Horn of sensible success
which cries: "This crock of Eden
Shipwreck here."


      The various influences on Auden led him to write in a wide variety of styles. Besides, the thirties during which Auden wrote most of his early poetry were a period of great crisis, and hence, he had to make Constant adjustments in his form and technique. He wrote all kinds of poetry and in all kinds of styles which often bewilder the critics. But the fact remains that Auden in the master of many styles of poetry. One critic describes him as "a stylistic chameleon".

      The diversity of Auden's work is indeed amazing. Even in the Small amount of poetry, he had written by 1937, he made use of numerous devices. Auden's early style has been called "telegraphese" by Louis Mac Neice because of his frequent leaving out of articles, relatives, connectives, pronouns and auxiliary verbs. The early style has besides, in Hoggart's words, "a stark air, caused both by the ellipsis and by heavy debts to Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic verse." Auden is keen to experiment with all sorts of form and manners with a view to evolving a hard cerebral style.

      In his early poems, Auden shows more trust in the efficaciousness of words than in his later poems, but his images here, by and large, do not grow in any organic way. Another characteristic feature of the middle style in the conversational meter. This was perhaps a logical outcome of his early efforts to hammer out for himself "a supple and diversive style" capable of wide variation. Auden's early poetry was predominantly didactic but by 1935 the dialectic element almost disappeared, for he felt that he should use parables instead of preaching directly at his audience.

      However, a closer study of his poetry reveals that most of the earlier stylistic devices persist in his later poetry, that there are no breaks, but a continuous, steady evolution of power and technique, as is to be expected in the case of a ceaseless experimenter, always in search of new techniques of communication, and new word-usages. In fact, Auden is an artist with words, one who regards the poet as maker, one who is a 'verbal magician', and delights in the potentialities of language, one who plays with words and painstakingly makes the language which best suits his purpose.

       Though the most striking feature of the style of the mid-thirties is its popular appeal, Auden also wrote sophisticated poetry like the sonnets which are his great contribution to English poetry. He took Rilke's Sonnet to Orphans as his model and achieved great mastery in this form. Before him Hardy, Robinson, Frost, Wilfred Owen had written in this manner and Auden might have got his inspiration from them. Rilke's technique made possible the bringing together of the abstract and the concrete. In fact, the problem of writing them had been bothering poets since the seventeenth century, but it was Rilke who provided the solution. As Auden said in a review, Rilke's method is just the opposite of the Elizabethans. Unlike the metaphysical who used intellectual terms, Rilke used physical terms to express abstract ideas in concrete terms, "One of Rilke's characteristic devices", Auden said, is the expression of human life in forms of landscape". To Auden has to Rilke, the inner and the outer worlds seemed to interpenetrate. The symbolism in Auden's early poems was, by and large, natural.

      Auden like poets in general communicates his meaning through his diction and through his versification. But some other technical devices are also used. One is the use of the technique of the cinematograph. Auden surveys the contemporary scence-a desolate landscape, may be of limestone-objectively, from a distance, like a hawk or a helmeted airman. In this way we get a broad outline of the scene. Then the camera is moved closer and we get the scene in close up and the details are filled up. In this way, there are a number of snapshots, and then the camera is speeded up and the coherent story of the diseases and desolation of contemporary society is told.

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