Formative Influence on W. H. Auden's Poetry

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      Auden was very sensitive. Hence his poetical works were product of his multifarious influences which operated upon him from the childhood to the last phases of his life. The main resource of his inspiration were his parents, the early domestic environment and the social and literary milieu in which he was brought up. He was a voracious reader. His literary contribution are the result of his profound study of books.

      His friend and collaborator were Christopher Isherwood. He has stated that the following points have influenced him. Firstly he is essentially a scientist. He is a scientist in the sense, he has got a scientific bent of mind. As a school boy, he has experimented his everything scientifically. In his age he has not specialized in any subject. He has acquired the scientific outlook and technical approach. This trait has an influence on his writing. He has arranged all his works very scientifically.

Auden is a musician and ritualist. During his childhood he has acquired musical education. Thirdly, Auden is a Scandinavian. His predecessors came from. Iceland. He heard many stories of family feud's and heroic exploits. All these exploits and heroic deeds have tremendous effect on his writing. On surveying his work we notice that all his works have done formative influences which are mentioned below.
W. H. Auden

      Secondly, Auden is a musician and ritualist. During his childhood, he has acquired musical education. Thirdly, Auden is a Scandinavian. His predecessors came from. Iceland. He heard many stories of family feud's and heroic exploits. All these exploits and heroic deeds have tremendous effects on his writing. On surveying his work we notice that all his works have done formative influences which are mentioned below.

Influence of Eliot on Auden:

      T.S. Eliot's famous writing The Waste Land has much impact on his writing. His poetry shows that he had amazing powers of assimilation, and all that he ever read was stored in his great brain and unconsciously influenced his writing.

Impact of Psychology on Auden:

      Auden was interested in Lane's theories of the psychological causes of disease - if you refuse to make use of your creative powers, you grow a cancer instead etc. In 1929 during a visit to Berlin, he came into contact with the doctrine of the American psychologist, Homer Lane. In his early poems, a reference to the psychological theories can be found.

Icelandic Saga in Auden's Poem:

      The saga-world has beautifully been represented in his first play Paid on Both Sides. In this play the two worlds - (1) The world of a school boy, with jokes and fueds and other. (2) The world of a grown up has been merged in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to say whether the characters are really epic heroes or only members of a school boys team.

Freud's Influence on Auden:

      Freud's influence on him was greater than that of any other psychologist, but Auden does not make sustained use of Freud's theories. He thinks Freud's 'map of the mind' largely correct. As an intelligent moralist with wide interests and a special leaning towards science, Auden readily studied the finding of psychology and made use of its terms and definitions. Auden's special interest is in what the psychologists generally call 'anxiety' or 'dread'. He continuously refers to 'the lost', the 'lonely the unhappy,' the loneliness, the sick souls, self-imprisoned, time obsessed, subsisting on 'aspirins and weak tea'.

Marx's Influence on Auden:

      The period from about 1933-1938 can be labeled as Auden's Marxist period just as the earlier can be labeled as Freudian. The matter of Marxist in Auden can be separated conveniently into two sorts (1) philosophical and (2) non-philosophical divisions that correspond roughly to the two historical roles Marx and Engels played.

William Blake and Lawrence's Influence on Auden:

      Both William Blake and Lawrence had great influence on Auden. But Lawrence ceased to be effective very soon. Blake's influence is greater; he began to interest Auden at the same time as Lawrence, Auden is in full agreement with Blake's concept of the "will." By will he means the faculty by which we try to change ourselves according to a pattern prescribed by the reason, by moral codes, and by religious organizations.

Influence of Marx and Kierkegaard:

      Kierkegaard's philosophy of human existence is identical with that of Marx. But divine existence, says Kierkegaard, is completely modified buman existence in one way and in this respect he differs totally from Marx. Marx's men make connections between themselves, object and events. Kierkegaard's men make connections between these necessities too and also gain control and human freedom. Kierkegaard opines that though men make connections between objects and events for their own uses. God has established connections independent of men's actions. Thus God predetermined existential necessity. W. H. Auden is also in the same opinion of Kierkegaard from his later middle phase to last phase of writing poems.

Kierkegaard and Existentialist Philosophy:

      In the year 1936-1939 Auden came in contact with works of Kierkegaard, the existentialist. He was influenced by the philosophy of Kierkegaard. In Kierkegaard, Auden not only found the philosophical reason of accepting life but also a religious theory that insists that it must be accepted. Actually, it is Almighty God who determines every action of human beings. But men confined to their own material world can not know Him in realising Him or even fails to demonstrate His existence. This ignorance created by man himself has created an unbridgeable gulf which separates Man from God.

Christian Theology in Auden's Poetry:

      Towards the close of the decade, Auden found his lost faith in Christianity. His poetry now shows the influence of Christian Theology. In 1936 he was declaring that a theology which stresses an absolute gulf between God and man, and the inevitable corruptness of the world is not symmetrical with Christ's teaching. In Christ's teaching there lies a reality, a land of peace beyond human experience


      Auden tried to find peace and serenity as a consolation for all problems. He stresses, in his later works like Nones (1951) on the blessedness of life and celebrates that blessedness. He emphasizes its delightfulness. It is in the fold of Christian theology Auden finds serenity and writes "with calm of mind, all passion spent." Christianity gives us balm and we should recite the sermons and our passions of evil designs are melted away. All his religious poems are highly admired because we get benign embrace with the Almighty God. Human beings are imperfect. Imperfection leads to sinfulness, the only solution is the eradication of these sinful motives by reading the sermons of the great persons who are leading very harmonious calm and quiet life. Auden under the influences of these personages wrote Some poems which give calmness. Then we do not move in the world of bewilderment. It is a wrong conception that man is incorrigible only we should repent. Repentance is a very important factor for getting serenity and peace.

      The concept of art of Auden is also very significant because peace, and serenity can be derived from the work of art. He is not stressing on the sensuous art. His art deals with the heavenly affairs which reflect the sublime idea of the artists. Finally, we should come to the conclusion that he is a distinguished poet because of his formative influences of all the ideologies which he probed. The in-depth study of the underlying principles of the philosophers was poetically presented by Auden hence embraced various resources. The twentieth-century poetry can be studied by three great poets T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats and W.H. Auden.

      His poems give to this age human existence which is very essential. Human existence is not based upon religion but his views also become secular. So religion is eradicated to the background and secular motive emerges out of the religious designs. Auden is really a great poet. Without him, our age is totally hollow and there is no way to find any solution. We feel that there is an outlet from the chaos. The highlights of the chapter are given below:

(i) W.H. Auden is very sensitive and is influenced by various factors.

(ii) Isherwood was his friend. He has remarked that Auden was a very sensitive, gifted and pre-cautious child. His mind was very receptive. Hence he was a scientist, musician and a ritualist. Iceland also influenced him because he was influenced by the heroic exploits.

(iii) Nearly all the poems of Eliot influenced his style. Among the other potent literary influences on him may be cited the sonnets of the German poet Rilke. The other literary influences are Skeleton and the Anglo-Saxon. His poetry reflects that he has amazing power of assimilation. He has a giant brain which could retain every type of experience.

(iv) Impact of Psychology is a very important formative influence on him. Hence his works are not dearth of ideas. Freud was very close to him and influenced him immensely.

(v) Lawrence and William Blake were sources of inspiration for W.B. Yeats. All these literary personalities added luster to his works.

(vi) Marx's influence was tremendous. His Marxism is much more a conception of human nature than a critical theory, a diagnosis of illness.

(vii) Kierkegaard was a philosopher who propounded a theory of existentialism. Kierkegaard divides human existence into two parts - the human and the divine. W.B. Yeat's divinity is derived from the first part.

(viii) Human choice has an important role in the twentieth century.

(ix) Influence of Christian theology reflects in his works.

(x) The last formative influence is America where he migrated. All his works here reflect the glory of life. Although men are imperfect and sinful yet they are good. Imperfection and sinfulness become good according to W.H. Auden. Hence we can get solace in the twentieth century by reading his sublime poems.

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