Ideology of W. H. Auden Employ in his Poetry

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      Auden made a close study of the various ideology and "isms" Freudianism, Marxism, Existentialism, Humanism etc, so that he might be able to use them for improving the lot of his fellowmen. As Auden was growing to be a poet his country was passing through one of the most critical periods of its history. Auden therefore, was expelled by an urge to use his poetic talent for a sacred cause - the amelioration of the economic, social and political condition of his country in which he felt "nobody was well".

      Auden felt very much emotionally disturbed by the challenging social and economic problems around him. During all the three phases of his poetic career - the early, the middle and the last phase - he is equally concerned about man's miserable plight and is preoccupied with exploring ways and means of pulling him out of the terrible Situation. His concern was emotional but his treatment was intellectual which made his poetry a little difficult for the average reader.

Auden felt very much emotionally disturbed by the challenging social and economic problems around him. During all the three phases of his poetic career - the early, the middle and the last phase - he is equally concerned about man's miserable plight and is preoccupied with exploring ways and means of pulling him out of the terrible Situation. His concern was emotional but his treatment was intellectual which made his poetry a little difficult for the average reader.
W. H. Auden

      Auden wrote poetry with the specific purpose of contributing his mite for the betterment of his country and countrymen. He had a great sympathy for "the lonely, the lost and the unhappy", and so in his early phase, he employed his knowledge of psychology for diagnosing their ailments and suggesting a cure. After sometime, when he read Marx and Engels, he began to suggest Marxism as a possible solution. But when Marxism also began to seem 'inadequate', he went back to "Love" and became its ardent advocate, as he found it to have a great healing effect. This ultimately led him to adopt Christianity. Though Auden's poetry cannot be said to have a very coherent system of philosophy, it is inspired by a strong purpose and cast into an intellectual mould. His poetry is based on ideas which he found relevant from time to time for the realisation of his purpose.

      In his early phase, Auden emphasizes the need for establishing a new order which, he says, man can bring about only by changing himself as well as the conditions around him. He felt that the conditions in the thirties were most uncongenial for man's harmonious development. Those conditions, if left unchanged could bring disaster to human personality. Man had therefore, to make a choice between change and death. Man must change himself and his surroundings if he wanted to survive. Auden thus creates in his readers an awareness of his unfortunate situation and a realization of the need of conquering those forces within himself which prevent him from bringing about the necessary change in himself and his surroundings. For a time, Marxism seemed the answer, but the poetry of his religious phase makes it clear that Christianity alone can bring man that peace and harmony which he needs most and which he is struggling hard to find. Auden accepted the Christian concept of Sin, Grace and Redemption because as Joseph Warren Beach writes, "he had been so utterly disillusioned with regard to man's capacity for goodness". He ultimately realized that it was only by accepting the Christian belief that man is essentially a sinner that life could become bearable. How life could be made bearable or acceptable was Auden's life long concern. His answer now was that if man concedes his sinful nature, he becomes full of humility which replaces him pride for being the noblest of God's creations. He can also live in greater harmony with his neighbours and friend once he concedes his sinful nature. People will come closer to one another as they realize that they are all sinners. This will pave the way for a happy society in which it will be possible for man to develop his personality according to his wish. This is the ultimate goal of life and any civilized society must work in that direction.

      Though his means of arriving at this goal changed from time to time, the goal always remained the same. Auden's emphasis on different subjects shifted because he is determined to explore a system or ideology that will bring about man's spiritual regeneration which alone can solve all his problems. His social and psychological ideas and humanistic an religious beliefs were all harnessed for the same purpose. The fact that he prayed both for the lost and good souls goes to prove that his concern was humanitarian, but at bottom it is religious:

We pray the power to take upon themselves the guilt
Of human action, though still as ready to confess
The imperfection of what can and must be built
The wish and power to act, forgive, and bless.

      Auden combines an intense inherent in the human heart with a desire to reform society, and he thinks our psychological ills greater than our political. He is naturally attracted to the study of human psyche, and especially the psyche when it is twisted. He is convinced of the urgent need for mental therapy; he believes that the spread and assimilation of the findings of psychology can help society towards health. He thinks that the human creature must nurse the sense and decency.

      As a student at Oxford, Auden gained an extensive knowledge of the theories of modern psychology which as Stephen Spender observes, he used as a means of understanding himself and dominating his friends". The knowledge of psychology was also of immense help too him in diagnosing the ills and ailments of the individual as well as the society which was the main concern of his life and art. In fact, it was his rich background of psychology that led him to believe that the poet's first duty is to be "clinically-minded". Thus the influence of the psychologists is most important at this stage. The ideas of death-wish, the supremacy of the unconscious, repression and guilt, the conflict between the ego and the superego, anxiety and instinctual life, neurosis and Oedipus Complex found in his early poem are all Freudian ideas. From Groddeck he learned that the "unconscious" is a part of the psycho which itself is a part of "It". "It" according to Groddeck is "deepest nature and force of man" which is responsible for everything that happens with and through and in man; it is responsible for his existence. Auden accordingly, treats "It" as the Creative life-force in his early phase and believes that if man lives in harmony with his creative life-force, he leads a happy life, but if he suppresses it or ignores it, he will not be a normal man. Suppression or repression of "It" also produces diseases. Auden used the idea he got from the psychologists to analyse the sickness and unhappiness of the modern man, and the moral and spiritual degeneration of the society at large. Man must revolt against those acts and institutions which hampered the free and natural growth of his personality. This becomes the themes of Auden's early poetry.

      Then he comes under the influence of Karl Marx. Marx and Engels were held in high esteem during this decade not only by Auden but by almost all the writers and poets of this time. They considered capitalism as the source of all evils, and hence, regarded Marx and Engels as the saviours of the masses who were being exploited by the capitalists. Their views regarding class struggle their condemnation of those who denied the workers the full reward of their labour and their rejection of the government of the capitalists seemed very appealing to Auden as well as the other intellectuals of the age. Among such great writers of the decade as William Empson, Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender there was "a near unanimity" on Marxism as the remedy for all social ills. It is said that Auden's influence brought them together and it was because of Auden that they shared the belief that Marxism was the only solution of the social crisis in their country.

      Auden was also impressed by Marx's theory that human knowledge and history are born our of an interaction between man and his environment. In an essay Auden wrote:

"On the whole Marx seems to me correct in his view that physical conditions and the forms of economic production have dictated the forms of communities" and "Again Marx seems to me correct in saying that sovereignty or government is not the result of a contract made by society as a whole, but has been assumed by those people in society who owned the instruments of production".

      The change in Auden's themes was not abrupt; there is no sudden break, but an easy transition from Freud to Marx. Psychologists wanted to begin by changing the individual. Marxists wanted to start by changing the environment. The need for change was felt by both camps. The psychologists believed that a 'Change of heart' would change society, but Marxists believed that a change of the social environment would make a new man. To the early Auden the Freudian recommendation seemed more promising; now he pinned his faith on the Marxist way. Both the psychologists and Marxists portrayed life as a power struggle between opposite forces.

      The combination of Auden's impersonal presentation of poetry and his serious moral and didactic purpose in writing places him in a paradoxical situation. To achieve the goal in his poetry Auden has adopted an artifice that reflects his consciousness of himself as an actor and his desire to lead the reader to similar self-awareness. He has insisted on the necessity of re-establishing contact with the world outside ones own subjectively. His success in bringing his private vision into contact with the public world has demonstrated that poetry need not abandon even such a world as we live in.

      Auden changed his means of arriving at this goal from time to time but his goal always remained the same. To quote Prot Beach's remark, we have to walk warily and make allowance for a good deal of interpretation of ideas and attitudes from the several periods ana ideological system. While the terms change and emphasis shifts, there is a continuity of feeling and drive that tends towards the assimilation of views in one stage to those in another". The terms change and the emphasis shifts because Auden is determined to explore a system or ideology that will bring about man's spiritual regeneration which alone can solve all his problems. In fact Auden is a successful poet in bringing about a synthesis of various ideas and beliefs in his poetry.

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