For many years there existed a general feeling that the selection made by Auden himself in 1968 was far from satisfactory. It was too short to provide a full introduction to such a large body of work; perhaps it was too weighted in favour of the later poetry; at the time it was made some famous poems, or portions of poems were still under an embargo imposed by Auden himself which remained in force until his death. This edition contains an introduction which is an examination of the nature of Audens genius and of his position and stature in 20th-century literature.
Auden is one of the great poets of the past century and one of the greatest ever in English. This is a particularly good collection of his work. The editor, Edward Mendelson, is a leading Auden scholar and Audens literary executor. This volume contains all of Audens major poetry including the great short lyrics, the major longer works, and my favorite, the great China sonnet sequence. In his later years, Auden altered the text of some famous earlier poems to change wordings he felt were false. In this edition, Mendelson uses the earlier versions of these subsequently altered verses. Many prefer the early versions though I find comparisons with the amended versions published in the equally wonderful Collected Poems, also edited by Mendelson, to be very interesting. I am not sure that the amended versions are worse, just different. It contains also a particularly insightful preface by Mendelson that does a very nice job of putting Auden into the context of 20th century English poetry. This is a wonderful book for those who love Audens work. It can be read over and over again. It is also an excellent introduction for those encountering Auden for the first time.
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