chapter  7
M . D . Zabel, Review, 'poetry', May 1931
Pages 1

W.H. Auden has applied himself to a reconstruction of emotional values, personal and social. He wishes neither to ignore the motives established by science, nor to lapse into that lethargy of irony and despair which has overtaken most of the 'realistic' novelists and life-forcers of recent years. He hopes to invest with new moral and ethical necessity the ideals of affection, sympathy, and honour where these have become deflated by psychological and sociological research:

[Quotes stanzas 9-11 of Poem XXII ('Will you turn a deaf ear...') EA, 36,]

Mr. Auden's present volume is hardly more than a prospectus for such a task. Its greatest value lies in the certainty of his poetic gifts. He has treated the traditional topics of love, beauty, and delight without the spurious sentiment which tears the poet out of his proper mind and his proper age; he has likewise avoided the scientific jargon which has misled too many dissatisfied modern writers. His style is, in fact, an instrument subtle enough for greater tasks than have thus far been exacted of it. The progressive consonance in rhymes and phrases, the dove-tailing of images, the sometimes solemn and sometimes ironic juxtaposition of sober words with comic and of traditional with 'new' - all these combine to