chapter  66
2 Pages

Stephen Spender, Oxford to Communism

A final word about Influences - or perhaps I should say, crazes. For Auden is deeply rooted in the English tradition, and his debt to most of the great writers of the past is too obvious to need comment here. The crazes were all short-lived: they left plenty of temporary damage but few lasting traces. The earliest I remember was for Edwin Arlington Robinson. It found expression in about half a dozen poems (all scrapped) and notably in some lines about 'a Shape' in an Irish mackintosh which malice urges but friendship forbids me to quote. Then came Emily Dickinson. You will find her footprints here and there among the earlier poems: for example,

Nor sorrow take His endless look. [This lunar beauty, EA, 52]

Then Bridges published 'The Testament of Beauty,' and Auden wrote the poem beginning: 'Which of you waking early and watching daybreak...' which appeared in the first Faber edition, but was removed from later impressions. Finally, there was Hopkins: but, by this time, Auden's literary digestive powers were stronger: he made a virtue of imitation, and produced the brilliant parody-ode to a rugger fifteen which appears at the end of 'The Orators.'