chapter  79
3 Pages

Geoffrey Grigson, Review, 'new Verse', May 1939

All who have believed in Auden are by this time a hundred times justified. This strange creature, this monster out of Birmingham and the middle classes, flying about at night like the owl's ear*in his own poems, has seemed to many of us at times likely to fail. The ear might catch sounds, the photo-electric cell might react, the lense might gather in a scene, the seismograph might detect a shiver, but now and then it looked as if we were going to get nothing but the fragments, the sensations, the brilliant summaries here and there in an image, the brilliant buffoonery, the excitement, the animal manoeuvres which have sometimes been pastiche, sometimes mannerism of Auden's own extravagant and excellent manner. But we are in luck. Auden has already written poems in which his power to catch things is equalled by his power to give them meaning and shape, and the twenty-seven sonnets called 'In Time of War' are more, and some of the best of this humane poetry in which goodness becomes actual, delightful and persuasive.