chapter  89
5 Pages

Raymond Winkler, Review, 'scrutiny', October I94i

Simplicity, it will be recalled, was habitually Mr. Auden's strength and virtue. He was not, in fact, generally classed as one of the 'simple' poets: in verse, complexity of attitude towards a given situation on the one hand, and simplicity of attitude towards a complex situation on the other, have both given rise to accusations of obscurity. Mr. Auden's method was ordinarily the second of these, and by sticking firmly to a handful of easily-grasped principles, he steered his verses through the intricacies of contemporary existence and produced some interesting patterns of experience. The resultant scope constituted the virtue; the fact that he felt no compulsion to modify his attitudes under the stress of experience enabled him to explore a wide field of phenomena without confusion. The weakness of the plays sprang from the same source - this insistent singularity of outlook and intention was fundamentally undramatic: the apparent interplay of personality was soon revealed as the unsubtle clash of propaganda and counter-propaganda.