Mayhead is Reader in English at the University of Stirling; author of 'Understanding Literature1 (1965), 'John Keats' (1967), and 'Walter Scott' (1973).
'Mr. Auden's readers', the dust-jacket informs us, 'know him as an intellectual poet whose technical resourcefulness is always equal to the ceaseless development of his mind and sensibility; a poet who never arrests his progress or repeats himself...'. That might seem to be a challenge to those people who have from time to time had occasion to declare their disappointment at the stasis, the failure in fulfilment, of a poet who, amidst an arid literary scene, appeared in his early work to have the virtues of intelligence and vigour and a real, if at times irresponsible, feeling for language. A failure of growth, an absence of anticipated soundness and maturity, have for a number of readers seemed to mark the volumes published since the early 'Paid on Both Sides'; yet many must have hoped that Mr. Auden might suddenly, somehow, find himself again, might after all justify their early interest and expectation. It is well to say directly that 'Nones' does not give evidence of a turn for the good. Indeed, it gives the impression of being in the nature of a full-stop; or rather, perhaps, a path from which it seems improbably that Mr. Auden will ever wish really to stray.