Unsigned Review, 'times Literary Supplement', July 1952
The excuse is easier to accept than the perfunctory bathos of that last line, especially when it is taken with the conventional opening reference to 'golden hours, When body and soul were in tune.' There is, of course, nothing to prevent wryness and irony from becoming automatic and habitual, and there are poems in this volume which come perilously near to self-parody - see, for example, 'The Fall of Rome' and 'Love Feast' (both of which also have marked reminiscences of the Sweeney poems), 'Music Ho' and 'To Mr. T.S. Eliot on his Sixtieth Birthday.' Images of doom and
decay, in particular, have become poetic commonplace, as Mr. Auden is well aware when he stops to think, but he still turns too readily to 'abandoned trains,1 'fluinfected cities' and 'worn lopsided Grindstones buried in nettles.' It seems inevitable that he should locate an airport 'where two fears intersect.' At times he drops into the older glib smartness of phrase and rhythm: this is all very well in such an academic squib as 'Under Which Lyre,' to which, though overlong and a trifle laboured, much may be forgiven for its commandment,
Thou shalt not sit With statisticians, nor commit
A social science.