Auden is the worst famous poet of the 20th century. He simply cannot write a decent line, let alone a decent poem. Some of his very worst poems are among those “classics” found in every anthology of Modern poetry. They’ll continue to clog those penitential first-year university texts until we find the courage to laugh out loud at stanzas like this:
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
This, comrades, is just plain lousy poetry. In O, so many ways. O, let us count the ways. The most obvious defects of this stanza are technical, as in, Auden couldn’t make a decent rhyme to save his life. He starts with a full-rhyme couplet, “guest/rest,” and clearly meant to use a straightforward, undemanding AABB rhyme-scheme throughout this poem, as shown by the rhymes in the next stanza: “dark/bark/wait/hate.” But he can’t find a rhyme for “lie,” a word hundreds of humble pop lyricists have had no trouble slotting into their songs. Instead, we get the incredibly clunky “lie/poetry” – not a “slant rhyme” or “half rhyme” but an outright non-rhyme in any dialect of English.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment