WH Auden’s classic elegy of his contemporary WB Yeats has withstood the test of time. Even after five decades of its first publication, the poem is fresh in its invocation of feelings of loss and suffering. The loss and suffering are so much at the deceased artist and the cessation of his work, but more pointedly at the larger lamentation of the futility of poetry as an instrument of social change. This is one area where Auden transgresses the traditional elegy form.
Auden’s work is atypical of the elegy genre in many other ways. Firstly, he makes no attempt to praise the object of his attention. Nor does he overtly express a sensation of loss at the demise of the artist. Instead, Auden uses the scaffolding of the three part elegy form in putting forth his observations on the nature of poetry. Although it is a fairly pessimistic viewpoint it does not lack in merit. Using the imagery in a redemptive fashion, the elegy
“begins in a frozen landscape, as . . . Read MoreContinue Reading