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November 03, 2013

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Auden was not an American poet--and this version of "Autumn Song" is not the better one.

Autumn Song
Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last;
Nurses to the graves are gone,
And the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours, left and right,
Pluck us from the real delight;
And the active hands must freeze
Lonely on the separate knees.

Dead in hundreds at the back
Follow wooden in our track,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Starving through the leafless wood
Trolls run scolding for their food;
And the nightingale is dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Cold, impossible, ahead
Lifts the mountain's lovely head
Whose white waterfall could bless
Travellers in their last distress.

This is the better version.
-

I would contest the view that Auden was not an American poet. True, when he wrote this poem he had never been to America. But he came to America in 1939, settled in New York, and became a naturalized US citizen (in 1946, I believe). He is at least as American as St. Louis native T. S. Eliot is English.

I prefer “able hands”, and “lonely” to “derelict “.

Also, the “thes” in these two lines can be omitted.

I, too, vote for "able hands," and I guess "lonely," while not ideal, is superior to "derelict." -- DL

I would contest the view that Auden was not an American poet. True, when he wrote this poem he had never been to America. There were two main periods, and there are those who feel that the English Auden of the 1930s is the authentic voice. But he came to America in 1939, settled in New York, wrote a couple of his greatest and most ambitious poems in the US (the Freud elegy, "Sept 1, 1939," "Under Which Lyre). He became a naturalized US citizen (in 1946, I believe). He is nearly as American as St. Louis native T. S. Eliot is English.

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