Happy birthday, W. H. Auden!
Today marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of one of the most influential and brilliant poets of the 20th century. Wystan Hugh Auden was born on February 21, 1907, in York, England, and would go on to become one of the leading literary figures of his time.
Auden was a master of many forms, including the sonnet, the elegy, and the ballad, and his poetry was known for its wit, intelligence, and deep insights into the human condition. He was also a prolific writer of essays, plays, and libretti, and his work was deeply influenced by his love of literature, music, and philosophy.
One of the things that made Auden’s work so enduring was his ability to speak to the universal human experience. His poetry grappled with themes of love, loss, identity, and the meaning of life, and he had a way of expressing these ideas in a way that was both profound and accessible.
Auden was also a bit of a mischief-maker, and his wit and humor shone through in his poetry and prose. In one of his most famous poems, “The Unknown Citizen,” Auden takes aim at the bureaucracy and conformity of modern society, poking fun at the “model citizen” who is praised by the government but unknown to his neighbors.
But Auden was more than just a poet—he was also a deeply committed activist and humanitarian. He used his platform to speak out against injustice and inequality, and his work often served as a commentary on the political and social issues of his time.
In the 1940s, Auden became deeply involved in the fight against fascism, and he used his poetry to rally support for the cause. One of his most famous poems, “September 1, 1939,” written on the eve of World War II, speaks to the horror and tragedy of war and the importance of standing up to evil.
Auden’s work continues to be read and admired to this day, and his birthday is a perfect opportunity to celebrate his life and legacy. So raise a glass to W. H. Auden—a brilliant poet, a sharp wit, and a tireless advocate for justice and equality. Here’s to many more birthdays, Mr. Auden!