Use of Myth In Auden’s Poetry | Mythology in Modern British Poetry by Auden


Use of myth in Auden’s poetry will really vivid in our discussion. Myths and fantasies are dearest to the poets especially to the one of the school of modernism. T.S Eliot, W.B Yeats and W.H Auden are no exception to it. The modernists have among other things lost their sense of possession. They have lost all meanings in life. Futility emptiness and nothingness can best describe their poetical world. They have been uprooted from their culture and tradition.

But, life, if it is to be lived, can never rest on ‘nothing’. Really culture and tradition make human life worth living and myth is one of the dominant manifestation of culture. Auden’s use of myths in the poem gives him amazing scope to define the various roles of artist their work, and of the audience in changed context of 20th century.

The Shield of Achilles Analysis

In the poem “The Shield of Achilles”, Auden exploits Greek myths to his purpose of delineating a modern world. We encounter two words: the classical and the modern world. Thetis, the goddess mother of Achilles Hephaestus and Achilles represent the classical world. The new shield made by the God Hephaestus symbolizes a modern world that is afflicted with war, violence and dangerous crimes.

use of myth in Auden's poetry

Though Thetis is a mythic figure belonging to the Greek Mythology, Auden exploits her for his own poetic purpose of delineating  a fractured modern world. In the ordinal mythology in Homer’s “The Iliad”, Thetis is not found to be lamentic for those who would die in the Trojan war.

She is found to be much worried about her son’s safety and his premature death- a death that is doomed by God, but here she seems to be worried about the safety of mankind. Auden has transformed Thetis into a different figure that stands for the modern conscience raising its voice against all war and blood sheeding.

In the first part of the poem, Auden has described the Homeric Shield of Achilles on which brightness and Shield of Achilles on which brightness and beauty of Greek World has been inscribed. The vines, Olives trees, marvel status, well admistretened cities with ship sailing in the seas are the beauty of Greek world. He says:

“She looked over his shoulder

For vines and olive trees

Marble well-governed cities

And Ships upon untamed seas

But there on the shining metal

His hands had put instead

An artificial wilderness

And a sky like lead”

You may watch the following youtube video about The Shield of Achilles by Wh Auden

In the part we get the contrast between earthy shield of modern word and Homeric Shield. In modern shield we see the picture of a modern wasteland. We get the picture of the land which is totally barren without any feature or a blade of grass. There is nothing to eat and no place to sit and rest. This is the modern wasteland full of croud to think for themselves and mechanically carry out the dietates of their leaders and rulers.

“A million eyes, a million boats in line

Without expression  waiting for a sign”

In Memory Of W.B. Yeats

In the poem “In memory of W.B Yeats”, Auden mourns for great poet’s death Yeats. Here nature is represented in mythical way. Death is the law of nature. But Auden does not glorify yeats. Auden looks upon the death of Yeats the individual as an ordinary occurrence. His death did not affect the order of things Yeats dies physically, but his poetry lives after him.

“The words of a dead man

Are modified in the gut of the living”

Watch the following video about the poem In the Memory Of W.B Yeats by Wh Auden

In this poem Auden portrays the negative aspects of human attitude. He tells about the terrible years preceding the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the yeat of Yeats death. In that time all Europe is in the grief of the terror of war and the blood thirsty leaders of Europe are treating each other. Nation live in isolation for their selfishness. People hate each other because of ideological and political difference. He says in the this poem in the following way:

“In the nightmare of dark

All the days of Europe bark

And the living nations wait

Each sequestered in its hate”

Auden Lullaby Analysis

In the poem “Lullaby” the story of Cindrella mythologically illustrates the them of love. As the charm of magic in the case of Cindrella was to last only till midnight. The poet says in the following ways:

“Beauty, midnight, vision dies

Let the winds of dawn that blow”

“But in my arms till break of day

Let the living creature lie

Mortal guilty but to me

The entirely beautiful”

You may get the taste of the poem Lullaby by Wh Auden in the following video:

Musee Des Beaux Arts Analysis

In the poem “Muses Des Beaux”, Auden pictures the mythical tragedy like the crucification of Christ and Icarus who falls from sky into the sea.

W.H Auden’s life-long artistic commitment to Iceland and particularly to Medival Iceland literature can be divided conveniently for analysis into four distinct stages. First as a young, he listeded to his father’s stories our of Norse myth. He recalled years latter that he knew more than of Norse myth that of Greek:

“With northern myths my little brain was laden

With deeds of Thor and Loki and such scenes”

Anyway my dear students, you may watch the following video by Youtube Channel SixMinuteScholor

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