W. H. Auden

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What were Auden's main contributions as a poet?

W. H. Auden is a poet known for his profound learning and wide travels. He travelled as far as Germany, Japan, China, and Spain and often wrote poems based on his travels. War, love, and loss are common themes for Auden, who is also known for how emotively he describes his homosexual relationships. Finally, Auden often refers to classical and artistic subjects in his poems, further evidencing the depth of his erudition.

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W. H. Auden is often regarded as the most prominent poet of the twentieth century, and not without reason. He lived between 1907 and 1973, and his first book of poetry was simply titled Poems. As for his contributions to poetry in general, Auden travelled widely, and his poetry reflects that. For example, his poem "Spain" highlights the political strife and physical atrocities that Auden himself witnessed during the Spanish Civil War. Auden's 1939 poem "Crisis" was written on occasion of the Germans' invasion of Poland. Others of Auden's travel poems include "From London to Hong Kong" and "Sonnets from China" (whose subject is loosely the Sino-Japanese War, but which is also a commentary on humankind's tendency to show aggression).

In addition to his travels, Auden's poetry also treats homosexual love, such as his famous 1940 poem "Lullaby." Love and loss are common themes for Auden, and another of his poems, "Stop all the clocks," is often featured in popular culture in the context of funerals. The poem poignantly describes life's seeming lack of meaning resulting from the death of a loved one.

Another hallmark of Auden's poetry is its obvious showcase of his learning and erudition. For example, his "Shield of Achilles" is based on the Iliad's description of the hero's famous shield. The "Musée des Beaux Arts" takes as its ostensible subject a famous Pieter Brueghel paining while also asserting the inevitable suffering of humans.

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