After flirting with romantic fascism like that represented by the thought of D. H. Lawrence and then dabbling in left-wing ideologies such as communism, socialism, and various liberal movements in the 1930’s, W. H. Auden rediscovered the Christianity of his boyhood and returned to the Anglican church in 1939, not long after emigrating to the United States. Influenced by his conversion (or regeneration) after a meeting with Charles Williams and a reading of his history of Christianity, The Descent of the Dove (1939), Auden was also energized by reading Reinhold Niebuhr’s books and by his discovery of Søren Kierkegaard’s work.
Moreover, Auden had been disillusioned by political ideologies during his visit to Spain during the Civil War (1936-1937) and by encounters with both fascism and human cruelty in the slaughter of animals. Finally, the invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler’s Germany shocked Auden into a vivid awareness of human evil, although he had expected that German aggression would create war. Feeling that liberal humanism did not offer an adequate explanation for the problem of evil, Auden chose to return to Christianity—in large part because it offered a coherent vision of life. However, although Anglican Christianity became for Auden both an intellectual and an emotional commitment, his adherence to this faith did not prevent him from continuing in a lengthy homosexual relationship with Chester Kallman, an American Jewish intellectual, nor from occasional involvement in other sexual liaisons, including at least one relationship with a woman (Rhoda Jaffe, a New York intellectual and a possible model for Rosetta in Auden’s poem).
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Ecologue, which won the Pulitzer Prize, is one of three long poetic works that Auden wrote mainly during World War II, which, following his decision to leave England, he spent in the United States as a freelance reviewer, lecturer, and instructor....
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