Early Auden poems discovered in school magazine from 1920s
A collection of previously unknown poems, thought to be early examples of the work of W H Auden, have been unearthed in a school magazine.
The poems, which will form part of centenary celebrations for Wystan Hugh Auden at Gresham's School next week, were discovered by John Smart, a former head of art, who chanced across them while researching the life of another literary old boy. Mr Smart is writing a biography of John Hayward, a close friend of T S Eliot and an important critic of his work. In the course of his research, he read old copies of The Gresham, the magazine Hayward edited during his time at the school in Holt, Norfolk, where he was a pupil a couple of years before Auden.
In one of the journals, Mr Smart came across a poem entitled "Evening and Night on Primrose Hill", which, like most of the verse in the magazine, was unsigned.
In her definitive collection of Auden's "Juvenilia", the author Katherine Bucknell refers to a sonnet the poet wrote about Primrose Hill in north-west London, which had been lost. The poem was also published opposite "Dawn", which is accepted as one of Auden's early works.
Although what he had found was not a sonnet, Mr Smart detected some Auden hallmarks, including the rhyme of "hill" and "still" and "the way that he likes to end his poems with almost an epiphany". The poem was published on 16 December 1922, the year in which Auden decided to become a poet while on a walk with his friend Robert Medley. During the walk, in March, Medley asked Auden whether he wrote poetry. Years later, Auden recalled his reply in his poem "Letter to Lord Byron": "I never had, and said so, but I knew/ That very moment what I wished to do."
Auden knew Primrose Hill, from his visits to stay with Medley, who lived in London. The poem describes how: "City men in bowler hats, return now day is done/ Rejoicing in the embers of the sun."
Mr Smart believes a second poem published in The Gresham, on 28 July 1923, entitled "To a Tramp met in the Holidays in Monmouthshire", can also be attributed to Auden. The poet, whose family hailed from Birmingham, was a regular visitor to Monmouth, and it is unlikely that many of his fellow pupils at Gresham's, the most easterly public school in England, would have known the area. And again, the poem contains Auden's trademark rhyme: "hill/ still".
There is less evidence to link a third poem, "Enchanted", to Auden, but Mr Smart argues that its subject matter – an enchanted pool where "Merlin shall entice thy feet", reflected the poet's debt to Walter de la Mare's poems on magic and fairies.
Mr Smart said: "None of the poems I've found I could claim was a great poem." But, he added that the juxtaposition of "Evening and Night on Primrose Hill" and the more traditional "Dawn" in 1922, the year in which T S Eliot's The Waste Land and James Joyce's Ulysses were published, showed "the modern, put against the old way – two totally different styles".
- 1 Dentist who illegally killed Cecil the lion blames local guides for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: American dentist revealed as the killer of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe
Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
Walter Palmer: American dentist revealed as the killer of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
£25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This London based publishing co...
£13500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Previous experience is benefici...
£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A technical SharePoint Consulta...