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".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?