One of the 20th
Auden spent much of his later life in Austria.
From 1958-73 Auden summered at his farmhouse in Kirchstetten
near Vienna. He died in the Austrian capital on 29th September
1973 and is buried in the cemetery at Kirchstetten.
W.H. Auden, 1928
Bromide print, 1928,
John Bicknell Auden
© Estate of John Bicknell Auden
down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.
In her 1975 article Remembering
W.H. Auden in The New
Yorker, Hannah Arendt quotes
the following conversation between a young Auden and his tutor
And what are you going to do, Mr. Auden, when you leave
I am going to be a poet.
Wellin that case you should find it very useful
to have read English.
You dont understand. I am going to be a great
Wescoe, near Threlkeld, Cumbria
Auden's parents had a holiday home in the hamlet
Bromide print, 1928, John Bicknell Auden
© Estate of John Bicknell Auden
| Immigration to the US
Born in York in 1907, Wystan Hugh Auden rose to prominence
with poetry chronicling the political and social upheavals of
the years leading up to World War II.
Auden studied at Christ Church College, Oxford University
meeting his contemporaries Stephen Spender, Cecil Day-Lewis
and Louis MacNeice and also Christopher Isherwood who
he had been at school with and with whom he would later travel
On graduating in 1928 he spent a year in Berlin (not
Paris like many writers of the time), developing a lifelong
love for the German language and being influenced by Bertolt
Brecht. Isherwood joined Auden in the German capital and
when Auden returned to England Isherwood stayed on, writing
about his experiences in Goodbye to Berlin.
Auden married Erika Mann in 1935, enabling the daughter
of Thomas Mann to get a British passport and leave Nazi Germany.
Despite being a marriage of convenience, they were still married
when Mann died thirty-four years later.
In January 1939 Auden and Isherwood immigrated to the United
States (at the time a controversial decision in a
Britain facing the possibility of war). Auden settled in New
York and Isherwood travelled on to Los Angeles. They both became
sky is darkening like a stain;
Something is going to fall like rain,
And it won't be flowers.
| Summers in Europe
Auden was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize in 1948 for his era-defining The Age of Anxiety
and in 1956 he received a National Book Award for The
Shield of Achilles.
From 1948 Auden spent his summers
on the island of Ischia off Naples and from 1958 in the village
an hour's train journey west of Vienna. Due to his interest
in German literature he wanted to spend his summers in a German-speaking
country and be near an opera. With the help of Austrian friends
he knew through his visits to the Salzburg Festival he bought
a small farmhouse which would hold a special meaning for him:
it was the only property he ever owned. Bought with the award
money from winning the Feltrinelli Prize the previous
year, Auden was said to have been moved to tears when it was
He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1956,
taking over the post from Cecil Day-Lewis. Five years later
Robert Graves succeeded him.
On the death of the U.S. poet T.S.
Eliot, Auden was considered by many to be his successor
as the foremost poet working in the English language (a status
conferred on Eliot after the death of Yeats).
W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood
Central Park, New York
In January 1939 both writers immigrated to the U.S.
Toned bromide print, 1938, Louise Dahl-Wolfe
© Smith Archive / Alamy Stock Foto
'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.
Pen and ink, 1967, Don Bachardy
© Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Foto
to England | Vienna
Failing health led Auden to leave New York in 1972. He returned
to Europe to spend his winters in England, moving into a cottage
in the grounds of Christ Church College where he had once
Having spent the following summer in his farmhouse in Kirchstetten,
on 28th September 1973 Auden held a poetry recital at the Palais
Palffy on Josefsplatz in the Old Town of Vienna. He
returned to his nearby hotel to fly to England the next day
during the night.
has a memorial in Poets'
Corner in Westminster Abbey but is buried at the cemetery
in Kirchstetten where a
museum can be visited in his summer home.
I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie
1, 1939 (1940)
(Ed.) (1995). Oxford Companion to English Literature.
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Various (Eds.) (1995). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of
Literature. Springfield: Merriam-Webster
Auden Society. Retrieved 22.01.2022
The Academy of American Poets.
Retrieved 22.01.2022 from
The Poetry Foundation.
Retrieved 22.01.2022 from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/