"Who stands, the crux left of the watershed. " (August 1927)
This poem is fragmented and quite obscure, perhaps a production of modernist work - those who wanted to revive old and classical forms. It this is so then the poem can almost be seen as a rejection of current liberty models. The prose is slightly broken, the syntax awkward which is apparent in the very first line to some extent this reflects the broken society that Auden feels he is part of. He writes about "An industry already comatose" which reflects his view of what the desecration to the surrounding landscape signifies - a destructive modernized force. Not only is the industry dead but so are those who worked for it: "And further here and there, though many dead / Lie under the poor soil, some acts are chosen" Auden writes of the miners who have died in the shaft for the sake of the industry. He also recognizes the power of his poetry - they are chosen by the poet and the poem rather than the world.
The second stanza of the poem takes on a very different tone he didactic: "Go home, now, stranger, proud of your young stock". He is ironic and sets the young stock up in direct opposition to the dead and old-fashioned industry; it is a sardonic poke and the new world. Throughout the stanza it is hinted that the stranger is young and privileged: "Beams from your car may cross a bedroom wall" - he owns modern, wealthy commodities. Yet Auden warns this person that he is merely transitory - he will make his mark and then it will disappear and no one will notice - just like the beam of the car on the wall. Whereas the first stanza was very particular - a specific location, even places named ("At Cashwell raises water") the second is much more general - we are introduced to a generic man - a symbol of the modern world. The poem ends on an ominous note: "Ears poised before decision, scenting danger." The warning tone again reminds the reader that nothing is definite and the world continually changes.
"Consider this and in our time ." (March 1930)
This first line sets the dictatorial tone of the poem which is imperative in its mood and assertive and direct towards the reader we are being asked to take a step back from and criticize the bourgeois civilization ("As the hawk sees it or the helmeted air-man"). The poem itself is fractured - made up of a series of random observances, he preaches about modern life asserting that there is a sickness in society that is spread by the individual - in the fifth stanza he specifies - pointing to societys characters - the "financier" and the "nurse". This image of sickness is continually presented to us yet we are meant to view it dispassionately, void of emotions through "plate-glass windows". The poet directs us to observe the attractiveness of a garden "border" which is mitigated by the dirty unpleasant detail of a "cigarette-end smouldering" there. We are shown this debased world as if through the eye of a news camera, homing in on particular atrocities.
In the second stanza Auden alludes to the Freudian concept of a "supreme Antagonist" - the idea that the wide-spread neuroses is evidence of the decay of capitalist society that Karl Marx so condemned. He warns the financier that "the game is up for you" in the fifth stanza. Contemporaries of Audens also mixed the ideas of Marx of Freud, Spender and Jack Lindsey spring to mind. Along with his tirade against the society he so despises he also includes warnings, he is almost sympathetic towards those whom he condemns.
The third section becomes more obscure, syntax and grammar are complicated. In a sense e turns "supreme Antagonist" - what Bayley refers to as the Freudian death wish set on the destruction of the "high-born mining captains", the "handsome and diseased youngsters" and the "solitary agents in country parishes". The tone of this stanza is elevated - full of lofty diction. He writes of "strangled orchards" where an idyll is debased by death and destruction, of "a bird [who] was shot" - an image of freedom abruptly halted. Within this stanza there is a sense of melodrama, a certain sensationalism and sense of burlesque:
"Which spreading magnified, shall come to be
A polar peril, a prodigious alarm"
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