‘September 1, 1939’ is one of W. H. Auden’s most famous poems, although Auden (1907-73) later disowned the poem and banned it from appearing in collected editions of his work. As the poem’s title indicates, ‘September 1, 1939’ was written in early September 1939 – and although Auden didn’t actually write it in a New York bar, he was living in New York at this time (having moved there from England only months earlier). September 1, 1939 was the day on which Nazi Germany invaded Poland, causing the outbreak of the Second World War. Because the poem has resonated with so many readers (in both Auden’s own century and ours), and yet Auden himself came to detest it so strongly, ‘September 1, 1939’ requires some analysis.
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