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This report is taken from PN Review 176, Volume 33 Number 6, July - August 2007.

I Wish You Hadn't Caught That Cold Chris Wallace-Crabbe

All of a sudden, after decades, I've come to the conclusion that my central Auden poem is 'The Cave of Making', from the sequence 'Thanksgiving for a Habitat'. This elegiac ode stands out remarkably, wisely, from the clubbably clever poems that surround it, full of their wystany saws and modern instances: it abides. What is more, it distils the thinking and feeling processes of his later years, giving them 'a local habitation and a name'.

The sequence celebrates home, 'a toft-and-croft' or, better, 'a magic Eden without clocks', and is one of the elaborate suite paying tribute to the house which he and his wayward partner bought in Austria: where he spent his springs and summers for the final fifteen years.

Auden's cave was, of course, a study, that is to say his coal-face, and he loved it well, as the poem shows. I am quite happy to admit that the first two-and-a-half lines are a bit Gongorous, but by line five the reader is surely hooked. And in my own case, remains so. I bought the book which contains it in glamorous New York, back in 1965; even the cover and the Random House typography are sacred to me, after all these years of its possession. Yes, after all this time in which 'the sack of Silence' has proceeded faster and faster.

This spacious ode celebrates the poet's upstairs study, the room where he did his work in semi-rural Kirchstetten; at another ...


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