W.H. Auden's Poems and Homosexuality Essay

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W.H. Auden's Poems and Homosexuality

W. H. Auden published “This lunar beauty” in 1930; he published “Now through night’s caressing grip” in 1935, and he published “Lay your sleeping head, my love” in 1937 (Auden 16; 41; 51). “[I]t has been argued that the first part of the twentieth century’s culture is dominated by attempts to keep homosexuality hidden, … [and a] number of homosexual writers in the period maintain public silence about their sex lives, and dramatize homosexual themes indirectly, if at all” (Caserio). While it’s unclear whether Auden’s abovementioned 1930s poems dramatize homosexual themes, they do share obscure settings and references to wandering, clandestine lovers who seek healing, safety, and freedom. The
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Fortunately, the soul has escaped from daytime into a place that “[k]eeps other time[,]” and “like a dream[,]” this place allows the soul the safety and freedom of expressing its latent, subconscious desires. However, this new place has its flaws, too:

But this was never A ghost’s endeavour Nor finished this, Was ghost at ease; And till it pass Love shall not near The sweetness here Nor sorrow take His endless look. (16-24)

The soul didn’t have the initial goal of only being able to express its love under the faint light of the moon, and when this faint light changes to the glaring light of the sun, the soul is sorrowful that its love can no longer be openly expressed. It finds temporary healing in this lunar beauty, but only “till it pass[es;]” after that, the soul once again has to be fickle and unwillingly keep a measured distance from its love. A similar sentiment is expressed in “Now through night’s caressing grip”:

Now the ragged vagrants creep Into crooked holes to sleep: … Awkward lovers lie in fields… May sleep’s healing power extend Through these hours to our friend. Unpursued by hostile force,… Calmly till the morning
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