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"Turn her desperate longing to love": W. H. Auden, Denis de Rougemont, and lyric love poetry.

It is widely acknowledged that W. H. Auden's poetry underwent significant changes during and after his return to Christianity in 1940, though both Edward Mendelson and Alan Jacobs have done much to explain exactly how Auden changed after his conversion and to show that those changes were not as abrupt or drastic as earlier critics had supposed. As both Mendelson and Jacobs reveal, many of Auden's post-conversion "changes" are traceable to his pre-conversion concerns, and Mendelson in particular traces the ways in which Auden's views on history and religion continued to develop in the thirty years following his return to the Anglican communion. But many critics are still sympathetic to Philip Larkin's famous complaint that the young, quasi-Marxist Auden based his poetry on experience while the older, Christian Auden based his poetry on books (125). The statement is too broad to be accurate--Auden's poetry had always been based at least partly on books, whether his early readers realized it or not--but Larkin is right to imply inadvertently that a reader of Auden's poems benefits from knowing which books Auden thought important when he wrote each poem. Auden read several important books shortly before and during his return to Christianity, including Charles Williams' The Descent of the Dove, Charles Norris Cochrane's Christianity and Classical Culture, Augustine's Confessions, and the works of Pascal and Kierkegaard (see Auden, The Complete Works of W. H. Auden: Prose 2: 248; and Mendelson, Later Auden 124-27), and the influence of several of these books on Auden has been ably traced by Mendelson, John Fuller, and others. However, not even Mendelson has sufficiently explored Auden's heavy reliance on Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World in the lyric love poetry he wrote in the 1940s; and while Rougemont's influence on Auden waned in the 1950s, Rougemont was in large part responsible for showing Auden that the tension between erotic and altruistic loves might possibly be resolved. In this article I wish to examine the ways in which Auden used Rougemont's ideas about love in his poems and to explain why, after about 1950, Auden largely stopped referring to Rougemont and wrote comparatively fewer love poems than he had written in the 1930s and 1940s.

Some of Auden's best-known poems are love poems. From his first major poetic efforts in his 1928 verse play Paid on Both Sides, which involves a struggle between family loyalty and marital love, to his lyrics of the late 1930s such as "Lullaby" and "As I Walked Out One Evening," to post-conversion poems like "In Praise of Limestone" and "The Love Feast," Auden's poetry repeatedly returns to the conflicts between different kinds of love. His early poetry is often concerned with the troubled relationship between friendship and sex, and after his return to Christianity, the question of how God relates to them both vexes and energizes his poetry. From the beginning, Auden did implicitly recognize a difference between the selfish love epitomized by sexual desire and the altruistic love epitomized in friendship between equals, and his poetry from the 1930s exhibits continual regret that the two forms of love never manage to coexist permanently. Monroe Spears plausibly argues that Auden's post-conversion views on love changed significantly in the 1940s, during which time "Auden shifts from this initial tendency to regard Eros and Agape as wholly distinct (in the manner of Kierkegaard, Barth, Nygren, and extreme Protestants in general) to the view that they are conjoinable in the Catholic concept of Caritas" ("The Divine Comedy of W. H. Auden" 60). Spears had also claimed in an earlier work that "The classic Protestant exposition of the radical distinction between Agape and Eros is Anders Nygren's Agape and Eros... the Roman Catholic position is that the two are united in Caritas.... Auden's attitude has always been Protestant in this respect" (The Poetry of W. H. Auden 164n). But I argue instead that Auden's post-conversion work of the 1940s was heavily influenced by Rougemont, who suggested to Auden that agape and eros might be reconciled despite the fact that they are frequently in conflict. While Auden was clearly enthusiastic about Kierkegaard, and he read Barth with interest, his reading of Rougemont led him to be very critical of the dour views of eros expressed by Anders Nygren.

The timing of Auden's return to Christianity was crucial in this regard. In 1936, Nygren, a Swedish Lutheran theologian, had finished his monumental work Agape and Eros, in which he argued that eros, desire that seeks its own satisfaction, had no place in Christianity, and that Augustine and the Medieval theologians had perverted Christian agape, a totally selfless love, by attempting to recover eros as a valid element of Christianity. Against this background of a developing Protestant theology that viewed eros and agape as diametrically opposed, Auden made his way back to the Church. In April of 1939, just a few months after he had emigrated to America with Christopher Isherwood, Auden met a young Jewish man named Chester Kallman in New York City, and the two quickly became close friends. The development of the relationship between Auden and Kallman is well documented in several books, particularly in Carpenter's W. H. Auden: A Biography, as well as in Richard Davenport-Hines's Auden and Dorothy Farnan's Auden in Love, and by all accounts Auden found Kallman attractive both physically and intellectually. Only a few weeks after the two first met, Carpenter says, Auden was contemplating entering into "a marriage with all its boredoms and rewards" (261). By May of 1939, Auden's friends found him referring to his relationship with Kallman as a marriage, and he had begun to wear a wedding band (Carpenter 262). As the relationship quickly developed, Auden began in earnest his difficult trek back to the church by reading Pascal, Augustine, and eventually Kierkegaard (see Auden, Complete Works: Prose, 2: 248).

As Auden was settling in New York, the political situation in Europe was worsening, and it already seemed inevitable that Britain if not America would go to war with Nazi Germany. In September of that year Auden wrote "September 1, 1939." which contained the line "We must love one another or die" (The English Auden 246). The poem has been irrepressibly popular despite Auden's eventual renunciation of its most famous line as "a damned lie" (qtd. in English Auden 326), and the provenance of the poem has been thoroughly traced by Mendelson and others (see Early Auden 325-26). The poems view of love, however, is characteristic of Auden's vague and shifting ideas about love in the 1930s. Eros appears in the poem, not in sexual terms, but as a more general self-centeredness:
 the error bred in the bone
 Of each woman and each man
 Craves what it cannot have,

 Not universal love
 But to be loved alone. (English Auden 246)


The desire "to be loved alone" is "bred in the bone"; that is, the will to deny love to others is inherent in the very physical nature of all humans. The last stanza of the poem returns to this account of human nature. The poet says he is "composed ... / Of Eros and of dust" (English Auden 247). While "Dust" refers to God forming man "of dust from the ground" (Gen. 2:7, English Standard Version), "Eros" here suggests the natural, biological impetus towards gratification. It is in this sense that Auden used the word "love" in the infamous line, "We must love one another or die" (English Auden 246). "Love" in this case is not altruism but physical desire, and Auden would offer a corrective years later in a poem called "First Things First;' in which he states, "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water" (Collected Poems 584). (1)

But the escalation of the war that produced "September 1, 1939" soon forced Auden to rethink this view of love. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Auden had his now-famous encounter with virulent Nazi sympathizers in a New York movie theater in November 1939. Carpenter recounts Auden's shock when, during a newsreel showing Polish prisoners taken during the Nazi Blitzkrieg, German audience members began shouting "Kill them!" Carpenter quotes Auden's later comment on this event: "I wondered then, why I reacted as I did against this denial of every humanistic value. The answer brought me back to the church" (282). As Auden later explained, "it was impossible any longer to believe that the values of liberal humanism were self-evident" (Complete Works: Prose 3: 578), so he was forced to account theologically for the principles of justice and liberty that he had long taken for granted.

In 1940, the same year in which he reentered the Anglican communion, Auden read Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World, which had just been published in an English translation. (2) Auden favorably reviewed Rougemont's book in June 1941, and Donald Pearce, who took a class that Auden taught at Michigan in the fall of 1941, reports that Auden assigned "a new book which he was enthusiastic about by Denis de Rougemont called Love in the Western World" (138). The book begins with a close analysis of the legend of Tristan and Isolde, in which Rougemont argues that the two lovers constantly seek out obstructions to their love, so as to heighten their emotional passion at the expense of consummation. Rougemont concludes that the eros that Tristan and Isolde experience is not ultimately desire for companionship or sex, but for disembodiment in death, hence eros is a form of perpetually suffering desire, an idea implicit in the word "passion" or "askesis" as Rougemont sometimes calls it. Rougemont links the Tristan myth to the courtly lyrics of the Troubadours, which share with the Tristan story a prolonged passion without consummation. Such lyrics, Rougemont argues, emerged from the allegorical hymns of the Cathars, a heterodox mystical sect that flourished briefly in southern France during the early Middle Ages but was fiercely persecuted and eventually wiped out by the Roman church? Rougemont argues further that the passionate eros of twelfth-century French lyrics, which began with the Cathars, extended in various forms into the modern novel and nationalist politics of his present day but that such valorization of mystical eros remained consistent with the principles of ancient Gnostic mysticism, (4) which has always been starkly opposed to the Christian idea of agape as demonstrated in Christian marriage. Rougemont's book identifies the Tristan legend as quintessentially Gnostic, or, to use the term that Rougemont prefers, Manichean. From 1940 on, Auden would repeatedly use Tristan as an example of the archetypal suffering lover who is in love, not with another person, but with love itself and ultimately with his own destruction--Don Giovanni and Don Juan were for Auden mirror images of Tristan. Perhaps Auden recognized that his own early anxiety over the impermanence of his string of homosexual relationships resembled the suffering lover of whom Tristan and Don Giovanni were antitypes.

While it is not clear exactly when in 1940 Auden read Rougemont, one of his earliest direct references appears in "In Sickness and in Health" which Edward Mendelson dates "? Autumn 1940" (320). The poem replicates Rougemont's reading of the Tristan myth exactly:
 Tristan, Isolde, the great friends,
 Make passion out of passions obstacles,
 Deliciously postponing their delight,
 Prolong frustration till it lasts all night,
 Then perish lest Brangaene's worldly cry
 Should sober their cerebral ecstasy. (318)


The stanza neatly summarizes Rougemont's argument in the first chapters of Love in the Western World that Tristan and Isolde intentionally obstruct the consummation of their illicit relationship. As Rougemont explains,
 Tristan and Iseult do not love one another. They say they don't,
 and everything goes to prove it. What they love is love and being
 in love. They behave as if aware that whatever obstructs love must
 ensure and consolidate it in the heart of each and intensify it
 infinitely in the moment they reach the complete obstruction, which
 is death. (33)


Poetic associations of eros with death are common enough in the lyric tradition, and Auden had added his own biological examples (e.g. in "Meiosis" 125) to the tradition well before he read Rougemont, but Rougemont offered Auden a compelling mythic and historical explanation of the entire history of the association.

However, few readers of this poem have recognized how much it is indebted to Rougemont. John Fuller's W. H. Auden: A Commentary mentions Rougemont as a source for the poem but does not elaborate on the fact. More recently, Rachel Wetzsteon has suggested that the poems description of marriage is derived from Kierkegaard's Either / Or, but she hesitates to claim Kierkegaard as a direct source because Either / Or was translated into English several years after Auden wrote the poem. Yet she suggests that "so much of the poem sounds like Either/Or that it is tempting to suppose that Auden had heard about it--perhaps in conversation with Charles Williams?--even if he hadn't actually read it yet" (90). Wetzsteon is correct that Auden's statements come from Kierkegaard, but she misidentifies the mediating source, which is actually Love in the Western World. In his final chapters on marriage, Rougemont takes up some of Kierkegaard's ideas about marriage and offers them as an antidote to the culture of eros, as well as to the "ethical" ideal of marriage. According to Rougemont's reading of Kierkegaard, Christian marriage rejects romantic or aesthetic passion, but it also rejects marriage as an institution that is calculated to produce virtue or happiness (281-88). Marriage is rather, he argues, a decision one must make without assurance that the decision will produce happiness. Rougemont proceeds to describe Kierkegaard's portrayal of the "knight of faith" who lives "by virtue of the absurd" (306), a phrase that Auden reiterates in the poem, saying that he and his "spouse" both "Exist by grace of the Absurd" (319). The idea is indeed Kierkegaard's, but Auden found it in Rougemont. Other critics have misunderstood the ways in which Auden employs Rougemont's argument that eros is a Manichean zeal for disembodiment. Randall Jarrell gets Auden exactly backward when he claims, "the We must love one another or die of Auden's middle period had developed out of the earlier, odder motto, If we love one another, we die; but the original love is the concrete, surprising Eros of case histories, the later love is the abstract, acceptable, ethereal Agape of speeches and sermons" (26). But after reading Rougemont, Auden began to see eros as an abstract form of love, in contrast to agape, which he came to see as a concrete love that ultimately affirmed the goodness of the body and of its existence in space and time. This is not to say that Auden always used concrete images to talk about agape in his poems, and many of his later poems deal largely in abstractions, whatever their topic. But when his poems from the early 1940s do discuss agape, they tend to mix important concrete images with philosophical and theological abstractions.

The rest of "In Sickness and in Health;' for example, mixes theological abstractions with concrete imagery:
 Rejoice, dear love, in Love's peremptory word;
 All chance, all love, all logic, you and I,
 Exist by grace of the Absurd,
 And without conscious artifice we die:
 So, lest we manufacture in our flesh
 The lie of our divinity afresh,
 Describe round our chaotic malice now,
 The arbitrary circle of a vow. (319)


Until the last line, the most concrete word in the stanza is "flesh." But the last line refers to a wedding ring, a concrete object that symbolizes both a permanent commitment and an arbitrary boundary. In the context of marriage, Auden owes the word "arbitrary" to Rougemont, who argues that the decision to marry "must always be arbitrary" (287), by which he means that a Christian marriage must be entered into with the understanding that it is an irrevocable choice that is not based on any calculation of the likelihood of future happiness. Carpenter cites this poem as material evidence that Auden and Kallman actually made explicit marriage vows to each other (312), and if they did, it was certainly Rougemont who suggested the idea to Auden. The poem does express hope "That this round O of faithfulness we swear / May never wither to an empty nought, Nor petrify into a square" (320). The "round O" is both the vow and, presumably, the wedding band that represents the promise of the "arbitrary" fidelity of Christian marriage.

In his 1941 review of Rougemont's book, Auden indicates that he took seriously the book's argument on marriage:

In the last few chapters of his book Mr de Rougemont states the Christian doctrine of marriage, which will seem absurdly straitlaced to the hedonist and shockingly coarse to the romantic. But perhaps the unpleasant consequences of romantic love and romantic politics are making thoughtful people more willing to reconsider it than they were while a bourgeois convention, which professed to be Christian but was nothing of the kind, was still d la mode. (Complete Works: Prose 2:140-41)

Auden was certainly among those "thoughtful people" who had been reconsidering, and in his case embracing, Rougemont's account of Christian marriage, inasmuch as it was possible for him as a homosexual. Rougemont fully acknowledges the many difficulties inherent in marriage, yet states, "I adopt an open mind towards the imperfect poise of marriage and--happily or unhappily--live in wait of perfection. I realize that it is a wild attempt I am making (although at the same time an altogether natural one) to live perfectly in imperfection" (285). In marriage, Rougemont argues, sexual desire is moderated and redeemed by an agape that is freely and arbitrarily given to one's partner.

However, Rougemont himself has been criticized for setting up an absolute division between eros and agape. In a recent article, Avery Cardinal Dulles states that "De Rougement, like Nygren, confronts us with a stark choice between eros and agape" and criticizes both Rougement and Nygren for "set[ting] up an unbridgeable gulf between eros, as a passion arising from below, and agape, as a totally altruistic gift from on high" (21). While that is a fair assessment of Nygren's position, Dulles' criticism applies less to Rougemont's argument in favor of Christian marriage. While Rougemont does begin by setting up eros and agape in strong opposition to each other, he does so with an eye toward reconciling them in the end. In the final chapters of Love in the Western World, he explains that while eros tends to isolate itself from agape and to lead ultimately to death, Christian agape seeks to redeem eros and return it to its proper subservient place (see 29499). Before Christianity, Rougement argues, the "natural man;' or humans under the control of eros, found that death was the only escape from servitude to eros:
 Thus Eros could lead him but to death. But a man who believes the
 revelation of Agape suddenly beholds the circle broken: faith
 delivers him from natural religion. Now he may hope for something
 else; he is aware that there is some other release from sin. And
 thereupon Eros in turn has been relieved of his fatal office and
 delivered from his fate. In ceasing to be a god, he ceases to be a
 demon? And he finds his proper place in the provisional economy of
 Creation and of what is human. (295)


Here Rougemont sets himself in opposition to Nygren, who had argued that agape and eros are irreconcilable. Rougemont instead states that eros has a legitimate, if subservient place within the rightly ordered loves of Christianity.

However, Rougemont is not always clear on this crucial point, and in a 1941 review of Love in the Western World, Auden chided Rougemont for not being clearer on the matter:

My only criticism of Mr de Rougemont's profound and brilliant study is that I find his definition of Eros a little vague. He sometimes speaks as if he meant, which I am sure he does not, that Eros is of sexual origin and that there is a dualistic division between Agape and Eros rather than--what I am sure he believes--a dialectical relation. For Eros, surely, is 'amor sementa in voi d'ogni vertute, e d'ogni operazion che merta pene,' (6) the basic will to self-actualization without which no creature can exist, and Agape is that Eros mutated by Grace, a conversion, not an addition, the Law fulfilled, not the Law destroyed. (Complete Works: Prose 2: 139)

Auden's clarification of Rougemont seems partially drawn from Fr. Martin C. D'Arcy, S.J., whose lecture on eros and agape Auden had attended in 1940 (see Harp 13). Soon after the lecture, Auden wrote to D'Arcy asking for elaboration on certain points, and later stating, "Eros must be transformed, but without Eros, there wouldn't be anything to transform" (qtd. in Harp 13). Auden's remarks on Rougemont also draw on Charles Norris Cochrane's Christianity and Classical Culture, a book that Auden had read soon after its initial publication in 1940, about the same time he read Rougemont. In his enthusiastic 1944 review of the revised edition, Auden approvingly restates Cochrane's definitions:

The doctrine of the Trinity is the theological formulation of the Christian belief that God is Love, and that by Love is meant not Eros but Agape, i.e., not a desire to get possession of something one lacks, but a reciprocal relation, not an everlastingly 'given' state, but a dynamic free expression; an unchanging love is a continually novel decision to love. (Forewords and Afterwords 35-36)

As Auden used the term after about 1940, eros designates a basically acquisitive desire that seeks its own gratification and, consequentially, its own cessation in death, for once desire is satisfied, it ceases to exist. Eros is not the sex drive per se but rather the natural, physical impulse toward survival and self-actualization that underlies all physical desires, including libido and hunger, but that when sublimated by self-conscious human beings becomes a paradoxical desire for a perpetual delay of its own gratification.

Presumably then, eros may be "mutated by Grace" into agape by using one's own acquisitive desire to achieve the satisfaction of another person's needs. Auden generally describes agape as a conscious and deliberate attempt to do good to another person, and for Auden it is always based on the recognition that the other person is equal in value to all other human beings, oneself included. Agape is not the repression of desire but is rather a purified desire that drives a person towards morally good ends. This is Cochrane's view, which is itself a distillation of Augustine:
 Translated into terms of psychology, the doctrine of grace resolves
 itself into the doctrine that "my love is my weight" and that the
 greater love is ultimately irresistible. As such, the working of
 the Spirit emerges, not as magic but, in the deepest and truest
 sense of the word, as "natural law". Accordingly, it may be
 described as ardor caritatis, or ignis voluntatis, the "heat of
 love", or the "flame of will". Its efficacy as a means of salvation
 thus depends upon the assumption that the image of God, i.e. of the
 creative and moving principle, has not been wholly effaced from the
 hearts even of unbelievers. (453)


While Auden never claimed that the "natural" human love for God was irresistible, as Augustine suggested, he experienced at least once a love for his neighbors that he described as an "irresistible" agape, which occurred well before his conversion but which he said later helped bring him back to Christianity (see Forewords 69-70).

Rougemont had suggested to Auden eros might be converted into agape, but Auden soon found that Rougemont's recommendation of Christian marriage could not permanently resolve his own longstanding tension between friendship and sex. As Carpenter explains, Auden's relationship with Kallman had never had the equality of status that Auden's poetry had hoped for, but instead "Auden tended to treat [Kallman] as a schoolmaster treats a clever pupil, showing him off to friends when it was convenient and pleasant to do so, but brushing him aside or leaving him in the background when there was serious conversation to be had" (312). After two years, Auden discovered that Kallman had taken another lover, and the two stopped having sexual relations, even though they remained close friends for the rest of Auden's life. After the dissolution of his "marriage" to Kallman, Auden's love poetry reflects a subtle shift away from the aspirations to difficult but obligatory fidelity that had characterized his few love poems from the early 1940s. Some of his later poetry continues to celebrate the difficult development of agape through care for one's neighbor, but other poems reflect a sad indulgence in ephemeral eros that resembles the regret of his pre-conversion poems but that also reveals a heightened sense of guilt.

Shortly after Auden discovered Kallman's infidelity, he began writing "For the Time Being" his Christmas oratorio. It is widely acknowledged that Auden's crisis with Kallman, or "l'affaire C" as Auden sometimes called it, provided the emotional energy for several passages in "For the Time Being" (see Mendelson, Later Auden 175 and 179-83; and Carpenter 312-13), most notably "The Temptation of St. Joseph," which depicts Joseph as a cuckolded lover whose demands for a divine explanation go unanswered:
 All I ask is one
 Important and elegant proof
 That what my Love had done
 Was really at your will
 And that your will is Love. (363-64)


Gabriel's answer is both jarring and assuring: "No, you must believe; Be silent, and sit still" (364). The existence of agape, either human or divine, is more difficult to prove than the existence of eros, as Auden would explain some years later in The Dyer's Hand:
 When a lover tells his beloved that she is his mistress and that he
 desires to be her servant, what he is trying, honestly or
 hypocritically, to say is something as follows: "As you know, I
 find you beautiful, an object of desire. I know that for true love
 such desire is not enough; I must also love you, not as an object
 of my desire, but as you are in yourself; I must desire your
 self-fulfillment. I cannot know you as you are nor prove that I
 desire your self-fulfillment, unless you tell me what you want and
 allow me to try and give it to you." (139)


Auden's interpretation of the honest lover's offer to be the servant of the beloved suggests that in a romantic relationship eros and agape always coexist; even a rake must pay lip-service to agape. The honest lover clearly desires to possess the beloved (eros), but he also desires the beloved's own self-fulfillment (agape), and he hopes that these two desires will coincide. This is, in effect, what Rougemont means by the redemption of eros by agape.

But the honest lover cannot prove the existence of agape unless the beloved expresses her desires. Joseph's dialogue with Gabriel in "For the Time Being" illustrates the point. Joseph may demand "proof/... / that your will is Love" (364), but God will reject such demands to prove that he desires Joseph's self-fulfillment. Instead, it is God who gives a command to silently believe, obedience to which will be the proof of Joseph's own agape love for both God and Mary. Auden pushes the metaphor further by casting God as the beloved who gives commands (typically the female), not as the lover who obeys commands (typically male). The poem again reverses the gender roles when Gabriel tells Joseph, "To-day the roles are altered; you must be / The Weaker Sex whose passion is passivity" (365). The word "passion" clearly carries the connotation of perpetual deferment of satisfaction that Rougemont gives the term, since Joseph's desire for Mary may very well remain unconsummated indefinitely.

Other parts of "For the Time Being" provide a more encouraging account of the transformation of eros into agape. For example, Mary says in "The Annunciation"
 My flesh in terror and fire
 Rejoices that the Word
 Who utters the world out of nothing
 As a pledge of His word to love her
 Against her will, and to turn
 Her desperate longing to love,
 Should ask to wear me,
 From now to their wedding day,
 For an engagement ring. (360)


The stanza is perhaps the clearest expression in all of Auden's poetry of the way in which eros, or the "desperate longing" of the flesh as Rougemont characterizes it, can be transformed into agape. The passage is a near paraphrase of Rougemont's argument that "The incarnation of the Word in the world--and of Light in Darkness--is the astounding event whereby we are delivered from the woe of being alive. And this event, in being the center of the whole of Christianity, is the focus of that Christian love which in Scripture is called agape" (62). It is particularly through Mary's personal assent to the Incarnation that God's grace can express itself in human history. While the divine love expressed in the Incarnation opposes the general will of the world, Mary's willing acceptance of God's love makes possible the alteration of the corrupted loves of others.

Gabriel reemphasizes the fact that Mary's consent is freely willed: "child, it lies / Within your power of choosing to / Conceive the Child who chooses you" (360). Adam's free choice to sin greatly diminished human freedom, but Mary's free choice to do right restores the possibility of agape within human history. A later passage, a philosophical monologue spoken by Simeon, further explains the relationship between freedom and love, asserting that "the course of History is predictable in the degree to which all men love themselves, and spontaneous in the degree to which each man loves God and through him his neighbour" (388). In the world of natural necessity driven by eros, the selfish will to self-actualization is the "natural" state of all living creatures, including humans; so all human actions based solely on eros are conditioned behaviors and therefore not truly free acts at all. Human actions based on agape, however, are not conditioned behaviors but are freely willed, and thus they are not predictable but always novel and surprising.

Agape, Auden recognized, is a sacred duty, but after he and Kallman broke off their "marriage" it was no longer clear to Auden how the demands of eros that his sexuality made on him could be reconciled with the demands of agape that his renewed faith made on him, and the excitement with which Auden had accepted Rougemont's suggestion to transform eros into marital fidelity quickly waned. He had thought that by entering into what he considered to be a Christian marriage he could express his sexuality within the confines of a monogamous relationship, which would moderate eros and keep it subjected to the agape that was expressed by his vow of faithfulness. It is a testament to Auden's strength of character that he was able to maintain his fidelity to Kallman for two years, and but for Kallman's infidelity, Auden might have remained monogamous indefinitely. But after the crisis, Auden found that, for him, Rougemont's ideal of Christian marriage was untenable, and he eventually gave up the idea that his homosexuality could be reconciled with his Christianity. For Auden, sex was an addiction that had to be regularly satisfied. He sometimes regretted and resisted it, and at other times he happily indulged in it. According to his longtime friend Christopher Isherwood, Auden's "religion condemned it and he agreed that it was sinful, though he fully intended to go on sinning" (Isherwood 249). Isherwood's statement is perhaps an oversimplification of Auden's complex and conflicted attitudes about his own sexuality, but whether he was unwilling or merely unable to give up his homosexuality, Auden's sexuality eventually settled into an odd coexistence with his faith, and while a few of Rougemont's ideas continued to appear occasionally in his poetry, his poetry of the mid-1940s often exhibits a frank admission that the ethical demands of his religion would continue to be at odds with the sexual demands of his body.

In 1942, as he was rereading Augustine's Confessions (see Kirsch, Introduction xii), Auden began another long poem, "The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest." While the poem does not make direct reference to Rougemont, it does represent a significant stage in Auden's continuing struggle with the contradictory demands of his faith and his sexuality, and he quite likely refers to his own conflicted attitudes towards his sexuality when Caliban, speaking as the voice of the body, says, "Had you tried to destroy me, had we wrestled through long dark hours, we might by daybreak have learnt something from each other; ... we might both have heard together that music which explains and pardons all" (434). Caliban's image is drawn from the story of the patriarch Jacob wrestling with an angel (or God, the text is ambiguous) until dawn (Gen. 32; 24-32). A typical post-Freudian reading of the story might interpret it as an analogue of the internal struggle between the id and the ego, though in "The Sea and the Mirror" Auden uses it to picture the struggle between the conscious self and the physical body. The subjunctive "had you tried" presumes, of course, that the poet to whom Caliban addresses this segment of his monologue has not wrestled with the eros of his physical desires, but neither has the poet allowed his eros total liberty "to be drunk every day before lunch, to jump stark naked from bed to bed, to have a fit every week or a major operation every other year, to forge checks or water the widow's stock ..." (434). The only option left for him, Caliban says, is "to forgive and forget the past, and to keep our respective hopes for the future within moderate, very moderate, limits" (435).

While it is not immediately obvious that this passage refers to Auden's personal life at all, much less to his difficulties with his sexuality, Auden did say in a letter to Stephen Spender, "I'm extremely pleased and surprised to find that at least one reader feels that the section written in a pastiche of James is more me than the sections written in my own style, because it is the paradox I was trying for, and am afraid hardly anyone will get it" (qtd. in Kirsch, Introduction xxxii). Auden's claim that Caliban's voice--parodying Henry James' most prolix passages--is "more me" than the other voices in the poem is most clearly applicable to the view Caliban expresses about the nature and limitations of art, but since Auden tended to write much of his poetry out of his own experience, it is not improbable that he would allude to his struggles with his sexuality in Caliban's speech. Caliban's final statement about his relationship with the unnamed poet whom he addresses is an exact description of the uneasy settlement to which Auden came with his homosexuality; he kept his expectations for reconciliation between his faith and his sexuality "within moderate, very moderate, limits."

In the direct aftermath of l'affaire C, Auden wrote comparatively fewer lyric poems than he had in the past, and he spent most of the 1940s composing several long poems, including "For the Time Being" "The Sea and the Mirror" and "The Age of Anxiety." Each of these long poems touches on the nature of romantic love, but he wrote lyric poems about love only sporadically thereafter. Of those that he did write, some of his most memorable were all written in a single year, 1948. Among them are "The Love Feast" "Pleasure Island" and "In Praise of Limestone" One reason for this concentration of poems on love in one year is that he had just finished his last long poem, "The Age of Anxiety" and he now had time to revisit earlier themes in shorter lyrics. Another reason was the 1948 publication of the Kinsey report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which Auden privately dismissed as "pseudo-science" according to Mendelson (Later 268n). Another, lesser-known book by Martin C. D'Arcy called The Mind and Heart of Love had appeared a year earlier, and Auden heartily recommended the book in a 1947 article (Complete Works: Prose, 2: 325). These two books certainly offered Auden the occasion to reflect at some length on the nature of romantic love.

While Auden had given up the idea that he could participate in a Christian marriage as Rougemont had described it, he continued to rely implicitly on Rougemont's suspicion that lyric poetry was fundamentally predisposed to the expression of Manichaean eros unredeemed by Christian agape. Rougemont claims that the Cathar sect of the early twelfth century composed hymns that praised a metaphorical lady who represented the sect itself, and that the troubadour poets seized on these esoteric hymns and applied their conventions to actual ladies in various medieval courts in southern France (71-86). As a poet, Auden would surely have been struck by Rougemont's claim that "the structure of the Manichaean faith was 'in essence lyrical'" (60).

Auden's experience seemed to confirm the idea that lyric poetry was a natural vehicle for the worship of eros. Rougemont argues that for both the Manichees and the Cathars,
 the nature of this faith made it unnameable to rational,
 impersonal, and "objective" exposition. Actually, it could only
 come to be held in being experienced, and the experience of it was
 one of combined dread and enthusiasm--that is to say, of invasion
 by the divine--which is essentially poetic. The cosmogony and
 theogony of this faith became "true" for a believer only when
 certitude was induced by his recital of a psalm. (61)


As it turned out, Rougemont's theory that the poetry of "courtly love" was rooted in neo-Manichean mysticism was discredited by later scholarship, which even called into question whether there really ever was such a thing as "courtly love" as Rougemont and others had described it. (7) But by that time Rougemont's account of the connections between Manichaeism and lyric poetry had become an indelible feature of Auden's poetic and critical consciousness, (8) and after his reading of Rougemont in 1940, Auden could never again write a love poem without being thoroughly conscious that he was, as he saw it, flirting with Manichean dualism.

Therefore, few of Auden's poems written after the early 1940s make any attempt to reconcile eros and agape, though several of his lyrics from the late 1940s implicitly rely on Rougemont's connection between Manichean dualism and lyric love poetry. "The Love Feast" describes a guilty indulgence in illicit pleasure in the face of a religious faith and reminds the lover, "The Love that rules the sun and stars / Permits what He forbids" (614). The poem ends with a chagrined quotation from Augustine's Confessions (8.7):
 But that Miss Number in the corner
 Playing hard to get....
 I am sorry I'm not sorry ...
 Make me chaste, Lord, but not yet. (614)


In 1948, the same year that Auden wrote "The Love Feast," he also produced a pornographic poem called "The Platonic Blow" which was published in varying versions by some New York magazines in the 1960s without Auden's permission (see Osborne 283-84, Carpenter 359-60). Both Carpenter and Mendelson agree that the word "Platonic" in the title denotes nothing more than "ideal" in the sense that the homosexual encounter the poem describes is perfect in every detail, rather than a transcending of the body by way of appreciation of physical beauty, as in Plato's Symposium (Carpenter 358; Mendelson, Later 298). But given Auden's penchant for conflating what he saw as similar philosophies, he may have had something more in mind. In the poem's third stanza as Carpenter reproduces it, the conventions of "courtly love" clearly appear: "Our eyes met. I felt sick. My knees turned weak. / I couldn't move. I didn't know what to say" (qtd. in Carpenter 359). The otherwise valiant lover feeling sick and weak at the sight of the beloved has been commonly identified as a mark of the "courtly love" (9) that Rougemont had associated with Manichaeism, although the poem differs from Rougemont's courtly lovers in that the love is consummated rather than perpetually deferred. Rougemont had linked the Manichean mysticism of the courtly love tradition with a Western appropriation of Plato in which eros is a gateway into contemplation of the divine (55-60). Even in "New Year Letter" which Auden had probably finished writing before he read Rougemont, Auden had implicated Platonism in the denigration of the body (234-36), so it is likely that Auden uses the word "Platonic" in two senses, both to mean merely "ideal" and also to suggest the pornographic denigration of the body he associated with Platonism and ultimately with Manichaeism.

However, another poem written in 1948, "In Praise of Limestone" implies that while there is an ongoing tension between agape and eros, there is also the possibility of a reconciliation between the two. The poem's opening evokes Auden's 1930s love poems with its focus on a rough, limestone landscape that appeals to "we, the inconstant ones" (540). In the poems schema the characteristics of a landscape reflect a certain type of person, such that the average "inconstant ones" appreciate the limestone landscape because, although it is solid rock, it also "dissolves in water" so that "beneath, / A secret system of caves and conduits" permeates it (540). Both landscape and lover play at permanence but are subject to transience and change. Other types of people appreciate other landscapes, so the "saints-to-be" prefer the "granite wastes" because they are solid and constant, and the "Intendant Caesars" prefer "clays and gravels" because of their malleability (541). But there are still others, whom the poet calls "the really reckless" who respond to "an older colder voice, the oceanic whisper" (541). Auden would soon explore further what he called the "Romantic iconography of the sea" in his 1950 book The Enchafed Flood, in which the ocean often represents subconscious desires. But in "In Praise of Limestone" the ocean speaks distinctly in terms of Rougemont's description of eros as an escape into nothingness: "'I am the solitude that asks and promises nothing; / That is how I shall set you free. There is no love; / There are only the various envies, all of them sad" (542). To indulge completely in the eros of "various envies" isolates the person completely, denying the possibility of agape, here simply called "love," whose expression requires a sympathetic recognition of the real existence of other people. As Rougemont asserts:
 agape brings no fusion or ecstatic dissolving of the self in God.
 The divine love is the beginning of a new life, a life created by
 the act of communion. And for a real communion there are certainly
 required two participants, each present to the other. It is thus
 that each is the other's neighbor.... [A]gape is alone in
 recognizing the existence of our neighbor.... (63)


The "various envies" of eros ultimately isolate the "really reckless" by dissolving them into a pantheistic unconsciousness.

In the poems second stanza, the poet contrasts both the limestone landscape and the ocean with the "marble statues" and "gesticulating fountains" that inhabit the Mediterranean landscape and disquiet the modern poet because, as Mendelson suggests, the poet prefers to "[elevate] his mind over the glories of the created world...." in a perverse attempt to achieve a Platonic detachment from the material world (Later 295). What bothers the modern artist most is his own embodiment, which is the real subject of the poem, as Mendelson argues: "The poem treats the limestone landscape as an allegory of the body and of the body's relation to ultimate questions" (Later 293). The "ultimate questions" that the poem engages are theological, particularly the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead, which the poem suggests are the basis for art:
 But if

 Sins can be forgiven, if bodies rise from the dead,
 These modifications of matter into
 Innocent athletes and gesticulating fountains,
 Made solely for pleasure, make a further point:
 The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
 Having nothing to hide.... (542)


The doctrine of the resurrection validates the existence of the physical world and the human body because it envisions salvation as a transformation of the body rather than a Manichean escape from it, but the possibility of the resurrection is somewhat undermined in the poem by the hedging "if" and "when I try to imagine" that frame the poems evocation of "the blessed" who have "nothing to hide" (542). What is now inconstant and mutable may yet be transformed, although the last lines imply that "a faultless love," or a complete redemption of eros by agape in charity, is possible only in the resurrection, which is outside of historical time as we know it. As Auden explained in The Dyer's Hand, "In historical existence where no love is perfect, no society immortal, and no embodiment of the one in the other precise, the obligation to approximate to the ideal is felt as an imperative 'Thou shalt'" (65). For Auden, the impossibility of achieving perfect love does not relieve him of the moral obligation to love as perfectly as he can, or as Rougemont puts it, "to live perfectly in imperfection" (285).

As such, Richard Bozarth is partially right when he argues that "In Praise of Limestone" "suggests that even in the 1940s, [Auden] was of two minds about the spiritual meaning of the body and sex--that he was quite able to conceive of homosexual eros as sacred" (243). Bozarth indicates that the conflict between the sacred and the sexual in Auden's work might be resolved by an appeal to "the Catholic tradition of natural theology, with its Platonic view of human love as figuring the divine.... [I]t was the tradition of natural theology that explained why the Vision of Eros could happen at all and why it meant more than transitory physical intoxication," (243-44). Bozarth is correct that Auden,s later appreciation for natural theology (10) in the Catholic tradition gives even sexual love a new, transcendent significance, but he seems unaware of Auden's absorption of a certain strain of natural theology through writers such as Cochrane, Rougemont, and ultimately Augustine, all of whom acknowledge important distinctions between Christianity and Platonism. So while some natural theology does incorporate Platonic ideas, Auden frequently distinguished between the Platonic philosophies that he denounced as fallaciously dualistic and the Augustinian theology that he saw as transcending classical dualism. In a late poem called "No, Plato, No" Auden announced, "I can't imagine anything / that I would less like to be / than a disincarnate Spirit" (888).

Although Auden's explicit use of Rougemont as a corrective to both Plato and Nygren had diminished somewhat by the late 1940s, Auden did occasionally resort to Rougemont's language to explain his continuing conviction that eros and agape were ultimately reconcilable, at least in theory, if not in Auden's own personal life. For example, in a 1950 article in Theology he stated,

In some circles recently there has been a tendency to see the notion of love as eros (or desire for getting) and the notion of love as agape (or free-giving) as incompatible opposites and to identify them with Paganism and Christianity respectively. Such a view seems to me a revival of the Manichean heresy which denies the goodness of the natural order. ... Further, the very sacrament of Agape, the Holy Eucharist, is in its outward and visible sign an act of eating, the most impersonal and naturally selfish of all acts. Agape is the fulfillment and correction of eros, not its contradiction. (Complete Works: Prose 3: 198)

Auden is probably referring to Nygren's denunciation of eros as inherently anti-Christian, and his refutation is a clear restatement of Rougemont's argument that the total rejection of embodiment is a product of Manichean dualism rather than of orthodox Christianity. In contrast, Auden agrees with Cochrane that "love subsumes the four cardinal virtues of Classicism" and also "yield[s] the motive power necessary to a realization of creative peace, the Kingdom of God" (Cochrane 342). So when eros is a desire for self-aggrandizement or for exploitation of others, it is destructive and deadly, but when eros is involved in the desire for reconciliation with one's neighbor and peace with God, it is transformed into the healthy and productive agape.

A few years later, Auden returned to ideas drawn from Rougemont in his 1953 poem "'The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning,'" which purports to give advice to a young poet on writing love lyrics, and on surviving under a repressive political regime. The poem begins with a tongue-in-cheek admonition: "By all means sing of love but, if you do, / Please make a rare old proper hullabaloo" (619), and proceeds to list the many poetic exaggerations and hyperboles by which the poet's beloved can "take on, / Through you, the wonders of a paragon" (620). However, the poem interrupts itself with a hypothetical revolution in which "overnight as in some terror dream / Poets are suspect with the New Regime" (620). In such a case, the senior poet advises,
 Stick at your desk and hold your panic in,
 What you are writing may still save your skin:
 Re-sex the pronouns, add a few details,
 And, lo, a panegyric ode which hails
 (How is the Censor, bless his heart, to know?)
 The new pot-bellied Generalissimo. (620)


The poem implies that the genres of courtly love lyrics and political propaganda are so similar in spirit that someone who has learned to write one kind of poem can easily write the other. On its face, the easy connection between love lyrics and totalitarian propaganda seems tenuous, but the idea was suggested to Auden by Rougemont, and the poem is yet another of Auden's poetic adaptations of Rougemont's argument.

Near the end of Love in the Western World (see especially 251-56), Rougemont argues that the valorization of "passion" the suffering desire that seeks its own eternal deferral in death, (251-53), had been easily imported into European politics in the modern era. Rougemont explains, "there is abundant evidence for this novel resemblance between politics and passion. The restraints which the State imposes in the name of the nation's greatness result in a collective askesis. The umbrageous susceptibility of Totalitarian Nations is the equivalent of a knight's honour" (253). Rougemont proceeds to explain that he sees in the figures of Hitler and Mussolini a type of the lover wooing his beloved, and as a result, "the crowd surrenders to the dread savior, and hails him as its liberator in the very moment he paralyses and possesses it. We should note that the popular term in Germany for getting married is freien, a verb which means literally 'to free.' Hitler is presumably only too well aware of this" (253). Although Rougemont wrote this in the 1930s, the early 1950s saw something of a revival of totalitarian politics. The Cold War was intensifying, the McCarthy era was nearing its height--Arthur Miller's The Crucible was published the same year that Auden wrote the poem--and the threat of nuclear warfare seemed to signify a cultural death wish, so Auden had ample opportunity to ponder afresh the nature of political propaganda.

Auden's tone in "'The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning'" belies the seriousness of the connection that Rougemont had made between the courtly lyric tradition and the political propaganda of what Rougemont characterized as "Romantic" nationalism (254-56). Both love lyrics and political propaganda seek to work what Auden often called "black magic," manipulating their respective audiences through artistic dishonesty. In The Dyer's Hand, Auden argued that "owing to its superior power as a mnemonic, verse is superior to prose as a medium for didactic instruction.... [I]n verse, as the Alka-Seltzer advertisements testify, the didactic message loses half its immodesty" (26). As such, verse has the power to excite and convince a receptive audience, whether the message is commercial or political. As a poet, Auden was sympathetic to Rougemont's suggestion that romantic lyrics and propaganda operate on the same psychological principles, although he also insisted that "Poetry is not magic," and that the effect of good poetry was not to enchant, but "to disenchant and disintoxicate" (Dyer's Hand 27).

By the 1950s, Auden's poetic concerns had shifted away from his earlier explorations of the tension between eros and agape and toward other topics, such as the nature of history and the tension between the poet's public and private roles. Nevertheless, it may seem strange that, given Auden's enthusiasm for Rougemont and his repeated insistence in the 1940s that he was morally obliged to aspire to agape, Auden's later poetry says very little about agape at all. References to eros, however, do continue to appear. In "Dichtung und Wahrheit," an aphoristic essay that Auden subtitled "An Unwritten Poem" he explicitly states that "we are speaking of eros, not of agape" as he explains the impossibility of writing a love poem that will satisfy his own demands on his art (655). And in "Glad" one of "Three Posthumous Poems" he addresses a sometime prostitute he engaged in Vienna, asking,
 How is it now between us?
 Love? Love is far too
 Tattered a word. A romance
 In full fig it ain't,
 Nor a naked letch either:
 Let me say we fadge.... (747)


They "fadge" or "fit" each other, but only in the very pragmatic sense that they met, Auden says, "At a moment when / You were in need of money / And I wanted sex" (746). Unlike Auden's earlier lyrics that aspire to a fusion of intellectual and physical intimacy, an aspiration that had been inspired in part by Rougemont, his few later love poems make no pretension to an agape that redeems eros and instead remark detachedly on his occasional indulgences in sheer eros.

Perhaps the most important reason that Auden did not write many poems about agape, or "charity" as he sometimes called it, is that he firmly believed that agape is expressed by rightly-motivated actions, and not by words, however well-intentioned. For Auden, the expression of agape was almost entirely outside the abilities of poetic language. In The Dyer's Hand, Auden claimed that "A direct manifestation of charity in secular terms is ... impossible. One form of indirect manifestation employed by religious teachers has been through parables in which actions which are ethically immoral are made to stand as a sign for that which transcends ethics" (202). Auden may have in mind the parable of the unjust steward in the Gospel of Luke, in which the steward's cheating of his master becomes a lesson in serving God with the world's goods (Luke 16:1-9). There are, of course, other parables in the Bible, such as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), that do depict acts of agape. But Auden's point is that, outside of an explicitly didactic context, it is very difficult to portray a saint acting on pure agape, and even within a religious context, artistic depictions of pure agape tend not to be aesthetically convincing. In Auden's understanding, his faith did not require him to write about agape at all, though it did require him to perform acts of charity.

However, Auden's biographies record few acts that could be considered truly charitable. Auden readily admitted that he frequently acted uncharitably (Forewords 69-70), and while it is possible that acts of charity are not interesting to biographers or to the people who read them, a more likely explanation is that Auden believed that real agape always desires to act anonymously. As he remarks in "Dichtung und Wahrheit," "It is as much of the essence of erotic love that it should desire to disclose itself to one other, as it is of the essence of charity that it should desire to conceal itself from all" (655). A few of Auden's charitable deeds have been recorded--in 1935 Auden agreed to marry the German actress Erika Mann in order to provide her with a British passport and help her escape the Nazis (Carpenter 175-77), and in 1956 Auden intervened when Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker organization was fined because its homeless shelter had violated fire code regulations, and Auden paid the fine himself (Mendelson, Later 401 and Carpenter 382). These acts happened to become public, but had Auden himself written poems about them, he would have exploited the acts for aesthetic purposes and emptied them of all agape. Auden firmly believed that agape consists of good actions, rightly motivated, and not of merely writing about ethics. Agape, as it turned out for Auden, was neither theatrical nor thrilling, neither public nor poetic. He was more correct than he knew when he called Rougemont's description of agape within marriage "absurdly straitlaced to the hedonist and shockingly coarse to the romantic" (Complete Works: Prose 2:140-41), for in his later years he came to recognize that real acts of charity are mundane, unremarkable, and anticlimactic.

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WORKS CITED

Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Vintage, 1991.

--. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden: Prose. 3 vols. to date. Ed. Edward Mendelson. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1996-.

--. The Dyer's Hand. New York: Vintage, 1988.

--. The Enchafed Flood: or The Romantic Iconography of the Sea. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1950.

--. The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings 1927-1939. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1977.

--. Forewords and Afterwords. New York: Vintage, 1989.

--. Secondary Worlds. New York: Random, 1968.

Augustine. Confessions. Trans. E. B. Pusey. London: Everymaffs, 1907.

Bozarth, Richard R. Auden's Games of Knowledge: Poetry and the Meanings of Homosexuality. New York: Columbia UP, 2001.

Carpenter, Humphrey. W. H. Auden: A Biography. Boston: Houghton, 1981.

Cochrane, Charles Norris. Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine. London: Oxford UP, 1944.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. Trans. William Weaver. New York: Harcourt, 1983.

Dante Alighieri. Purgatory. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Bantam, 1984.

D'Arcy, Martin C. The Mind and Heart of Love: Lion and Unicorn, a Study in Eros and Agape. New York: Holt, 1947.

Dulles, Avery. "Love, the Pope, and C.S. Lewis" First Things, January 2007: 20-24.

Fuller, John. W. H. Auden: A Commentary. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998.

Harp, Richard. "A Conjuror at the Xmas Party" Times Literary Supplement 11 Dec. 2009: 13+.

Isherwood, Christopher. Christopher and His Kind. New York: Farrar, 1976.

Jacobs, Alan. What Became of Wystan. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P, 1998.

Jarrell, Randall. Randall Jarrell on W.H. Auden. Ed. Stephen Burt. New York: Columbia UP, 2005.

Kay, Sarah. "Courts, Clerks, and Courtly Love" The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance. Ed. Roberta L. Krueger. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 81-96.

Kelly, Henry Ansgar. Love and Marriage in the Age of Chaucer. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975.

Kirsch, Arthur. Introduction. The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest. By W. H. Auden. Ed. Arthur Kirsch. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2003.

Larkin, Philip. "What's Become of Wystan?" Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982. New York: Farrar, 1983. 123-28.

McDiarmid, Lucy. Auden's Apologies for Poetry. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1990.

Mendelson, Edward. Early Auden. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983.

--. Later Auden. New York: Farrar, 1999.

Osborne, Charles. W H. Auden: The Life of a Poet. New York: Harcourt, 1979.

Pearce, Donald. "Fortunate Fall: W. H. Auden at Michigan" W. H. Auden: The Far Interior. Ed. Alan Bold. London: Vision, 1985. 129-57.

Robertson, D. W. "The Concept of Courtly Love as an Impediment to the Understanding of Medieval Texts." The Meaning of Courtly Love. Ed. E X. Newman. Albany: State U of New York P, 1968. 1-18.

Rougemont, Denis de. Love in the Western World. Trans. Montgomery Belgion. New York: Harcourt, 1940.

Spears, Monroe K. "The Divine Comedy of W. H. Auden." Sewanee Review 90 (1982): 53-72.

--. The Poetry of W. H. Auden: The Disenchanted Island. London: Oxford UP, 1968.

Wetzsteon, Rachael. Influential Ghosts: A Study of Auden's Sources. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Williams, Charles. The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church. New York: Longmans, 1939.

NOTES

(1) Unless otherwise noted, all references to Auden's poems are to the 1991 Collected Poems, edited by Edward Mendelson.

(2) In 1956 Rougemont would publish a second, heavily revised edition, which is still in print.

(3) Despite his engaging analysis of the Tristan myth, Rougemont's theory about the connection between the Troubadours and the Cathars is based largely on conjecture and has been discredited by subsequent scholarship. Even so, the connection has entered the popular imagination in some venues, for example in Umberto Eco's medieval detective novel The Name of the Rose, which is premised partly on a connection between sexual promiscuity and an early fourteenth-century monastic sect called the Apostolic Brothers, which bears some resemblance to the twelfth-century Cathars as Eco's novel describes them (see especially 225-36).

(4) This is not to say that either Rougemont or Auden rejected all forms of mysticism. Rougemont explains that orthodox mysticism aspires to an "epithalamic" union between human and God in which the distinction between creature and creator is maintained. (143-44, 147). Auden exhibits a thorough and nuanced knowledge of mysticism in his essay on "'l-he Protestant Mysics" (Forewords 49-78) in which he distinguishes four types of mystical vision--the Vision of Dame Kind, or Nature; the Vision of Eros; the Vision of Agape; and the Vision of God--all of which are consistent with orthodox Christianity.

(5) "Sin, it has been remarked, is not Eros, but the sublimation of Eros" (Rougemont's note).

(6) Auden quotes from Dante's Purgatorio (17.104-5). In Allen Mandelbaum's translation, the passage reads, "love is the seed in you of every virtue / and of all acts deserving punishment" (17.104- 5).

(7) The history of modern ideas about medieval "courtly love" is long and complicated, and the matter has yet to be settled absolutely. For a trenchant critique of the idea that "courtly love" was a real historical phenomenon in the Middle Ages, see D. W. Robertson's 1967 essay in The Meaning of Courtly Love (1-18). An example of a more measured critique is Henry Ansgar Kelly's Love and Marriage in the Age of Chaucer (see especially 19-28). Despite these and other attempts to demonstrate that "courtly love" was not a medieval phenomenon at all but a romanticized Victorian misreading of a few medieval texts, use of the term persists in some circles. For example, see Sarah Kay's essay "Courts, Clerks, and Courtly Love" in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance (81-96).

(8) Scholarly critiques of Rougemont began to appear in the 1960s and 1970s, long after Auden had absorbed the ideas into his thinking. In a 1967 lecture, the text of which is printed in Secondary Worlds, Auden unreservedly reiterates Rougemont's account of the development of "the cult of courtly love" and also quotes a passage from Love in the Western World that summarizes the book's general argument that eros can exist only in the presence of barriers to consummation (75). Clearly Auden was unaware that, as he was giving his lectures in the late 1960s, the tide of critical and historical opinion was turning against Rougemont's theory.

(9) For example, see Rougemont's chapter on Petrarch (153-58). Troilus in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde also exhibits these traits, and as such has often been identified as a "courtly lover:' See D. W. Robertson for both explanation and rebuttal.

(10) Mendelson makes the plausible suggestion that, while Auden was suspicious of natural theology during the 1940s, he became more sympathetic to it later in life (Later 484n).
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Author:Schuler, Stephen J.
Publication:Christianity and Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Words:10569
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