February 21, 2007 marked the centennial of the birth of W.H. Auden, one of the most important poets of the 20th century. Most widely known perhaps as the author of “September 1st, 1939″ and “Funeral Blues,” Auden remains unmatched as a formal virtuoso and as what might best be called a poet of civilization. Though many have tried, no one else has spoken in his distinctive double voice, endued at once with the full cultural authority of the English lyric tradition and with the highest erotic irony. To commemorate this occasion, we offer you Auden’s poem “Pleasure Island,” which first appeared in the pages of COMMENTARY in May 1949, and the Australian critic Clive James’s penetrating essay “Auden’s Achievement.” Enjoy.
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