“Gonzalo,” by W. H. Auden (recited by Eric Robert Nolan)

A selection from “The Sea and the Mirror.”


“Precocious children rarely grow up good.”

“I must admit that I was most precocious
“(Precocious children rarely grow up good).
“My aunts and uncles thought me quite atrocious
“For using words more adult than I should.”

— excerpt from W. H. Auden’s “Letter to Lord Byron,” in Letters from Iceland, 1937



This was W. H. Auden’s first book of poetry.

It was hardly more than a chapbook, really — it was a hand-printed pamphlet informally published in 1928 by Auden’s friend and fellow Briton, the poet and essayist Stephen Spender (second photo).  Auden would have been about 21 at the time.  In other words, Auden’s career began in a manner not unlike many indie poets today.

Only about 45 copies of Poems were released.  The book is today considered one of the rarest in 20th Century literature.

To make matters just a bit more confusing, Auden’s next two books of poetry, in 1930 and 1934, were likewise entitled simply Poems.  (And the 1930 book had two editions.)  Oddly, Auden wanted no distinctive title for any of the books because he thought a title might distract the reader from the content of the poems themselves.)  The 1930 volume was accepted for publisher Faber & Faber by none other than T.S. Eliot, who was one of his earliest influences.





W. H. Auden reads “Alonso to Ferdinand”

This is my favorite poem of all time — read by my favorite poet of all time.

Once again, this is an excerpt from Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest,” first published in 1944.


“Song of The Master and Boatswain” by W.H. Auden (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

I am linking here to the SpokenVerse Youtube Channel.  This poem is a favorite of mine.

“Tom O’Bedlam” is such a kick-ass name.  It sounds like a man who starts a lot of barfights.  Or some kind of … Irish agent provocateur.  I’d be thrilled if people nicknamed me “Eric O’Bedlam.”


“One face cries nothing, Prospero …”

One face cries nothing, Prospero,

My conscience is my own;

Pallid Sebastian does not know

The dream in which Antonio

Fights the white bull alone.

— from Antonio’s refrain in “The Sea and the Mirror,” by W. H. Auden