Auden's celebrated anthology of light verse is packed with surprising finds while also offering a striking rethinking of the poetic canon. Commissioned by Oxford University Press in the 1930s, when Auden's own work was at its boldest, the book caught its original publisher off guard. For it is less a collection of humorous verses than a celebration of the popular voice in English, in which the work of great satirists like Swift and Byron keeps company with ballads, chanteys, ditties, nursery rhymes, street calls, bathroom graffiti, epitaphs, folk songs, vaudeville turns, limericks, and blues. Turning away from the post-Romantic cult of the sentimental lyric, Auden features poetry that is clear, enjoyable, and, no matter its age, absolutely modern.
This new edition includes previously censored poems, together with Auden's remarkable introduction and a new preface by his literary executor, Edward Mendelson.