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Look, Stranger!

Look, Stranger!, On This Island

auden collection earlier political

a collection of verse by W. H. Auden, published in 1936. It contains a number of his best-known poems, including those later given the titles ‘On This Island’, ‘Our Hunting Fathers’, and ‘A Bride in the 30's’. His social and political preoccupations of the earlier 1930s remain apparent, most obviously in ‘Brothers, who when the sirens roar …’; the references to communism which were contained in earlier versions of that poem were, however, deleted for its appearance in Look, Stranger! Such textual changes, and the non-inclusion of other explicitly political material that was available to him, indicate the withdrawal from a doctrinaire ideological position that is a characteristic of Auden's development at the time. The concern with spiritual values that dominates his thinking from 1938 onwards becomes discernible in the collection, particularly in ‘A Summer Night’ and ‘Paysage Moralisé’. The volume is also memorable for the imaginative panoramas of landscape and history which open up in the contemplative poems ‘Prologue’ (‘O Love, the interest itself in thoughtless Heaven …’) and ‘Here on the cropped grass of the narrow ridge I stand …’; these pieces typify the rather self-consciously vatic manner exhibited in parts of Look, Stranger! Auden was unhappy with the book's title, chosen by his publisher while he was in Iceland, and remarked that it sounded ‘like the work of a vegetarian lady novelist’; the American edition of 1937 was entitled On This Island.

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