Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 119

By parodying forms that are in circulation outside the cus–
tomary channels of "book" literature, Brecht gained for his poetry
a certain sharp contemporaneous quality such as we can hardly
find elsewhere in modern verse. It seems to me that Auden learned
much from him and found his example an aid in his endeavors to
free modern English poetry from the straitjacket of pure poetry
and to make it deal once more with wide ranges of experience.
poets can no longer deal with politics, religion and love on their
own terms, and earnestly, because to take too positive a stand would
involve them in unpoetic controversy, then they must deal with
them ironically. The attribution of influences is dangerous, but I
cannot help thinking that Auden learned something from Brecht in
the way of working into poetry slang, the modish phrase, echoes of
the rhetoric of the past, the scraps of intelligent conversation, the
cliches of the intellect and of journalism, and the flat up-to-date
wisdom of psychology and Marxist politics. Auden, too, parodies
prayers, odes, magic spells and nursery rhymes. His precocious
wit is his own, and it is something subtler and more cultured than
Brecht's, but he must have got more than a hint from him as to how
to metabolize it into poetry....
As much as Brecht is a parodist and strives for an anonymous
manner, there is a unified style in the
poems which
constantly breaks through with its personal resonance. His most
consistent manner is one of dry understatement, simple, yet in–
direct, affectedly restrained. But what makes his style most char–
acteristically his own are the shifts in tone and transpositions of
key. To put established and well-worn conventions to new uses is
to strike discords. Dry matter-of-factness unfurls into Biblical
grandiloquence. The sententious passage collapses abruptly at a
banal expression or trivial image, or when the rhyme falls on an
auxiliary verb or the main stress on the illogical word. The grim
and horrible alternate with the idyllic, the brutal with the senti–
mental, the cynical with the falsely naive. There is a process of
inflation and deflation, a succession of anti-climaxes:
lch, Bertolt Brecht, bin aus den schwarzen Wiildem.
Meine Mutter trug mich in die Stiidte hinein
Als ich in ihrem Leibe lag. Und die Kiilte der Walder
Wird in mir bis zu meinem Absterben sein.
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