This short paper explores W.H Auden's complicated relationship with the social responsibility. As Auden's canon is so varied and coloured by different styles, reflecting different stages in his development as a man and a poet,  it is impossible to be categorical about this issue. So this paper is also, ineluctably, an exercise in Auden's biography.


One on hand there is the image of Auden as an older man: obsessed by language's intricacy, with a dictionary always to hand. Such a centripetal approach to writing seems greatly at odds with the radical young poet whose writing brims with the influence of Marx in his earliest collection Poems.


For me, Auden's struggle with this issue brilliantly illumates one of the central cruxes of art - what debt does the poet owe to the city? If so, how is it to be expressed?