Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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W. H. Auden (1907-73)


Anglo-American poet, born in York, England. While still at Christ Church, Oxford, he became the leader of a group of young left-wing poets. Among his contemporaries were Louis MacNeice (1907-63), Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-72), and Stephen Spender (1909-95). In 1939 he left Europe for America, and in 1946 became a US citizen. In 1956 he was elected professor of poetry at Oxford. He died of heart attack on the 28th September, 1973, in Vienna, Austria, where he was staying for a public lecture.

Auden was regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. His first volume of poetry, Poems (1930), was accepted by T. S. Eliot for publication by Faber and Faber. Subsequently, he showed a wide variety of creative concerns, including The Dog beneath the Skin (1935), a play with Christopher Isherwood (1904-86), Letters from Iceland (1937), produced after a visit to Iceland with MacNeice, The Oxford Book of Light Verse (1938) edited by himself, The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (1948), a long dramatic poem, reflecting man’s isolation, Secondary Worlds (1968, T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures), and opera librettos for Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1951). Auden’s literary ballads, including “As I Walked Out One Evening” and “Miss Gee”, are all good examples of his mastery of verse form, which combined traditional and modern styles of language and technique for political, psychological, and religious subjects. (M. Y.)

1. As I Walked Out One Evening
2. The Ballad of Barnaby
3. Miss Gee
4. "O the valley in the summer where I and my John"
5. O What Is That Sound
6. Victor