Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice

“The New Year comes with bombs, it is too late

To dose the dead with honourable intentions:

If you have honour to spare, employ it on the living;

The dead are dead as Nineteen-Thirty-Eight.”


This remarkable poem ultimately deserves the status of a masterpiece. It is able to mix the personal with the political. Written during the course of an international crisis, it conveys the complex contradictions of the time.

The poet is unafraid to tackle the perplexing issue of nationalism. In addition, he mentions great philosophers like Plato, Hegel and Marx. However, he avoids making excessive commitments to any specific school of analysis. Freud gets a fleeting look in, but the writer is prepared to accept the seeming inadequacy of the tools at his disposal.

It is important to note that the poet is unafraid of the vulgar, the profane and the ordinary. He does not dwell on a cloud or preach from a tower. His sympathies, his fears, and his capacities are tilted towards the world that there is.


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