London: n.d. [1939ff.]. typescript signed. 8vo, 4 pages, 28-stanza poem, typescript signed "W. H. Auden" in blue ink, n.p., no date [post-September 23, 1939]. Near Fine. Item #246
W. H. Auden, who was then at the peak of his powers, wrote this poignant elegy for recently deceased Dr. Sigmund Freud soon after the great refugee psychoanalyst had arrived safely in London; then died shortly thereafter.
Having barely escaped from Vienna with his family from the ravages of Nazi persecution, Dr. Sigmund Freud briefly resettled in London. Then, because he was suffering greatly from repeated surgeries for painful cancer of the mouth, the exhausted 82-year old doctor finally decided to have himself secretly euthanized by his personal physician who administered an overdose of morphine--as was learned years later.
This is a clean, excellent signed typescript of Auden's memorable poetic memorial to the great psychoanalyst. It was Auden's first poem written in syllabic metre and was strongly influenced in that regard by Marianne Moore's successes.
John Fuller, W.H. Auden: A Commentary, discusses this poem (pp.294-95): observing that, though this long biographical poem is "discursive," it was possibly "thereby a greater tribute." The poet deals with the nature of evil, faith in conflict with self-interest, and moral tensions between intellect and feeling.
Fuller adds that, "As early as 1929, Auden had been naturally critical of Freud's attitude to conventional sexual behavior . . . and had been more impressed by psychologists who allowed men to accept their natural urges rather than to expect them to be curable."