By Louis MacNeice
Written among August and December 1938, Autumn Journal continues to be one in all the main helpful and relocating testaments of dwelling during the thirties by way of a tender author. it's a list of the author's emotional and highbrow adventure in the course of these months, the minutiae of daily residing set opposed to the occasions of the realm open air, the cost in Munich and gradual defeat in Spain.
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It is the nature of this poem to be neither final nor balanced. I have certain beliefs which, I hope, emerge in the course of it but which I have refused to abstract from their context. For this reason I shall probably be called a trimmer by some and a sentimental extremist by others. But poetry in my opinion must be honest before anything else and I refuse to be 'objective' or clear-cut at the cost of honesty. L. M. March, 1939 Autumn Journal i Close and slow, summer is ending in Hampshire, Ebbing away down ramps of shaven lawn where close-clipped yew Insulates the lives of retired generals and admirals And the spyglasses hung in the hall and the prayer-books ready in the pew And August going out to the tin trumpets of nasturtiums And the sunflowers' Salvation Army blare of brass And the spinster sitting in a deck-chair picking up stitches Not raising her eyes to the noise of the 'planes that pass Northward from Lee-on-Solent.
Nor am I attempting to offer what so many people now demand from poets - a final verdict or a balanced judgment. It is the nature of this poem to be neither final nor balanced. I have certain beliefs which, I hope, emerge in the course of it but which I have refused to abstract from their context. For this reason I shall probably be called a trimmer by some and a sentimental extremist by others. But poetry in my opinion must be honest before anything else and I refuse to be 'objective' or clear-cut at the cost of honesty.
The truth of a lyric is different from the truths of science and this poem is something half-way between the lyric and the didactic poem. In as much as it is half-way towards a didactic poem I trust that it contains some 'criticism of life' or implies some standards which are not merely personal. I was writing it from August 1938 until the New Year and have not altered any passages relating to public events in the light of what happened after the time of writing. Thus the section about Barcelona having been written before the fall of Barcelona, I should consider it dishonest to have qualified it retrospectively by my reactions to the later event.