The sudden world

Anthony Thwaite welcomes a new Collected Poems to mark Louis MacNeice’s centenary year

The sudden worldCollected Poems

by Louis MacNeice, edited by Peter McDonald

836pp, Faber, £30
In the centenary year of the births of WH Auden and Louis MacNeice [2007], celebrations are scheduled for both. In many ways Auden might seem the stronger candidate; but there are signs, some of them coming from Ireland and its jealous feuds, that MacNeice is going to have just as much attention.
MacNeice was about as English as education in Sherborne, Marlborough and Oxford could make him. But he was born in Carrickfergus near Belfast, his father a clergyman in the Church of Ireland, later to become a bishop; and there is plenty of evidence, in the poems and elsewhere, that he felt himself to be a kind of troubled Irishman. His voice carried, behind its disdainful Oxford nasality, a sort of strangled Ulster utterance.
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