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
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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.
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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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