W H Auden: © Copyright by the Estate of W. H. Auden. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Louis MacNeice: © Estate of Louis MacNeice. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
This is an extract from Poems for Spain, an anthology of poems about the Spanish Civil War edited by Stephen Spender and John Lehmann. It was published by the Hogarth Press in 1939, the year that marked the end of the war in Spain and the beginning of World War Two. The anthology includes works by W H Auden, Louis MacNeice, Pablo Neruda, Cecil Day Lewis, Margot Heinemann, Herbert Read, Stephen Spender and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Many of the poems in the book are by writers who had volunteered in the International Brigades to support the Spanish Republican government against General Franco’s troops, including John Cornford and Charles Donnelly, who were killed in combat. Spender and Lehmann’s introduction stresses the crucial role of poets in the international anti-fascist struggle, and expresses their desire for a new genre of popular poetry:
In a world where poetry seems to have been abandoned, become the exalted medium of a few specialists, or the superstition of backward peoples, this awakening of a sense of the richness of a to-morrow with poetry, is as remarkable as the struggle for liberty itself …
Poems for Spain also contains translations into English of romanceros, popular ballads about the war and the anti-fascist effort, as well as several elegies for the playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, killed in 1936.