The Shield of Achilles

W.H. Auden


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Princeton University Press
7 May 2024
ISBN: 9780691218656
136 pages

From the publisher

Back in print for the first time in decades, Auden’s National Book Award–winning poetry collection, in a critical edition that introduces it to a new generation of readers

The Shield of Achilles, which won the National Book Award in 1956, may well be W. H. Auden’s most important, intricately designed, and unified book of poetry. In addition to its famous title poem, which reimagines Achilles’s shield for the modern age, when war and heroism have changed beyond recognition, the book also includes two sequences—“Bucolics” and “Horae Canonicae”—that Auden believed to be among his most significant work. Featuring an authoritative text and an introduction and notes by Alan Jacobs, this volume brings Auden’s collection back into print for the first time in decades and offers the only critical edition of the work.

As Jacobs writes in the introduction, Auden’s collection “is the boldest and most intellectually assured work of his career, an achievement that has not been sufficiently acknowledged.” Describing the book’s formal qualities and careful structure, Jacobs shows why The Shield of Achilles should be seen as one of Auden’s most central poetic statements—a richly imaginative, beautifully envisioned account of what it means to live, as human beings do, simultaneously in nature and in history.