When this selection was first published in 1979, just 6 years after Auden's death, people still divided his career into the "English Auden" (up to 1939) and the "American Auden" (post 1939). Controversy still raged over Auden's own selection of his poems which eliminated and disowned many of the essential early works - something this selection sought to redress. Those controversies are long dead, I think, but they served a purpose in giving us this excellent selection with an illuminating introduction from Edward Mendelson, whose first sentence- "Auden was the first poet writing in English who felt at home in the twentieth century", already provides a great insight. Exactly 100 poems have been chosen which fills over 300 pages, very generous for a "selected" poems. The poems Auden rejected such as "Spain" and "September 1, 1939" are restored and are absolutely central to understanding his oeuvre. Longer sequences such as "In Time of War", "The Quest" and "The Sea and the Mirror" are presented in their entirety along with the familiar major lyrics such as "Lay your sleeping head, my love", "As I walked out one evening", "Musee des beaux arts" and perhaps his greatest single poem "In praise of Limestone" right up to his final published poem in 1973. You can tell this selection was made before "Four weddings and a funeral" as there is no "Funeral Blues" or "Tell me the truth about love"! Which in itself might indicate the richness in Auden's work. So, this collection is maybe not for the casual reader who only wants the 5 or 6 really famous poems, but for the person who wants to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the full range of Auden's work. He is not always easy to understand, but sometimes great poetry isn't easy - nevertheless, it can still be enjoyed. As a teacher of mine once put it "Appreciation precedes understanding" and I have found this to be true often and especially so with Auden.
The book sent is not as pictured, but a maroon coloured copy with a pencilled drawing of WH Auden, a Faber & Faber publication. This in itself is not a problem but to describe it as 'very good' is not true. The copy sent to me is an ex-study copy with copious amounts of pencilled notes on many many pages. To quote Amazon, a very good copy may have "some identifying marks on the inside cover" - this is most definitely not the case.