The Shield of Achilles

Price: 115.00 USD

London: Faber & Faber, 1955. First Impression, one of only 4,000 copies, of one of Auden's most highly regarded works, winner of the 1956 National Book Award for Poetry. Tall, slim 8vo: 80pp. Publisher's wine-red cloth, spine stamped gilt, bookplate to front paste down; mustard-yellow dust jacket, priced 10s/6d, printed in black with stylized shield of Achilles in red. Fine unworn copy (probably unread) in a fresh, bright jacket very lightly rubbed to top of spine panel. Bloomfield & Mendelson A35b. A poetry sequence in three parts, written between 1951 and 1954, beginning with the "Bucolics," inspired by Virgil's "Georgics," on man's relation to the natural world. The second sequence, "In Sunshine and In Shade," includes the title poem and deals with Auden's concern that the modern world (in contrast to the ancient) is a totalitarian state that stymies personal growth. The third sequence, Horae Canonicae, refers to the canonical hours of the Christian Church and walks the reader though the Good Friday observation, with each of the seven poems carrying the name of a fixed time of day for prayer. The title poem is Auden's response to the detailed description in Homer's Iliad of the shield borne by Achilles, with its spectacular imaginary illustrating aspects of life and civilization. The poem is written in two different stanza forms, one with shorter lines, describing the making of the shield by the god Hephaestus and the scenes of happiness and peace that Achilles's mother, the Nereid Thetis, envisions on the shield; the other, with longer lines, describing scenes of the barren and impersonal modern world that Hephaestus, in Auden's version, creates. Uncommon in such collectable condition. Note: With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition, with dust jackets carefully preserved in archival, removable polypropylene sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. First Edition. Fine.


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