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Snider, C. (1982). Auden's Quest Poems: “Lady Weeping at the Crossroads” and “Atlantis”. Am. Imago, 39(2):95-100.

(1982). American Imago, 39(2):95-100

Auden's Quest Poems: “Lady Weeping at the Crossroads” and “Atlantis”

Clifton Snider, Ph.D.

In 1961 W. H. Auden stated: “The persistent appeal of the Quest as a literary form is due, I believe, to its validity as a symbolic description of our subjective personal experience of existence as historical….the Quest tale is ill adapted to subtle portrayals of characters; its personages are almost bound to be Archetypes rather than idiosyncratic individuals.” The quest is one of Auden's favorite motifs, and I propose to examine two of Auden's shorter but important quest poems, written not long after his move to the United States in 1939 and his re-embrace of Christianity. In “Lady Weeping at the Crossroads” (1940) and “Atlantis” (January 1941), Auden draws on archetype, fairy tale, and myth to illustrate aspects of the modern personal search for what Jung calls individuation. Freud is generally considered chief among the psychological influences on Auden, but recent studies show that Jung is perhaps as important an influence. My paper, I hope, will shed more light on the impact of Jung's ideas on Auden's art.

The ballad, “Lady Weeping at the Crossroads,” is in the second person: the speaker directly addresses the heroine, who as the title and first line indicate, is at a place of decision, “the crossroads.”

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