“O What Is That Sound” is a ballad by W. H. Auden, written in October 1932 and first published in 1934. It has proved to be one of the more popular of Auden’s poems of the 1930s, evoking for many readers the private terrors felt in that age of political persecutions, even though the historical setting of its implied events seems to be the eighteenth or nineteenth century, the “scarlet soldiers” suggesting British military uniforms of that era. Much later, in a lecture of 1971, Auden himself gave an account of how he had come to compose this poem with the deliberate aim of producing a nightmarish effect.

“O What Is That Sound” was first published as “Ballad” in Geoffrey Grigson’s magazine New Verse (December 1934) and then reprinted untitled as poem VI of Auden’s next

1776 words

Citation: Baldick, Chris. "O What Is That Sound". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 November 2016 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=35833, accessed 13 April 2024.]

35833 O What Is That Sound 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.