Word Ways


W. H. Auden's Academic Graffiti (Faber & Faber, London 1971) upon first reading may appear to contain little else than slightly satirical examples of nonsense verse in the familiar tradition of Edward Lear. Its most obvious analogue would appear to be with T. S. Eliot's Book of Practical Cats, but just as at least one of Eliot's prime feline creations had a basis in 19th-century fiction, in the depiction of Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty (namely his tom, Macavity, as "The Napoleon of Crime"), so it is permissible that Auden's lyrical sketches can have more meaning than at first meets the eye. Thus, consider No. 16: