In Praise of Limestone
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"In Praise of Limestone" is a poem written by W. H. Auden in Italy in May 1948. Central to his canon and one of Auden's finest poems, it has been the subject of diverse scholarly interpretations. Auden's limestone landscape has been interpreted as an allegory of Mediterranean civilization and of the human body. The poem, sui generis, is not easily classified. As a topographical poem, it describes a landscape and infuses it with meaning. It has been called the "first … postmodern pastoral". In a letter, Auden wrote of limestone and the poem's theme that "that rock creates the only human landscape."
First published in Horizon in July 1948, the poem then appeared in his important 1951 collection Nones. A revised version was published beginning in 1958, and is prominently placed in the last chronological section of Auden's Collected Shorter Poems, 1922–1957 (1966).