For the Time Being

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For the Time Being
First edition, published by Random House
AuthorW. H. Auden
Published1944 (1944)

"For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio", is a long poem by W. H. Auden, written 1941-42, and first published in 1944. It was one of two long poems included in Auden's book also titled For the Time Being, published in 1944; the other poem included in the book was "The Sea and the Mirror."

The poem is a series of dramatic monologues spoken by the characters in the Christmas story and by choruses and a narrator. The characters all speak in modern diction, and the events of the story are portrayed as if they occurred in the contemporary world.

Auden wrote the poem to be set to music by Benjamin Britten, but it was far too long for this purpose, and Britten set only two fragments, including one ("Shepherd's Carol") that Auden dropped before the work was published.

The poem is dedicated to the memory of Auden's mother, Constance Rosalie Bicknell Auden.


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