Auden's early works are all more or less imbued with social criticism and protest, and concerned with the economic , social and political issues of the time, such as unemployment, colonialism , the Civil War in Spain , the rise of
Nazism and racial discrimination. Many critics praised Auden in the 1930s for the social relevance of his
themes an this political commitment, and even suggested that these precious poetic talents and versatility , made him one of the major English poets after Eliot. Among Auden's main themes of oppression was also dealt with in some of his
earlier poems, as , for example, in his famous Ballad , published in 1934 and later included in the volume Another Time (1940). The ballad, among other things, is an example of the great originality of Auden's style of the great variety of registers he would continue to use, ranging from colloquial speech to journalistic jargon, from blues to archaic ballads.
Ballad is one of the most frequently anthologized of Auden's poems in ballad form. At first sight, it actually reads as a puzzle: who is speaking? To whom and about what? Apparently , anyway, it is based on a conversation about soldiers between a girl and a man. Yet, as we read on, we realize that the poem is actually about war, or rather about the disasters of war. It does not provide any information about the time or place in which the events take place, making the situation , being timeless , become symbolic of all the consequences common to any war. Although nothing is explicit , the last stanzas in particular suggest, in fact, betrayal, fear, destruction, violence and possible rape, evoked above all in the last two lines of the poem.