w.h. auden.

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search & destroy.

cozen (Cozen), Friday, 15 April 2005 13:06 (nineteen years ago) link

I like the one about choo choo trains and postmen but some of the others are a bit difficult.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Friday, 15 April 2005 14:05 (nineteen years ago) link

I've barely read him. There was a difficult poem of his that I read a while back that made me think he was worth reading but it's ten years later and I've never gotten around to it.

The blowjob poem is cute enough.

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 15 April 2005 14:28 (nineteen years ago) link

In Praise of Limestone! I don't think that's about bjs unless I'm missing something, so... which one IS the bj poem?

Donald, Friday, 15 April 2005 15:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It's called "A Day For A Lay". The website that had it online is no longer up.

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 15 April 2005 16:10 (nineteen years ago) link

Wait, here it is: http://www.jmucci.com/verse/nepo/x_AUDEN

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 15 April 2005 16:11 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm partial to the one starting "Fleeing the short-haired mad executives, the sad and useless faces 'round my home, upon the mountain of my fear I climb...". There's one about an execution that's pretty amazing.

Jaq (Jaq), Friday, 15 April 2005 17:46 (nineteen years ago) link

my favorite auden has been ruined forever, immortalized as "the funeral poem" in four weddings & a funeral...

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.....

carolyn, Friday, 15 April 2005 21:45 (nineteen years ago) link

search: whole age of anxiety, the "airman's journal" section of "the orators" & the little fragment about igneous metaphors being banned from politicians.

destroy: gosh if i know.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Saturday, 16 April 2005 01:19 (nineteen years ago) link

the platonic blow manages to be both deeply tender and deeply erotic, makes you feel sentimenatl about emerging tumsence

i like the other, more famous ones
the lines about airports in wb yeats; about suffering the old masters were never wrong, some of his ballads...but the platonic blow.

anthony, Sunday, 17 April 2005 07:37 (nineteen years ago) link

S: The Fall of Rome, especially the end:

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

Donald, Sunday, 17 April 2005 15:29 (nineteen years ago) link


youn, Sunday, 17 April 2005 15:56 (nineteen years ago) link

I once did a Stop All the Clocks lesson as a (pre-prescribed) means of teaching English to foreigners. They all went very quiet, until someone cottoned on it was gay, when all hell broke loose. I had a very good time.

I wish I still had my Auden book.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Monday, 18 April 2005 09:17 (nineteen years ago) link

I have a wonderful recording of this at home:

We, too, had known golden hours
When body and soul were in tune,
Had danced with our true loves
By the light of a full moon,
And sat with the wise and good
As tongues grew witty and gay
Over some noble dish
Out of Escoffier;
Had felt the intrusive glory
Which tears reserve apart,
And would in the old grand manner
Have sung from a resonant heart.
But, pawed-at and gossiped-over
By the promiscuous crowd,
Concocted by editors
Into spells to befuddle the crowd,
All words like Peace and Love,
All sane affirmative speech,
Had been soiled, profaned, debased
To a horrid mechanical screech.
No civil style survived
That pandemonium
But the wry, the sotto-voce,
Ironic and monochrome:
And where should we find shelter
For joy or mere content
When little was left standing
But the suburb of dissent?

And I read this again yesterday and realised that I really hadn't GOT it - or liked it - before:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Archel (Archel), Monday, 18 April 2005 11:03 (nineteen years ago) link

It really is brilliant, isn't it? Wow. I want to go back and read all the poems ever "taught" to me in highschool now.

rrrobyn (rrrobyn), Monday, 18 April 2005 12:29 (nineteen years ago) link

In truth, I am still not sure I get it.

I rather admire the daring melodrama of 'September 1st, 1939'. 'Show an affirming flame', indeed!

Surely it is time for JtN to ... wax, about 'Moon Landing'?

the firefox, Monday, 18 April 2005 16:14 (nineteen years ago) link

'Who's Who' is just my kind of thing:

"...could whistle; would sit still".

Marvellous. Also that one about the open shirt and tinkling guitar - I can't recall the name.

Ally C (Ally C), Tuesday, 19 April 2005 21:39 (nineteen years ago) link

two months pass...
Despite its use in Four Weddings and a Funeral (i kind of like that film, im a John Hannah fan) 'Stop All The Clocks' is still the best Auden Poem.

Shutruk Nahunte, Wednesday, 22 June 2005 07:27 (nineteen years ago) link

There's a really great Louvin Brothers song which is similar to "Stop All The Clocks" -- it's called, I think, "My Baby's Gone" or something like that.

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 22 June 2005 23:27 (nineteen years ago) link

fourteen years pass...

when u distract yrself from working on a deadlined proposal (due friday but i'm nowhere with it) by rewriting STOP ALL THE CLOCKS as LOCK ALL THE THREADS

this is where i got to: “archive the back-up shitposts, unkillfile mr snrub

i quit when i spotted that "fredrick b” would deliver more useable rhymes but a less mark s outcome

mark s, Monday, 27 January 2020 16:33 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

They are still alive, but in a world he changed
simply by looking back with no false regrets;
all he did was to remember
like the old and be honest like children.

He wasn't clever at all: he merely told
the unhappy Present to recite the Past
like a poetry lesson till sooner
or later it faltered at the line where

long ago the accusations had begun,
and suddenly knew by whom it had been judged,
how rich life had been and how silly,
and was life-forgiven and more humble,

able to approach the Future as a friend
without a wardrobe of excuses, without
a set mask of rectitude or an
embarrassing over-familiar gesture.

Ngolo Cantwell (Chinaski), Sunday, 16 February 2020 14:32 (four years ago) link

I'm only slowly making sense of Auden. For all his formal majesty and trickery, I find him surprisingly sentimental (and funny). That poem about Freud is surprising in all kinds of ways and seems to me to chime with Adam Phillips's approach to psychoanalysis:

You have said, “I read psychoanalysis as poetry, so I don’t have to worry about whether it is true or even useful, but only whether it is haunting or moving or intriguing or amusing—whether it is something I can’t help but be interested in.”
Yes, I was interested in psychoanalytic writing as being evocative rather than informative. At the time, the professional literature was written as if it was informing you either about how to practice psychoanalysis or about what people meant, broadly speaking. I couldn’t read it like that. Partly temperamentally, and partly because I’d had a literary education. For me, Freud made sense then not in terms of the history of science or the history of neurology, but in terms of the history of literature. I had been lucky enough to read Tristram Shandy before I read psychoanalysis.

One advantage of thinking about psychoanalysis as an art, instead of a science, is that you don’t have to believe in progress. The tradition I was educated in was very committed to psychoanalysis as a science, as something that was making progress in its understanding of people. As if psychoanalysis was a kind of technique that we were improving all the time. This seemed to me at odds with at least one of Freud’s presuppositions, which was that conflict was eternal and that there was to be no kind of Enlightenment convergence on a consensual truth. The discipline was practised, though, as if we were going to make more and more discoveries about human nature, as though psychoanalysis was going to become more and more efficient, rather than the idea—which seemed to me to be more interesting—that psychoanalysis starts from the position that there is no cure, but that we need different ways of living with ourselves and different descriptions of these so-called selves.
The great thing about the psychoanalytic treatment is that it doesn’t work in the usual sense of work. I don’t mean by this to avoid the fact that it addresses human suffering. I only mean that it takes for granted that an awful lot of human suffering is simply intractable, that there’s a sense in which character is. People change, but there really are limits. One thing you discover in psychoanalytic treatment is the limits of what you can change about yourself or your life. We are children for a very long time.

Ngolo Cantwell (Chinaski), Sunday, 16 February 2020 14:41 (four years ago) link

I read Auden's collection About the House and loved it. It's based around a simple meditation on the domestic - his study, the cellar, the attic, the bedroom, the bog (the house where everybody goes) - and is gently wise and funny. His 'in memoriam' for Louis MacNiece, The Cave of Making, is a highlight:

We’re not musicians: to stink of Poetry
is unbecoming, and never
to be dull shows a lack of taste. Even a limerick
ought to be something a man of
honor, awaiting death from cancer or a firing squad,
could read without contempt: (at
that frontier I wouldn’t dare speak to anyone
in either a prophet’s bellow
or a diplomat’s whisper).

Seeing you know our mystery
from the inside and therefore
how much, in our lonely dens, we need the companionship
of our good dead, to give us
comfort on dowly days when the self is a nonentity
dumped on a mound of nothing,
to break the spell of our self-enchantment when lip-smacking
imps of mawk and hooey
write with us what they will, you won’t think me imposing if
I ask you to stay at my elbow
until cocktail time: dear Shade, for your elegy
I should have been able to manage
something more like you than this egocentric monologue,
but accept it for friendship’s sake.

Ngolo Cantwell (Chinaski), Saturday, 29 February 2020 21:30 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

The Fall of Rome
W. H. Auden - 1907-1973

(for Cyril Connolly)

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 18 March 2020 10:58 (four years ago) link

have always loved the last verse, to me it applies in all times

(= anything you recognise as an institution is always actually falling)

mark s, Wednesday, 18 March 2020 11:00 (four years ago) link

The 'very fast' kills me

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 18 March 2020 11:02 (four years ago) link

Last verse such a kicker.

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 18 March 2020 11:08 (four years ago) link

The last verse is huge and feels, amongst other things, like a codebreaker for large chunks of Larkin

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 18 March 2020 12:28 (four years ago) link

that is a remarkable poem

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 18 March 2020 21:07 (four years ago) link


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 18 March 2020 21:25 (four years ago) link

nine months pass...

Came here to see what has been said of Auden after a bunch of his lines kept popping into my head. Saw this from a post above—just fantastic:

We’re not musicians: to stink of Poetry
is unbecoming, and never
to be dull shows a lack of taste. Even a limerick
ought to be something a man of
honor, awaiting death from cancer or a firing squad,
could read without contempt: (at
that frontier I wouldn’t dare speak to anyone
in either a prophet’s bellow
or a diplomat’s whisper).

treeship., Monday, 4 January 2021 04:18 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equally affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime
Though this might take me a little time.

poppers fueled buttsex crescendo (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 4 April 2024 11:59 (three months ago) link

Samuel Delany shared this one on his Facebook page a little while ago, a good'un:

Being set on the idea
Of getting to Atlantis,
You have discovered of course
Only the Ship of Fools is
Making the voyage this year,
As gales of abnormal force
Are predicted, and that you
Must therefore be ready to
Behave absurdly enough
To pass for one of The Boys,
At least appearing to love
Hard liquor, horseplay and noise.

Should storms, as may well happen,
Drive you to anchor a week
In some old harbour-city
Of Ionia, then speak
With her witty scholars, men
Who have proved there cannot be
Such a place as Atlantis:
Learn their logic, but notice
How its subtlety betrays
Their enormous simple grief;
Thus they shall teach you the ways
To doubt that you may believe.

If, later, you run aground
Among the headlands of Thrace,
Where with torches all night long
A naked barbaric race
Leaps frenziedly to the sound
Of conch and dissonant gong:
On that stony savage shore
Strip off your clothes and dance, for
Unless you are capable
Of forgetting completely
About Atlantis, you will
Never finish your journey.

Again, should you come to gay
Carthage or Corinth, take part
In their endless gaiety;
And if in some bar a tart,
As she strokes your hair, should say
"This is Atlantis, dearie,"
Listen with attentiveness
To her life-story: unless
You become acquainted now
With each refuge that tries to
Counterfeit Atlantis, how
Will you recognise the true?

Assuming you beach at last
Near Atlantis, and begin
That terrible trek inland
Through squalid woods and frozen
Thundras where all are soon lost;
If, forsaken then, you stand,
Dismissal everywhere,
Stone and now, silence and air,
O remember the great dead
And honour the fate you are,
Travelling and tormented,
Dialectic and bizarre.

Stagger onward rejoicing;
And even then if, perhaps
Having actually got
To the last col, you collapse
With all Atlantis shining
Below you yet you cannot
Descend, you should still be proud
Even to have been allowed
Just to peep at Atlantis
In a poetic vision:
Give thanks and lie down in peace,
Having seen your salvation.

All the little household gods
Have started crying, but say
Good-bye now, and put to sea.
Farewell, my dear, farewell: may
Hermes, master of the roads,
And the four dwarf Kabiri,
Protect and serve you always;
And may the Ancient of Days
Provide for all you must do
His invisible guidance,
Lifting up, dear, upon you
The light of His countenance.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 4 April 2024 12:15 (three months ago) link

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