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Archive for the ‘auden’ Category

In honor of my new friend, Jorge Porcel De Peralta, who loves Auden and the Argentinians who love Freud:

In Memory of Sigmund Freud

When there are so many we shall have to mourn,

when grief has been made so public, and exposed

to the critique of a whole epoch

the frailty of our conscience and anguish,

of whom shall we speak? For every day they die

among us, those who were doing us some good,

who knew it was never enough but

hoped to improve a little by living.

Such was this doctor: still at eighty he wished

to think of our life from whose unruliness

so many plausible young futures

with threats or flattery ask obedience,

but his wish was denied him: he closed his eyes

upon that last picture, common to us all,

of problems like relatives gathered

puzzled and jealous about our dying.

For about him till the very end were still

those he had studied, the fauna of the night,

and shades that still waited to enter

the bright circle of his recognition

turned elsewhere with their disappointment as he

was taken away from his life interest

to go back to the earth in London,

an important Jew who died in exile.

Only Hate was happy, hoping to augment

his practice now, and his dingy clientele

who think they can be cured by killing

and covering the garden with ashes.

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.

No wonder the ancient cultures of conceit

in his technique of unsettlement foresaw

the fall of princes, the collapse of

their lucrative patterns of frustration:

if he succeeded, why, the Generalised Life

would become impossible, the monolith

of State be broken and prevented

the co-operation of avengers.

Of course they called on God, but he went his way

down among the lost people like Dante, down

to the stinking fosse where the injured

lead the ugly life of the rejected,

and showed us what evil is, not, as we thought,

deeds that must be punished, but our lack of faith,

our dishonest mood of denial,

the concupiscence of the oppressor.

If some traces of the autocratic pose,

the paternal strictness he distrusted, still

clung to his utterance and features,

it was a protective coloration

for one who’d lived among enemies so long:

if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,

to us he is no more a person

now but a whole climate of opinion

under whom we conduct our different lives:

Like weather he can only hinder or help,

the proud can still be proud but find it

a little harder, the tyrant tries to

make do with him but doesn’t care for him much:

he quietly surrounds all our habits of growth

and extends, till the tired in even

the remotest miserable duchy

have felt the change in their bones and are cheered

till the child, unlucky in his little State,

some hearth where freedom is excluded,

a hive whose honey is fear and worry,

feels calmer now and somehow assured of escape,

while, as they lie in the grass of our neglect,

so many long-forgotten objects

revealed by his undiscouraged shining

are returned to us and made precious again;

games we had thought we must drop as we grew up,

little noises we dared not laugh at,

faces we made when no one was looking.

But he wishes us more than this. To be free

is often to be lonely. He would unite

the unequal moieties fractured

by our own well-meaning sense of justice,

would restore to the larger the wit and will

the smaller possesses but can only use

for arid disputes, would give back to

the son the mother’s richness of feeling:

but he would have us remember most of all

to be enthusiastic over the night,

not only for the sense of wonder

it alone has to offer, but also

because it needs our love. With large sad eyes

its delectable creatures look up and beg

us dumbly to ask them to follow:

they are exiles who long for the future

that lives in our power, they too would rejoice

if allowed to serve enlightenment like him,

even to bear our cry of ‘Judas’,

as he did and all must bear who serve it.

One rational voice is dumb. Over his grave

the household of Impulse mourns one dearly loved:

sad is Eros, builder of cities,

and weeping anarchic Aphrodite.

-W.H. Auden

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From Jeanette Winterson at jeanettewinterson.com

January

Honour the fate you are…

That’s from the Auden poem ATLANTIS in our January Poem of the Month. It seems like a good thing to remember, surfing into the New Year, with all its challenges and surprises, difficulties and dreams. I don’t want it to sound like I believe in pre-destination – fate is never that, but it is the web of possibilities from which we unthread our particular journey.

It may be that we don’t honour ourselves enough – in the sense of respecting our real nature – actual and developing. The business of trying to be ourselves is a full-time occupation – which is not to say give up your job and your family, but is to say don’t be troubled by the size of the task. Individuality is not a small thing.

I have said many times that I believe poetry can make a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves and about ourselves in the world. I have just been reading The Letters of Ted Hughes, really engaging stuff, and well worth getting hold of. He says somewhere what I have found for myself, that reading poetry out loud is revelatory. It is in part the incantation, which is ancient and mystical, something we used to do, and rarely do now. It is in part the sound and feel of breath, your breath mingling with the breath of the poet. It is in part recitation, the pleasure of pushing the thing out of your body at the same time as taking it into the body.

I find that if I recite something a few times, I can learn it without really trying – though I know this happens through habit, and won’t happen to someone straightaway. But it will fend off memory loss, and it will give you something to play with in your head the next time you are stuck on a tube-train, or in a queue, or any other situation that requires personal resources, great or small.

In any case, poetry is such an antidote to babble that a dose of it once a day reminds us what language is – and what it isn’t.

Try it for the New Year – a poem every day read out loud. It can be the same poem or different poems, or a sequence of poems, whatever you like. Think of it as a stretch exercise.

read more from Jeanette Winterson

So, to start you off, here is the Auden poem Jeanette chose:

ATLANTIS

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
Tundras where all are soon lost;
If, forsaken then, you stand,
Dismissal everywhere,
Stone and snow, silence and air,
O remember the great dead
And honour the fate you are,
Travelling and tormented,
Dialectic and bizarre.

Stagger onwards 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
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
Goodbye now, and put out 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.

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Are You There?

Each lover has some theory of his own
About the difference between the ache
Of being with his love, and being alone:

Why what, when dreaming, is dear flesh and bone
That really stirs the senses, when awake,
Appears a simulacrum of his own.

Narcissus disbelieves in the unknown;
He cannot join his image in the lake
So long as he assumes he is alone.

The child, the waterfall, the fire, the stone,
Are always up to mischief, though, and take
The universe for granted as their own.

The elderly, like Proust, are always prone
To think of love as a subjective fake;
The more they love, the more they feel alone.

Whatever view we hold, it must be shown
Why every lover has a wish to make
Some kind of otherness his own:
Perhaps, in fact, we never are alone.

-W. H. Auden

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The More Loving One

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 equal 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.

-W. H. Auden

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As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
“Love has no ending.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Afica meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.

“I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

“The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.”

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
“O let not Time deceive you
You cannot conquer Time.

“In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

“In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

“Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.

“O plunge your hands in water
Plunge them up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.”

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer
And Jill goes down on her back.”

“O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.”

“O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.”

It was late, late in the evening
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

-W.H. Auden

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