Posts tagged WH Auden
Posts tagged WH Auden
“Poet, oracle, and wit
Like unsuccessful anglers by
The ponds of apperception sit,
Baiting with the wrong request
The vectors of their interest,
At nightfall tell the angler’s lie.
With time in tempest everywhere,
To rafts of frail assumption cling
The saintly and the insincere;
Enraged phenomena bear down
In overwhelming waves to drown
Both sufferer and suffering.
The waters long to hear our question put
Which would release the longed-for answer, but.”
Birthday boy W. H. Auden, section XIX from his poem, “The Quest”
Just ask the question.
“Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.
Clear, unscaleable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.”
WH Auden, from “Autumn Song”
And suddenly I wonder if Lucien had volumes of Auden’s poetry in the Dreaming’s Library.
(Ariel to Caliban. Echo by the Prompter)
Weep no more but pity me,
Fleet persistent shadow cast
By your lameness, caught at last,
Helplessly in love with you,
Elegance, art, fascination,
Spare me a humiliation,
To your faults be true:
I can sing as you reply
WH Auden, from The Sea and the Mirror.
I’ve written about this poem before, Auden’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Tempest in verse (well, except for the bit where Caliban channels Henry James). This is the closing bit of it. There are two more stanzas that Ariel speaks, and I am always crying by the end. It is one of my most favorite poems.
“Night and the rivers sang a chthonic love,
Destroyer of cities and of daylight order,
But seemed to them weak argument for death.
The apple tree that cannot measure time
Might taste the apple yet not be condemned:
They, to enjoy it, must renounce the world.”
W. H. Auden, from “Kairos and Logos”
Except we can of course measure time with an apple tree: from sere to blossom to fruit to fall. Or is it the fall where we begin, with apples? I can never quite remember.
“The Witch gave a squawk; her venomous body
Melted into light as water leaves a spring,
And the high green hill sits always by the sea.
At his crossroads, too, the Ancient prayed for me;
Down his wasted cheeks tears of joy were running:
My Dear One is mine as mirrors are lonely.
He kissed me awake and no one was sorry;
The sun shone on sales, eyes, pebbles, anything,
And the high green hill sits always by the sea.”
W. H. Auden, from “Miranda,” in The Sea and the Mirror
I love so much of this. The poem is a villanelle, and I have such a fondness for structured poetry - the balance between rules and art is a liminal space, full of freedom. And The Sea and the Mirror is a retelling of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest. Auden cracks the play open, and shows its beating heart, and then resurrects it.