New Here?
Posts tagged "Auden"

The God Who Can’t Hate His Fingers

A passage from W.H. Auden’s posthumously published The Prolific and the Devourer, which comes to us via the inestimable Matthew Sitman:

Both in the substance and the parabolic method of his teaching about love, Jesus never asks anyone to accept anything except on the basis of their personal experience of human love. In using the terms Father and Son to express the relation of the divine and the human, rather than, say King and subject, he makes the relation a physical not an intellectual one, for it is precisely because in the relation of parent and child the physical material relation is so impossible to deny, that it is so difficult for a human parent not to love their children irrespective of moral judgment. They can do so, but it is very much more difficult for them than for those who have not such an obvious physical connection.

Jesus in fact is asserting what the psychologists have confirmed: that one does in fact always conceive of one’s relations with life in terms of one’s relations with one’s parents, and in proportion as these were bad, one’s attitude to life is distorted [ed. note: see video below]. But though parental love is often imperfect, it is good enough and often enough for us to have no doubt about what it should be like. We expect parents to love their children whether they act well or badly because it is our experience that they usually do: we expect a physical relation to override morals. In speaking of the fatherhood of God, Jesus is teaching that God does not love us because we are ‘good’ or because he is very ‘good’ and merciful but because he has to, because we are part of him, and he can no more hate us if we act badly than a man can hate one of its fingers when it aches: he can only want it to get well.

Election Year Wisdom from W.H. Auden

If we were never alone or always too busy,
Perhaps we might even believe what we know is not true:
But no one is taken in, at least not all of the time;
In our bath, or the subway, or in the middle of the night,
We know very well we are not unlucky but evil,
That the dream of a Perfect State or No State at all,
To which we fly for refuge, is a part of our punishment.
Let us therefore be contrite but without anxiety,
For Powers and Times are not gods but mortal gifts from God;
Let us acknowledge our defeats but without despair,
For all societies and epochs are transient details,
Transmitting an everlasting opportunity
That the Kingdom of Heaven may come, not in our present
And not in our future, but in the Fullness of Time.
Let us pray.

For The Time Being; A Christmas Oratorio

W.H. Auden Riffs on the Lord’s Prayer in “For the Time Being”

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, The Lord's Prayer; Gieb Uns Heute Unser Taglich Brot, Das Vaterunser, 1921 (handcoloured woodcut)From the “Chorale” section, which is part of “The Summons”:

Our Father, whose creative Will
Asked Being for us all,

Confirm it that Thy Primal Love
May weave in us the freedom of
The actually deficient on
The justly actual.

Though written by Thy children with
A smudged and crooked line,
The Word is ever legible,
Thy Meaning unequivocal,
And for Thy Goodness even sin
Is valid as a sign.

Inflict Thy promises with each
Occasion of distress,
That from our incoherence we
May learn to put our trust in Thee,
And brutal fact persuade us to
Adventure, Art, and Peace.

W.H. Auden on Humor and Caricature

W.H. Auden on Humor and Caricature

A couple more memorable observations from The Dyer’s Hand:

A sense of humor develops in a society to the degree that its members are simultaneously conscious of being each a unique person and of being all in common subjection to unalterable laws.

We enjoy caricatures of our friends because we do not want to think of their changing, above all, of their dying; we enjoy caricatures of our enemies because we do not want to consider the possibility of their having a change of heart so that we would have to forgive them.

On a related note, I find Auden’s Marginalia laugh-out-loud funny…

Read More > > >

Auden on Heroes, (Christian) Art and Wishing the Iconoclasts Had Won

Auden on Heroes, (Christian) Art and Wishing the Iconoclasts Had Won

A trio of gems from W.H. Auden’s essay on “Christianity and Art”, which can be found in the collection The Dyer’s Hand:

To a Christian, the godlike man is not the hero who does extraordinary deeds, but the holy man, the saint, who does good deeds. But the gospel defines a good deed as one done in secret, hidden, so far as it is possible, even from the doer, and forbids private prayer and fasting in public. This means that art, which by its nature can only deal with what can and should be manifested, cannot portray a saint. – pg…

Read More > > >

W. H. Auden on Disintoxicating Poetry, New York Penthouses and the Endpoint of Addiction

W. H. Auden on Disintoxicating Poetry, New York Penthouses and the Endpoint of Addiction

Another batch of deep wisdom from poet Wystan, this time from his essay “Writing” which can be found in The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays.

Poetry is not magic. In so far as poetry, or any other of the arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate.

‘The unacknowledged legislators of the world’ describes the secret police, not the poets.

Catharsis is properly effected, not by works of art, but by religious rites. It is also effected, usually improperly, by bullfights, professional football matches, bad movies, military bands and monster rallies at…

Read More > > >

W.H. Auden on Accidental Love and the Difference Between Pardon and Forgiveness

W.H. Auden on Accidental Love and the Difference Between Pardon and Forgiveness

From the great poet’s essay “The Prince’s Dog,” which can be found his invaluable collection, The Dyer’s Hand. Wystan is reflecting on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” specifically in reference to Angelo (who is forgiven by Isabella but pardoned by the Duke). Of course, the insights transcend their context:

The one who forgives must be in a position to do something for the other which, if he were not forgiving, he would not do. This means that my enemy must be at my mercy; but, to the spirit of charity, it is irrelevant whether I am at my enemy’s mercy or he…

Read More > > >

Law, Like Love - W.H. Auden

Law, Like Love – W.H. Auden

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I’ve told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is…

Read More > > >

W.H. Auden on Comedy and Christianity

W.H. Auden on Comedy and Christianity

From the great English poet’s essay ‘The Globe’:

“[Comedy] is not only possible within a Christian society, but capable of a much greater breadth and depth than classical comedy. Greater in breadth because classical comedy is based upon a division of mankind into two classes, those who have arete [excellence] and those who do not, and only the second class, the fools, shameless rascals, slaves, are fit subjects for comedy.

But Christian comedy is based upon the belief that all men are sinners; no one, therefore, whatever his rank or talents, can claim immunity from the comic exposure and, indeed, the…

Read More > > >

Auden Arguing Via Media

Auden Arguing Via Media

The great poet getting all Anglican in his booklet, The Prolific And The Devourer:

“As a coarse generalisation one might say that Catholicism betrays the reason, Protestantism the heart. The former injures those who are capable of reasoning about the nature of the world, because it denies equality in intellectual inquiry and insists on authority. I have never met a Catholic intellectual — I exclude artists because artists never believe anything — who did not make me feel he was betraying his conscience.

“But in admitting equality in worship, it allows the poor and uneducated, who take their beliefs for granted, the…

Read More > > >

From Geoffrey Hill’s "The Triumph of Love"

One almost wonders if he’s intentionally riffing on Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’ (ht MS):

Whatever may be meant by moral landscape,
it is for me increasingly a terrain
seen in cross-section: igneous, sedimentary,
conglomerate, metamorphic rock-
strata, in which particular grace,
individual love, decency, endurance,
are traceable across the faults.

In Praise of Limestone – W.H. Auden

From the final stanza:

In so far as we have to look forward
To death as a fact, no doubt we are right: But if
Sins can be forgiven, if bodies rise from the dead,
These modifications of matter into
Innocent athletes and gesticulating fountains,
Made solely for pleasure, make a further point:
The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
Having nothing to hide.
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.