Posts tagged "Auden"

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

From W.H. Auden’s The Age Of Anxiety

Yet the noble despair of the poets
Is nothing of the sort; it is silly
To refuse the tasks of time
And, overlooking our lives,
Cry – “Miserable wicked me,
How interesting I am.”
We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

The Most Trying Time of All: W.H. Auden’s “Christmas Oratorio”

The Most Trying Time of All: W.H. Auden’s “Christmas Oratorio”

Section III of “For The Time Being”:

Well, so that is that.
Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous…

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We Who Must Die Demand A Miracle: From W.H. Auden’s “For The Time Being”

We Who Must Die Demand A Miracle: From W.H. Auden’s “For The Time Being”

From the utterly sublime Advent portion of Wystan’s Christmas Oratorio:

Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father lest it find
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good:
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood.

Where is that Law for which we broke our own,
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own?

The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
Was it to meet such grinning evidence
We left our richly odoured ignorance?
Was the triumphant answer to be this?
The…

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