Posts Tagged ‘Just Another Auden October’

Just Another Auden October: A force more dreadful than we can imagine

October 30, 2011



‘Lead us not into temptation and evil for our sake.’
They will come all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.

(W.H. Auden, For the Time Being; A Christmas Oratorio, 1942).

Just Another Auden October: We would rather be ruined than changed

October 29, 2011


We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

(W.H. Auden, “Epilogue.” The Age of Anxiety, 1948).

Just Another Auden October: The terminal point of addiction

October 26, 2011


All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is damnation.

(W.H. Auden, “Hell.” A Certain World, 1970).

Just Another Auden October: Musee des Beaux Arts

October 25, 2011


“Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid.” Jan Vermeer, 1677.

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


“A Youth Making a Face.” Adriaen Brouwer, 1635.

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.


“Landscape With the Fall of Icarus”. Pieter Brueghel*, 1558.

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.

(W.H. Auden, “Musee des Beaux Artes.” 1938).

*It has been discovered through radiocarbon dating that Landscape With the Fall of Icarus is not by Brueghel the Elder, though it is thought to be based on a lost painting of his, and that association lead to the centuries-long misattribution of the painting’s provenance.

Just Another Auden October: Let music for peace / Be the paradigm

October 24, 2011



Let mortals beware of words
For with words we lie,
Can speak peace
When we mean war.



But song is true.
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means change
At the right time.

(W.H. Auden, “Hymn to the United Nations.” 1971.)

Just Another Auden October: The dreadful wood of conscious evil

October 23, 2011


“Ritual Dance” by Aëla Labbé.

Alone, alone, about the dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father.

(W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. 1941-2.)

Just Another Auden October: This great society is going smash

October 22, 2011


Photographed by bagnino on the da.

This great society is going smash;
They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
How much they cost each other and the gods.
A culture is no better than its woods.

(W.H. Auden, Bucolics II: “Woods.” 1952. 51-54)

Just Another Auden October: Composed of Eros and of dust, show an affirming flame — ft. photography by Andre de Dienes

October 20, 2011



Defenseless under the night,
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,


Ironic points of light,
Flash out wherever the Just,
Exchange their messages:


May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair



Show an affirming flame.

(W.H. Auden, “Sept. 1, 1939.” Another Time, 1940.)

All photographs by Andre de Dienes.

The date in the poem’s title refers, of course, to the invasion of Poland by Hitler’s Wehrmacht … or does it refer with remarkably prescient precedence to my birthday?

No. It refers to the other thing.

Just another Auden October: Apocalypse yesterday

October 19, 2011


via.

The stars are dead; the animals will not look:
We are left alone with our day, and the time is short and
History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

(W. H. Auden, “Spain.” 90-93. 1937. )

Anything that men make will shake apart*. Eventually the feats of engineering and machinery humanity has wrought will fall to ruin, maybe sooner than later. Running will be no good: depend on it.


Photograph of Auden’s typewriter via swarthmore.

This poem was first published as “Spain” in 1937. Auden included it in his 1940 anthology Another Time as “Spain 1937” but later disavowed the poem’s political and apocalyptic tone, saying that he never really believed what he’d written, but wrote it because he thought it would be “rhetorically effective.” According to the late Frank Kermode, Auden hated most of all the above, which is the final stanza of “Spain”/”Spain 1937.”

I like it.




*(Except plutonium rods. I admit that those are going to take a really long time to shake apart. Way to fucking go, everybody.)

Just Another Auden October: Faith in humanity

October 4, 2011


Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982). Previously discussed here during E.E. Cummings month.

May it not be that, just as we have to have faith in Him, God has to have faith in us and, considering the history of the human race so far, may it not be that “faith” is even more difficult for Him than it is for us?

(W.H. Auden, “God”. A Certain World, 1970.)

Just Another Auden October: King Zing

October 3, 2011


Men will pay large sums to whores
for telling them they are not bores.

(W.H. Auden. “New Year Letter to Elizabeth Mayer.” 1941.)

Larry King and fourth wife Shawn Southwick King.

Daily Batman: Just Another Auden October

October 2, 2011


No human being is innocent, but there is a class of innocent human actions called Games.

(W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand. 1962.)

Short-shrifted Mr. A last year and I’m looking to remedy. Welcome to Just Another Auden October.