Friday, 17 February 2017

W. H. Auden Anniversary on 21 February 2017

W. H. Auden, one of my early poetic heroes, was born on 21 February 1907. I wrote a homage to him in February 1981; the poem was published in ‘Agenda’ magazine as I recall. I posted the poem on this blogsite on 22 February 2012. Here are the first four stanzas of this eleven stanza poem together with a link to the rest. (Regarding the reference to Poland in the sixth stanza: the late 1970s/early 80s were, of course, the years of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the latest confrontation between the Poles and their Russian overlords.)


(W. H. Auden: born 21 February 1907; died 29 September 1973)

Today a late descent of snow
Has taught a grievous lesson to
The gaudy paper crocuses.
A thrush with nowhere safe to go
Beats vainly at an empty shell
Whilst clouds which have a purple hue
Prepare their freezing viper’s kiss.
Dear Master of the singing line
Your birth-month in a fierce pell-mell
Knows nothing of the Muses Nine.

I who am the essence of
The down-at-heel South London type,
Who never walked the chilly Dales
Nor thought of rusting cams with love,
But rather from a T.V. screen
Imbibed a sort of mongrel hype
(There were, though, holidays in Wales)
Give greetings to your memory –
A sort of learned, boozy Dean –
And offer you humility.

Your poems and your measured prose
To one whose schooling was perverse
Were like a sortie to a vault
Where books were stored in endless rows
And where the stacks of classic lines
Like golden guineas in a purse
Brought me to a sudden halt.
Horace, Dryden, Goethe, Swift,
In every chamber of those mines
Were treasures like a proffered gift.

Horace and his worldly art,
Dryden on the polity,
Goethe saving Faust from hell,
Swift about to break his heart,
All sought to be absurdly true
To visions of maturity;
And you with your preceptor’s bell,
Investigating moral norms,
Passed on the gift received by you –
A marvellous deftness with the forms.

(The rest of the poem can be read here )


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