Sunday, March 04, 2007

Centenaries

My paternal grandfather and the poet W.H. Auden were born in the same year - 1907. My grandfather was a New York City policeman, with a violent temper that mellowed with age. He was married to a difficult, likely mentally ill woman, but I remember him with fondness. I am also fond of Auden, who was also a man of contrasts. Auden is experiencing a revival, mostly because of the resonance of his poem "September 1, 1939" with the events of September 11.

He began as a modernist, along with Pound and Eliot, but his poems were more accessible (and yet he is considered a poet's poet, and not as beloved), and then embraced a more formal style as he grew older. He was a homosexual who became a Christian, struggling to reconcile the two. In 1941 he published a volume entitled, The Double Man, which is an apt description of his life and work. He coined the phrase "The Age of Anxiety," which served as the title of a volume of poems for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948.

Auden deserves more attention and appreciation. Here is one example, "Underneath An Abject Willow"

Underneath an abject willow
Lover, sulk no more:
Act from thought should quickly follow.
What is thinking for?
Your unique and moping station
Proves you cold;
Stand up and fold
Your map of desolation.

Bells that toll across the meadows
From the somber spire
Toll for these unloving shadows
Love does not require.
All that lives may love; why longer
Bow to loss
With arms across?
Strike and you shall conquer.

2 Comments:

Blogger Peter said...

Isn't it true that we all suffer with that doppleganer who is the sin-lover known as the old nature. Thank you for this piece. May God give us His Grace.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

We also suffer with the lack of a perfect self-editor, as I meant "doppleganger."

10:15 AM  

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