Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Exist beyond the vanishing hour



Like a Vocation

Not as that dream Napoleon, rumour's dread and centre,
Before whose riding all the crowds divide,
Who dedicates a column and withdraws,
Nor as that general favourite and breezy visitor
To whom the weather and the ruins mean so much,
Nor as any of those who always will be welcome,
As luck or history or fun,
Do not enter like that: all these depart.

Claim, certainly, the stranger's right to pleasure:
Ambassadors will surely entertain you
With knowledge of operas and men,
Bankers will ask for your opinion
And the heiress' cheek lean ever so slightly towards you,
The mountains and the shopkeepers accept you
And all your walks be free.

But politeness and freedom are never enough,
Not for a life. They lead
Up to a bed that only looks like marriage;
Even the disciplined and distant admiration
For thousands who obviously want nothing
Becomes just a dowdy illness. These have their moderate success;
They exist in the vanishing hour.

But somewhere always, nowhere particularly unusual,
Almost anywhere in the landscape of water and houses,
His crying competing unsuccessfully with the cry
Of the traffic or the birds, is always standing
The one who needs you, that terrified
Imaginative child who only knows you
As what the uncles call a lie,
But knows he has to be the future and that only
The meek inherit the earth, and is neither
Charming, successful, nor a crowd;
Alone among the noise and policies of summer,
His weeping climbs towards your life like a vocation.


- W H Auden, May 1939

Poetry is all about.

To note:
Two people (friends) posted poems in response to poem I posted. Poem for poem = whole world a lot the better.
Random House is sending out a poem-a-day - this being one (subscribe).
Running through the Clermont woods this afternoon saw: clutch of deer with tails so turned up and white I thought at first they were birds, and two (fine) pheasant.
My garden - such as it never was - is budding mindful of no one.
The Hudson looked near-blue on the ride up.
The trees of New York turned white with blossoms - un-announced and en masse.

C (floored by Auden's poem. Read a few times, leave for a bit, then return to. It unfolds.)

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