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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

W. H. Auden: The Fall of Rome


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File:Benitachel, Spain.jpg



(For Cyril Connolly)


The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extoll the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.




File:Herd of Caribou.jpg





The Fall of Rome: W.H. Auden, from Nones (1961)

Benitachel, Eastern Spain: photo by Sebastian Vaida, 2008
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), Suomi, near Ihari, Finland
: photo by Lukas Riebling, 2005

2 comments:

Curtis Roberts said...

I spent a lot of time yesterday with the four new poems and illustrations you posted in my mind. They took me through car rides, shopping, skating rink time (I observe only) and a three-hour meeting with a rather driven, but inspiring accountant/film maker. (Actually, I should say film maker/accountant.) The shock value of the Auden never quite wears off and the photos complement it unexpectedly but perfectly. It’s so “today” I wish it weren’t. Cat Telephone tells you about all you need to know (the photo sure does and the watercolor is charming). The contrast between the Ashbery poem and photo, which are so solid, dramatic and unified, and the procession of images and the way things unfold In Bolinas amazed me. The latter poem is a remarkable example of the Beyond The Pale “method” and very moving. Thank you. It was an amazing single-day collection of art, truth and beauty and when my mind wandered from whatever the current task at hand was, it wandered somewhere great.

TC said...

Thanks so much, Curtis. As you can probably guess there is a fair amount of work put into all this, and sometimes it seems a bit crazy, and sometimes it becomes rather trying; but a comment like this from a reader of your intelligence, sophistication and sensitivity makes it all seem worthwhile.

So much so that I believe I will directly reward myself by taking my weary and aching head off... well, that sounded perhaps a bit extreme, self-decapitation as a reward... I mean taking myself off to seek the friendly consultation of a pillow.