Saturday, February 21, 2009

W.H. Auden (February 21, 1907 – September 29, 1973)


Today is Auden's birthday. Although this is a spring-time poem, there's been spring-like weather here in North Texas for most of this month. This is one of my favorites from Selected Poems:


Their Lonely Betters

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

— W.H. Auden June 1950



Perhaps I should spend the day with the book by my side, if not opened in front of me.