WH Auden at the writers festival

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guility, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

i loved dave eggers’ and jm coetzee’s appearances, but the WH Auden poetry reading session would have to be my favourite.  the above poem (lullaby), whose first stanza I have only posted,  is regarded as one of the finest love poems of the last century. but does it take any of the romance out of it knowing that it was written by auden with a burly truck driver in mind?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “WH Auden at the writers festival

  1. I’m a big fan of Auden’s too. Our poets today just don’t have the profile and stature of the Audens and Thomases. I like Billy Collins’ poetry very much but he doesn’t have the public persona of the poets from the last century. Can you think of a recent poet (other than the late Allan Ginsberg) who would be recognizable on the street? Whose political and social views are sought out?

  2. and it’s a shame. but poetry was probably more mainstream back then as well, with less media forms to compete with. The poets of the 21st century are our rock idols, i reckon. Nick Cave?

    I’ve posted another great Auden one: Epitaph on a tyrant

    Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after
    And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
    He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
    And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
    When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
    And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

  3. erica

    those poems make me feel that life used to be so much more dramatic and passionate… where there was only one true anguished love, where life was often a battle and every moment mattered. it seems like people were so much more ‘engaged’ – or, in oprah-speak – ‘connected’ to their hold on life. that’s so intoxicating – but i feel like i have to wear corsets and big hair to be like that. which is okay as i quite like mousse and curlers.

  4. i can imagine you with a corset reciting courtly love poetry.. but not with big hair.

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