Saturday, September 02, 2006

More Auden

Sonnets from "In Time of War" (these two are from 1938)

Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan

For living men in terror of their lives;
Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,
And can be lost and are, and miss their wives,
And unlike an idea, can die too soon.

But ideas can be true although men die,
And we can watch a thousand faces
Made active by one lie:

And maps can really point to places
where live is evil now:
Nanking. Dachau.

Simple like all dream wishes, they employ
The elementary language of the heart,
And speak to muscles of the need for joy:
The dying and the lovers soon to part

Hear them and have to whistle. Always new,
They mirror every change in our position;
They are our evidence of what we do;
They speak directly to our lost condition.

Think in this year what pleased the dancers best;
When Austria died and China was forsaken,
Shanghai in flames and Teruel re-taken,

France put her case before the world: 'Partout
Il ya a de la joie." America addressed
The earth: 'Do you love me as I love you?'

Epitaph on a Tyrant (January 1939)

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.

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