Thursday, December 11, 2014



I may have learned "ironic advent" as a concept (though he never used the phrase)from W. H. Auden. I bought a copy of his Collected Longer Poems when I was an undergraduate. For some pretentious reason or another. That book is a treasure. It had a shaping power, like all the best poetry. I especially loved and still love For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (written during wartime, 1941-1942). Edwin, and Jennifer, and I kept threatening to organize a reading of it for Advent season until they moved to Kentucky. Traitors! 

I welcome as my second favorite guest advent ironist*, Wystan Hugh(I like to say Huge, and I like to think he would like that) Auden. 

Here are two pieces from the "Advent" section of For the Time Being.** I wrote what I think was a really good undergraduate poem under the influence of the second of these choruses. I can't even remember the name of my poem, but I know that I pretentiously wrote "for W.H. Auden" under the unremembered title. I've also given this book away to people whom, I thought, needed it. I can't remember if they said thank you.

Some words from one of my true loves.  



Darkness and snow descend;
The clock on the mantelpiece
Has nothing to recommend,
Nor does the face in the glass
Appear nobler than our own
As darkness and snow descend
On all personality.
Huge crowds mumble--"Alas,
Our angers do not increase,
Love is not what she used to be;"
Portly Caesar yawns--"I know;" 
He falls asleep on his throne,
They shuffle off through the snow:
Darkness and snow descend.

Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father lest it find
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good:
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood.

Where is that Law for which we broke our own,
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone. 
Where is that Law for which we broke our own?

The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
Was it to meet such grinning evidence
We left our richly odoured ignorance? 
Was the triumphant answer to be this? 
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss. 

We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible: 
We who must die demand a miracle.

*Jennifer was my favorite guest ironist, but that's because she's my friend, whereas Auden is just my pretend friend.

**I have no damn legal right to these lines except the rights of love. Send the police to fetch me in Huntington, Indiana. 

my copy looks just like this

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