Auden

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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2 responses

  1. Blaireau

    Can I confess that I have nearly no connection to poetry? I feel like the stupid kid in class. Like I have to think too hard about it and the work seems to take the thrill out of it.
    Related: I really really really hate spoken word performances too. They always make me want to slap the performer and tell them to stop being a smartass hip whiny baby.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:50

    • Every class with Robert Enright starts out with the reading of two poems. We rarely discuss them but they create an atmosphere that transports me into brainwork, a difficult task at 10am sometimes. I rarely think too deeply about them but this is one I have loved for a long time. That line ‘they turned quite leisurely away from disaster’ has rung again and again. Your disinterest actually surprises me, what with your love of the aesthetic but I’m all there with your distaste for spoken word, the obvious over rehearsal makes it seem breathless and beyond critique.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:56

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