Yes, this is a two-fer. If you have been following, you know that Walt Whitman, one of my favourite poets of all time, already had his initial bow, way back on day eight or so. But there can't be too much Walt, and I have just realized that some of the ideas I have been using in some writing I am currently doing are bits and pieces of his masterwork, Song of Myself. And so...I need you all to share this amazing poem, if you haven't ever seen it. Yes, all of it. Here: www.princeton.edu/~batke/logr/log_026.html The interface here wouldn't hold the whole thing as a blog entry. But I have some favourite pieces, and here are a few of them. And I don't promise not to post the occasional three-fer, or four-fer, either, before the month is over. And just because I am a Virgo and do the OCD thing, yes, there needs to be a new/different poet every day, so look below the Whitman for another of my UU existentialist friends.
Song of Myself, I, II, VI, LI & LII
I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes.... the shelves
are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume.... it has no taste
of the distillation.... it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever.... I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers.... loveroot, silkthread,
crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration.... the beating of my heart....
the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore
and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice.... words loosed
to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses.... a few embraces.... reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health.... the full-noon trill.... the song of me
rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand.... nor
look through the eyes of the dead. nor feed on the spectres
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any
more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.
Or I guess if is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive then the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.
In 1928, his collection Poems was privately printed, but it wasn't until 1930, when another collection titled Poems (though its contents were different) was published, that Auden was established as the leading voice of a new generation.
Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James. His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.
He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.
W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.
A Selected Bibliography
Poems (privately printed, 1928)
The Orators prose and verse (1932)
Look, Stranger! in America: On This Island (1936)
Another Time (1940)
The Double Man (1941)
The Quest (1941)
For the Time Being (1944)
The Sea and the Mirror (1944)
Collected Poetry (1945)
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (1947)
Collected Shorter Poems 1930-1944 (1950)
The Shield of Achilles (1955)
Selected Poetry (1956)
The Old Man's Road (1956)
Homage to Clio (1960)
About the House About the House (1965)
Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957 (1966)
Collected Longer Poems (1968)
City without Walls (1969)
Academic Graffiti (1971)
Epistle to a Godson (1972)
Thank You, Fog: Last Poems (1974)
Selected Poems (1979)
Collected Poems (1991)
Letters from Iceland (1937)
Journey to a War (1939)
Enchaféd Flood (1950)
The Dyer's Hand (1962)
Selected Essays (1964)
Forewords and Afterwords (1973)
Selected Poems by Gunnar Ekelöf (1972)
Paid On Both Sides (1928)
The Dance of Death (1933)
The Dog Beneath the Skin: or, Where is Francis? (1935)
The Ascent of F.6 (1936)
On the Frontier (1938)
In Memory of W. B. Yeats
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.