Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Poem - timely titled

These are some verses from a poem by W.H. Auden. The poem is titled
1 September 1939. It was written more than 75 years ago, with World War 2 waiting in the wings. Much of Auden's poem could still be seen as highly relevant in 2015 (emphasising, though, that I'm not suggesting World War 3 is in the wings this 1st September).

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Full text of poem HERE.


mike said...

September 1, 1939...interesting astrological weather that day and Auden seems to have captured it with his prose:
Moon in Aries conjunct Jupiter, Mars-Uranus-Neptune trine in earth, with Saturn sitting on the South Node squaring Pluto.

From Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II
"The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, but the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom."

And a Happy September 1, 2015!!!

Twilight said...

mike ~ A Happy September, in general, to you!

Yes, Auden captured the atmosphere - or at least how I'd imagine the atmosphere must have been, back then. Nobody knowing for sure how it would all unfold. It's hard to imagine, for us, how people would have felt in those circumstances. They had only radio and newspapers, no doubt all strictly limited and censored - such little information to go on.

There's a very old (2007) post about Auden, by the way - with a rather messy looking chart included:


LB said...

Twilight ~ I've read Auden was talking about the collective turning a blind-eye to the suffering of others, how history repeats itself because most of us see only what we want to see. The dive bar he's sitting/hiding in represents our individual and collective denial:


Related to this, have you read the article, "Bernie Sanders Says He Wouldn't End Drone Program" over at TruthDig?


LB (again) said...

Some of the comments following the TruthDig article are interesting too. One commenter pointed out how Americans might feel differently about the use of drones as killing machines (even in a so-called "limited" capacity prescribed by Bernie) if they were used by another country to take out *targets* here in the U.S.

People tell us what they value by their choices. And still we don't believe them.

Auden was also talking about having a voice and speaking the truth, even if the message is unpopular. I think he must've wanted the reader to work at understanding his poetry, just as we all need to work to arrive at the truth.

LB said...

Found something else on Auden; apparently he came to dislike his "September 1" poem, calling it "trash":


What I like most about Auden's poem is his realization that this same darkness exists within himself. He doesn't consider himself morally superior because he understands how easy it is to drift along with the herd (Chiron-Ascendant in Aquarius), narrowly focused and in pursuit of our own happiness.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for the additional auden links, and your thoughts. I copies only part of the poem - the part which "spoke" to me. I guess it can be interpreted in several ways, from both the poet's point of view in September 1939 with the war just starting, and from later perspectives when we know how things unfolded, and how they are now.

Yes - I've read about Bernie's stance on drones - as you'll note in the sidebar :-)
It's disappointing, yet inevitable I suppose. There is nobody on the scene at present who would promise to end the drone programme completely, and still have any chance at all of being taken seriously by the DNC. I have to accept this, sadly. I'll remain faithful to the best chance there is of a candidate who will attempt changes on at least some fronts. Pressure on him, as his campaign progresses, could bring more from him on drone use. He has stated his position honestly, hasn't kidded us, and for that I respect him.

I'm feeling pretty disgusted by some commentary about Bernie Sanders, on several supposedly "left-wing" websites these days. It's as I've thought since I arrived here - many in the USA don't know a good thing when they see it! Look what they said about Dennis Kucinich - and really and truly HE was the one we needed! Bernie is next best, and doing well. He ain't perfect, nobody is, nor ever will be.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Whereas you feel disgusted by the thoughtful criticisms and observations left by commenters on "left-wing" websites, I feel encouraged and grateful, especially when points are made respectfully and without playing into a false 'no candidate is perfect' narrative. This way of thinking downplays the sometimes *profound* injustices suffered by others as being necessary (political) compromises if we want to get someone elected.

It also assumes we must support our existing political system by voting for someone, no matter how corrupt and broken the system itself is or how relatively ineffective any *electable* candidate would be at addressing the true source of its corruption.

I'm glad Bernie is bringing attention to certain important issues ~ not the least of which is the need for universal healthcare, an issue I'm passionate about.

It's easy to understand why we want so very much to believe in someone, *anyone* who promises to make our lives better. Successful politicians know how to articulate and play into this need. Once elected most make all the necessary 'compromises'. It's the way the game is set up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about my absence ...
But my city was blown "back into the stone age" from a storm.

I muse and ponder quite a bit ...
I may get insouciant ... if I read Byron ...
I may get romantic ... if i read Keats ...
But Auden can cut me to the quick ... I must be careful.
I can ( temporarily ), be very influenced by what I read, hear or see.

In 1939 pluto > leo and went over Auden's node.
When it went over mine, I established a lot of ethical rules about how I should do astrology.
Based on my associations of the time ... In this I was very fortunate.

I wonder what it was like living with Carson and Gypsy-Rose?
"February House" by Sherill Tippins was a good read ...


Twilight said...

LB ~ I doubt we're talking about the same comments though. Some are reasonably presented, some are not. I understand how people feel - I'm as anti-drone as just about anyone in the USA, and always have been - but that doesn't mean I must denigrate a politician who has stated a reasonable first stance on the issue, honestly and without pandering. The thing to do, for his supporters, is to encourage him to back-pedal further from his stated position, as his campaign proceeds. He has said, many times, that it's not about him, it's about us!

I know I'll not change your mind about Sanders, and nobody will change mine. It's not that I need someone to make my life better - it's that I believe he's a man of integrity, the only candidate I feel that way about - that is my #1 requirement. I'll leave it at that. As for voting or not voting - that's for each of us to decide, and for each of us to live with the consequences of our decision.

Twilight said...

Anon/kidd ~ Oh my! I hope you didn't suffer any loss or hurt?

Musing and pondering with a poetry anthology in hand can be a bit like a voyage on a choppy sea! ;-)

I feel disappointed re this:
Auden [and Isherwood] sailed to New York City in January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was later seen by many there as a betrayal, and Auden's reputation suffered

But I still admire his poetry.

"Februay House"? Hmmm I bet it is!

In this captivating book, Sherill Tippins brings to life the story of what was possibly the most fertile and improbable live-in salon of the twentieth century. Known as February House, its residents included, among others, Carson McCullers, W. H. Auden, Paul Bowles, and the famed burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. This ramshackle Brooklyn brownstone was host to an explosion of creativity, an extraordinary experiment in communal living, and a nonstop yearlong party fueled by the appetites of youth. Here these burgeoning talents composed many of their most famous, iconic literary works while experiencing together a crucial historical moment--America on the threshold of World War II.

mike (again) said...

"Drones kill fewer civilians, as a percentage of total fatalities, than any other military weapon. They’re the worst form of warfare in the history of the world, except for all the others." William Saletan, In Defense of Drones

LB said...

Twilight ~ During the same interview, Bernie also said "the United States should have the strongest military in the world." His words (and record) in support of various military actions and spending speak for themselves.

As far as your unwavering support of Bernie's candidacy, I hope you didn't mean literally nobody or *nothing* could change your mind. History has shown us our blind allegiance to any person or political figure can lead to terrible consequences. Hopefully you'll keep an open mind.:)


This 2007 article from The Guardian paints a different picture of Auden, including his reason for remaining in the US during the war and failure to respond to criticism. It also talks about his wanting to enlist:


mike (again) said...

LB - Bernie was one of a handful in congress that was against the Iraq war and he took a tremendous amount of heat for his opposition, plus he never supported the PATRIOT Act, either. He's garnered my support on these two old issues alone! He's not a war monger like you are inferring vis a vis your selected snippets.

"International rivals would be mistaken to assume he wouldn’t be prepared to use military force if that’s what circumstances required, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The Vermont senator says the United States should have the strongest military in the world. The U.S. should be prepared to act when it or its allies are threatened or in response to genocide.

'Yes, there are times when you have to use force. No question about it,' Sanders said. 'But that should be a last resort.'

During his nearly 25 years in Congress, Sanders’ record on authorizing military force is mixed. He voted to send troops to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But he voted against going to war with Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003.

... Sanders cited the war in Iraq as one of the 'worst foreign policy blunders we have ever seen' because it led to an enormous destabilization of that region. He also said he believes his vote against the first Gulf War was correct."

And here's an interesting piece:
"Blind Allegiance?"

LB said...

Twilight ~ Thanks. The Blind Allegiance post you linked to basically helps to make my point about the value in questioning our representatives (and those running for office), so obviously I agree. It's why I appreciate many of the dissenting comments (coming from the left) about not only Bernie, but on other topics as well. The more informed commenters open my eyes and give me something to think about and explore.

I've posted links in the past about Bernie's (mixed) record. Rather than going over the same territory, how about if we (once again) agree to disagree, since we seem to view the facts and their significance differently.

LB said...

mike ~ Sorry I called you Twilight. This is what happens when I try to cook dinner and respond to comments at the same time.:)

Twilight said...

LB ~ I hope, and trust, that I shall remain rational in all circumstances, whatever they may be. That's all I'll add on this.