Auden at home.1
Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.
– Auden, from ‘At Last the Secret is Out’
Auden is… I was going to say something along the lines of ‘Auden is the sort of poet’ and then I got bored with the idea. I think I also sort of got bored with the idea of writing about Auden’s poetry. Part of that was my choice of book: Tell me the Truth About Love is probably the wrong book for someone who doesn’t feel like reading love poems. Who’d have guessed it. I’m having trouble putting my finger on the problem. Perhaps the poems were too famous, too well-known, and so have lost whatever meaning they had in taking on the new meaning of notoriety (well, as much notoriety as a poem can get); I don’t think that’s the main problem, though.
The difficulty, of course, is that I only skimmed the surface. Without having the time to delve into any of the poems, they seemed to have the same dry ache of Housman, with a bit of added archness – even lines intended to yank on the emotions seemed reedy, petulant, and sentimental. This is not, of course, Auden’s fault. Rather, I read this book out of season, and with stuff of this sort circumstance is everything. In any case, I rather enjoyed ‘The Guilty Vicarage’, and have hopes of returning to it at some later date. Or not.
- Photograph from an interesting collection of photos of Auden by Mark Anstendig.