Saturday, February 17, 2007

'What but tall tales'

Auden's centenary coming up on the 21st, and celebrations have begun at various places. Reading 'The Truest Poetry Is The Most Feigning' on Poitre, I was struck by the closing lines of the poem:

What but tall tales, the luck of verbal playing,
Can trick his lying nature into saying
That love, or truth in any serious sense,
Like orthodoxy, is a reticence?

I'm amazed by the ease with which the four lines flow, and the complexity they contain within the deceptive simplicity. The craft is not so much in the rhymes, but in the leaps it induces in the imagination to make the connections between a 'lying nature', the telling of 'tall tales, the luck of verbal playing' that leads to a statement whose truth is so seductive and layered: 'that love, or truth in any serious sense, like orthodoxy, is a reticence'.

It would appear that love, or truth can only be revealed by the elaborate embellishment of the things that surround it; that the thing itself can only be indicated but never said, expect with reticence.

And celebrating the centenary with a poem, is Todd Swift. This is how it begins. It is, as Todd says in his post, an early draft:

Auden In Snow

I’d love you until the snow turned black and white,
And history melted into a photograph. You come

Towards me, now no bigger than a thumb, coated
As shabbily as Delmore Schwartz, down some

Nameless New York street, from dive to blizzard,
Your face that familiar map of crumpled age,

As if your face was a torn out page manhandled
By a child with a distaste for verse circa 1930-1960;

The rest of the poem here.

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