Excerpt from “The Cave of Making,” by W. H. Auden

You hope, yes,
your books will excuse you,
save you from hell;
nevertheless,
without looking sad,
without in any way
seeming to blame
(He doesn’t need to,
knowing well
what a lover of art
like yourself pays heed to),
God may reduce you
on Judgment Day
to tears of shame,
reciting by heart
the poems you would
have written, had
your life been good.

 

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“The Addictions of Sin: W. H. Auden in His Own Words” (BBC Four)

I’m linking here to a terrific documentary produced by BBC Four to celebrate the centenary of W. H. Auden’s birth in 1907.  It’s a superb biopic — thanks to Youtube user Andrey Shulyatyev for uploading this.

One thing that occurred to me as I watched this was the resilience of Auden’s pursuit of love and beauty despite his first-hand witness of the most terrible and ugly things — the violent rise of fascism in Germany, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the devastation of post-World War II Germany. And this resilience was reflected in his work ethic even until his death in 1973.

 

“Precocious children rarely grow up good.”

“I must admit that I was most precocious
“(Precocious children rarely grow up good).
“My aunts and uncles thought me quite atrocious
“For using words more adult than I should.”

— excerpt from W. H. Auden’s “Letter to Lord Byron,” in Letters from Iceland, 1937

 

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