Doggerel by a Senior Citizen
by W. H. Auden
(for Robert Lederer)
Our earth in 1969
Is not the planet I call mine,
The world, I mean, that gives me strength
To hold off chaos at arm's length.
My Eden landscapes and their climes
Are constructs from Edwardian times,
When bath-rooms took up lots of space,
And, before eating, one said Grace.
The automobile, the aeroplane,
Are useful gadgets, but profane:
The enginry of which I dream
Is moved by water or by steam.
Reason requires that I approve
The light-bulb which I cannot love:
To me more reverence-commanding
A fish-tail burner on the landing.
My family ghosts I fought and routed,
Their values, though, I never doubted:
I thought the Protestant Work-Ethic
Both practical and sympathetic.
When couples played or sang duets,
It was immoral to have debts:
I shall continue till I die
To pay in cash for what I buy.
The Book of Common Prayer we knew
Was that of 1662:
Though with-it sermons may be well,
Liturgical reforms are hell.
Sex was of course -- it always is --
The most enticing of mysteries,
But news-stands did not then supply
Then Speech was mannerly, an Art,
Like learning not to belch or fart:
I cannot settle which is worse,
The Anti-Novel or Free Verse.
Nor are those Ph.D's my kith,
Who dig the symbol and the myth:
I count myself a man of letters
Who writes, or hopes to, for his betters.
Dare any call Permissiveness
An educational success?
Saner those class-rooms which I sat in,
Compelled to study Greek and Latin.
Though I suspect the term is crap,
There is a Generation Gap,
Who is to blame? Those, old or young,
Who will not learn their Mother-Tongue.
But Love, at least, is not a state
Either en vogue or out-of-date,
And I've true friends, I will allow,
To talk and eat with here and now.
Me alienated? Bosh! It's just
As a sworn citizen who must
Skirmish with it that I feel
Most at home with what is Real.
Sharp and silent in the
Clear October lighting
Of a Sunday morning
Underneath an abject willow,
Lover, sulk no more:
Act from thought should quickly follow.
Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.
The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I. The Door
Out of it steps our future, through this door
Enigmas, executioners and rules,
Time can say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you, I would let you know.
On this day tradition allots
to taking stock of our lives,
my greetings to all of you, Yeasts,
This lunar beauty
Has no history
Is complete and early,
Poet,oracle and wit
Like unsuccessful anglers by
Th ponds of apperception sit,
At Dirty Dick's and Sloppy Joe's
We drank our liquor straight,
Some went upstairs with Margery,
Nobody I know would like to be buried
with a silver cocktail-shaker,
a transistor radio and a strangled
Lady, weeping at the crossroads,
Would you meet your love
In the twilight with his greyhounds,
Eyes look into the well,
Tears run down from the eye;
The tower cracked and fell
Fish in the unruffled lakes
Their swarming colours wear,
Swans in the winter air
Driver drive faster and make a good run
Down the Springfield Line under the shining sun.
Fly like an aeroplane, don’t pull up short
Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mis …
Having never set eyes on the land he was called to …
Between two peoples fanatica...
Unrhymed, unrhythmical, the chatter goes:
Yet no one hears his own remarks as prose.
Beneath each topic tunelessly discussed
"The underground roads
Are, as the dead prefer them,
Dear, though the night is gone,
Its dream still haunts to-day,
That brought us to a room