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W h auden

W. H. Auden

Doggerel by a Senior Citizen

(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
 Manichean pornography.

 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 Either en vogue or out-of-date,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.

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