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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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