Doggerel by a Senior Citizen
por 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Either en vogue or out-of-date,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.
Warm are the still and lucky miles,
White shores of longing stretch away,
A light of recognition fills
"O who can ever gaze his fill,"
Farmer and fisherman say,
"On native shore and local hill,
Among pelagian travelers,
Lost on their lewd conceited way
To Massachusetts, Michigan,
So from the years the gifts were showered; each
Ran off with his at once into his life:
Bee took the politics that make a hive,
Give me a doctor partridge-plump,
Short in the leg and broad in the rump,
An endomorph with gentle hands
Was mortally afraid of Madams:
In a disorderly house
At last the secret is out,
as it always must come in the end,
the delicious story is ripe to tell
If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so's,
Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last;
Nurses to the graves are gone,
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Now through night's caressing grip
Earth and all her oceans slip,
Capes of China slide away
Let a florid music praise,
The flute and the trumpet,
Beauty's conquest of your face:
A cloudless night like this
Can set the spirit soaring:
After a tiring day
Deftly, admiral, cast your fly
Into the slow deep hover,
Till the wise old trout mistake and die;
Did you ever hear about Cocaine Lil?
She lived in Cocaine town on Cocaine hill,
She had a cocaine dog and a cocaine cat,
Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
Underneath an abject willow,
Lover, sulk no more:
Act from thought should quickly follow.