MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0027 In Honour Of Honour And Whauden

You asked me which of Auden’s poems
were my favourite, and I sighed
for memory’s fade, then walked to the dusty shelf
where next to those volumes of Eliot
with their brown-paper covers for those
precious wartime books allowed
a ration of Canadian paper for
fighting men to read in those
few moments of leisure for the open heart and
the vision of a peacetime world, was

‘Collected Shorter Poems 1930-1944 W.H.Auden’

which fell open at page 54,
‘In Memory of W.B.Yeats (d.January 1939) ’
‘Earth, receive an honoured guest…’;
those pages yellowed more than
the others around them as if
read often late at night
under what was still gaslight
with respectful but unwashed hands
after cocoa and biscuits with a scrape of butter

and it all came back: 1953, that was the year
when there was only one poet Yeats..
and poetry and music were the same;
I turned the pages – they fell open once again,
‘Time will say nothing but I told you so’…

So many poems there, unread, or unremembered,
how could it be that I abandoned Auden,
not hearing his music, while
other interests began to pull?

Then I sat silent at the thought
that a great poet of great mind, great heart,
was writing, writing, most of my lifetime
while I was wrapt in other things;

sat silent, honouring
what is to be honoured
as best we can;
what is to be honoured.

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Comments (2)

How very true that we read then forget, and yet, when we return and discover them all over again, it is like meeting an old friend that we have always loved.
a fitting tribute to auden. i think (or hope) that you know what it means for me to say that (lay your sleeping head, my love human on my faithless arm) this IS a good poem bytheway. though attracted by auden i left rewarded by shepherd