Saturday, February 06, 2010


Medieval and Modern

W.H. Auden, Ode to the Medieval Poets:
Chaucer, Langland, Douglas, Dunbar, with all your
brother Anons, how on earth did you ever manage,
  without anaesthetics or plumbing,
  in daily peril from witches, warlocks,

lepers, The Holy Office, foreign mercenaries
burning as they came, to write so cheerfully,
  with no grimaces of self-pathos?
  Long-winded you could be but not vulgar,

bawdy but not grubby, your raucous flytings
sheer high-spirited fun, whereas our makers,
  beset by every creature comfort,
  immune, they believe, to all superstitions,

even at their best are so often morose or
kinky, petrified by their gorgon egos.
  We all ask, but I doubt if anyone
  can really say why all age-groups should find our

Age quite so repulsive. Without its heartless
engines, though, you could not tenant my book-shelves,
  on hand to delect my ear and chuckle
  my sad flesh: I would gladly just now be

turning out verses to applaud a thundery
jovial June when the judas-tree is in blossom,
  but am forbidden by the knowledge
  that you would have wrought them so much better.
Judas-Tree in Blossom

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