Friday, August 03, 2012
No, Plato, No
I can't imagine anythingThis poem is dated May 1973; Auden's spirit died and set his flesh free to become "irresponsible Matter" only a few months later.
that I would less like to be
than a disincarnate Spirit,
unable to chew or sip
or make contact with surfaces 5
or breathe the scents of summer
or comprehend speech and music
or gaze at what lies beyond.
No, God has placed me exactly
where I'd have chosen to be: 10
the sublunar world is such fun,
where Man is male or female
and gives Proper Names to all things.
I can, however, conceive
that the organs Nature gave Me, 15
my ductless glands, for instance,
slaving twenty-four hours a day
with no show of resentment
to gratify Me, their Master,
and keep Me in decent shape, 20
(not that I give them their orders,
I wouldn't know what to yell),
dream of another existence
than that they have known so far:
yes, it well could be that my Flesh 25
is praying for "Him" to die,
so setting Her free to become
In lines 4-8, the five senses appear, in the order taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight. The "ductless glands" (line 16), also known as endocrine glands, secrete hormones directly into the blood or lymph, which then distribute the hormones throughout the rest of the body. Exocrine glands, on the other hand, secrete their products through tubes or ducts to an organ or to the surface of the body. Examples of ductless or endocrine glands are the pancreas, which secretes insulin, and the testicles, which secrete testosterone. Examples of exocrine glands are sweat or salivary glands.
Auden's poem expresses a desire which is the opposite of that expressed in E.R. Dodds' poem The Moon-Worshippers. In The Moon-Worshippers, the spirit yearns to be set free from the prison of the body; in No, Plato, No, the body yearns to be set free from the prison of the spirit.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.