Monday, November 15, 2010

W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden (1907–1973) is considered by many to be one of the poetic masters of the twentieth century. He was influenced by T.S. Eliot stylistically, and by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poetic techniques. He alienated many of those most interested in his poetry — by rejecting the left-wing political views that had established him in the late 1930s, and by leaving England for the United States in 1939.

Embracing Christianity also distanced him from many of his readers, but his public homosexuality didn’t make him an attractive figure to most Christians. He said he was drawn to reaffirm his Anglican faith in 1940, due to the influence of Charles Williams. Dietrich Bonhoffer was a major influence on the development of Auden’s theology towards the end of his life.

The following poem is the final of seven in a series entitled Horae Canonicae. The poet sees the Christian life as a life in community. Like Peter when he realized he had denied Jesus, we need to be awakened — by the natural world and by the church — to our self-imposed isolation, of which we need to repent.

Lauds

Among the leaves the small birds sing;
The crow of the cock commands awaking:
In solitude, for company.

Bright shines the sun on creatures mortal;
Men of their neighbours become sensible:
In solitude, for company.

The crow of the cock commands awaking;
Already the mass-bell goes dong-ding:
In solitude, for company.

Men of their neighbours become sensible;
God bless the Realm, God bless the People:
In solitude, for company.

Already the mass-bell goes dong-ding;
The dripping mill-wheel is again turning:
In solitude, for company.

God bless the Realm, God bless the People;
God bless this green world temporal:
In solitude, for company.

The dripping mill-wheel is again turning;
Among the leaves the small birds sing:
In solitude, for company.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca