Saturday, February 13, 2010

Auden and Breugel

It's possible to be bullied into reading too much poetry--you learn not to care. And it worked because for the most part nobody does, except intermittently.

Still, the first time I read any Auden, it happened to be, "Faces along the bar/Cling to their average day:/The lights must never go out,/The music must always play."

These forgettable-unforgettable lines have traction: Auden is interested in automatic pilot, and neglectfulness, and the soothing and empty properties of doing today what we did yesterday. And yes, today we did what we always do--changed the sheets, did the food shopping, listened to to that junky NPR cooking show on the ride up the hill to the market--all the while wondering privately what kind of catastrophe, exactly, was lying in wait. We are both worried, although I think about slightly different things. When I got home I took the trouble to look up and re-read:

"In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on."

--Musee des Beaux Arts

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