It’s natural the Boys should whoop it up for
so huge a phallic triumph, an adventure
it would not have occurred to women
to think worth while, made possible only
because we like huddling in gangs and knowing
the exact time: yes, our sex may in fairness
hurrah the deed, although the motives
that primed it were somewhat less than menschlich.
A grand gesture. But what does it period?
What does it osse? We were always adroiter
with objects than lives, and more facile
at courage than kindness: from the moment
the first flint was flaked this landing was merely
a matter of time. But our selves, like Adam’s,
still don’t fit us exactly, modern
only in this – our lack of decorum.
Homer’s heroes were certainly no braver
than our Trio, but more fortunate: Hector
was excused the insult of having
his valor covered by television.
Worth going to see? I can well believe it.
Worth seeing? Mneh! I once rode through a desert
and was not charmed: give me a watered
lively garden, remote from blatherers
about the New, the von Brauns and their ilk, where
on August mornings I can count the morning
glories, where to die has a meaning,
and no engine can shift my perspective.
Unsmudged, thank God, my Moon still queens the Heavens
as She ebbs and fulls, a Presence to glop at,
Her Old Man, made of grit not protein,
still visits my Austrian several
with His old detachment, and the old warnings
still have power to scare me: Hybris comes to
an ugly finish, Irreverence
is a greater oaf than Superstition.
Our apparatniks will continue making
the usual squalid mess called History:
all we can pray for is that artists,
chefs and saints may still appear to blithe it.
– W. H. Auden
Apologies for any formatting issues; the long lines, many broken over several rows, cause certain problems. I have added line numbers in an attempt to make it easier to follow. The poem rhymes in couplets.
from The Blues: A Literary Eclogue
London – Before the Door of a Lecture Room
[Enter Tracy, meeting Inkel.]
Tra: What, won’t you return to the lecture? (40)
Ink: Why, the place is so cramm’d, there’s not room for a spectre.
Besides, our friend Scamp is to-day so absurd—
Tra: How can you know that till you hear him?
Ink: I heard
Quite enough; and, to tell you the truth, my retreat
Was from his vile nonsense, no less than the heat. (45)
Tra: I have had no great loss then?
Ink: Loss! – such a palaver!
I’d inoculate sooner my wife with the slaver
Of a dog when gone rabid, than listen two hours
To the torrent of trash which around him he pours,
Pump’d up with such effort, disgorged with such labour, (50)
That— come – do not make me speak ill of one’s neighbour.
Tra: I make you!
Ink: Yes, you! I said nothing until
You compell’d me, by speaking the truth—
Tra: To speak ill?
Is that your deduction?
Ink: When speaking of Scamp ill,
I certainly follow, not set an example. (55)
The fellow’s a fool, an impostor, a zany.
Tra: And the crowd of to-day shows that one fool makes many.
But we two will be wise.
Ink: Pray, then, let us retire.
Tra: I would, but—
Ink: There must be attraction much higher
Than Scamp, or the Jews’ harp he nicknames his lyre, (60)
To call you to this hotbed.
Tra: I own it – ’tis true –
A fair lady—
Ink: A spinster?
Tra: Miss Lilac!
Ink: The Blue!
Tra: The angel!
Ink: The devil! why, man,
Pray get out of this hobble as fast as you can.
You wed with Miss Lilac! ‘twould be your perdition: (65)
She’s a poet, a chymist, a mathematician.
Tra: I say she’s an angel!
Ink: Say rather an angle.
If you and she marry, you’ll certainly wrangle.
I say she’s a Blue, man, as blue as the ether.
Tra: And is that any cause for not coming together? (70)
Ink: Humph! I can’t say I know any happy alliance
Which has lately sprung up from a wedlock with science.
She’s so learned in all things, and fond of concerning
Herself in all matters connected with learning,
Ink: I perhaps may as well hold my tongue; (75)
But there’s five hundred people can tell you you’re wrong.
– Lord Byron
from Hiawatha’s Photographing
From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.
This he perched upon a tripod –
Crouched beneath its dusky cover –
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence –
Said “Be motionless, I beg you!”
Mystic, awful was the process.
First, a piece of glass he coated
With collodion, and plunged it
In a bath of lunar caustic
Carefully dissolved in water –
There he left it certain minutes.
Secondly, my Hiawatha
Made with cunning hand a mixture
Of the acid pyrro-gallic,
And of glacial-acetic,
And of alcohol and water
This developed all the picture.
Finally, he fixed each picture
With a saturate solution
Which was made of hyposulphite
Which, again, was made of soda.
(Very difficult the name is
For a metre like the present
But periphrasis has done it.)
All the family in order
Sat before him for their pictures:
Each in turn, as he was taken,
Volunteered his own suggestions,
His ingenious suggestions.
– Lewis Carroll