by Stephen Spender
(Ghost of a ghost, of you when young, you waken
In me my ghost when young, us both at Oxford.
You, the tow-haired undergraduate
With jaunty liftings of the head.
Angular forward stride, cross-questioning glance,
A Buster Keaton-faced pale gravitas.
Saying aloud your poems whose letters bit
Ink-deep into my fingers when I set
Them up upon my five-pound printing press:
‘An evening like a coloured photograph
A music stultified across the water
The heel upon the finishing blade of grass.’)
Stephen Spender published the first volume of Auden’s poetry in 1928. Spender had his own printing press and put together a small selection of poems from his Oxford counterpart and published a slim volume to the tune of 45 copies of Auden’s student work. The act of sharing one’s work is daunting. The first published poem. The first edition of the first collection is an act of contrition and courage. Readers should be forgiving. The italized lines above from the poem below. A foretelling of the brilliance of Auden that was to come.
Consider If You Will How Lovers Stand
by W. H. Auden
Consider if you will how lovers stand
In brief adherence, straining to preserve
Too long the suction of good-bye; others,
Less clinically-minded, will admire
An evening like a coloured photograph,
A music stultified across the water:
The desert opens here, and if, though we
Have ligatured the ends of a farewell,
Sporadic heartburn show in evidence
of love uneconomically slain,
It is for the last time, the last look back,
The heel upon the finishing blade of grass.
To dazzling cities of the plain where lust
Threatened a sinister rod, and we shall turn
To our study of stones, to split Eva’s apple,
Absorbed, content if we can say “because”:
Unanswerable as any other pendant,
Like Solomon and Sheba, wrong for years.