“You know there are no secrets in America. It’s quite different in England, where people think of a secret as a shared relation between two people.”
W. H. Auden
At Last The Secret Is Out
by W. H. Auden
At last the secret is out,
as it always must come in the end,
the delicious story is ripe to tell
to tell to the intimate friend;
over the tea-cups and into the square
the tongues has its desire;
still waters run deep, my dear,
there’s never smoke without fire.
Behind the corpse in the reservoir,
behind the ghost on the links,
behind the lady who dances
and the man who madly drinks,
under the look of fatigue
the attack of migraine and the sigh
there is always another story,
there is more than meets the eye.
For the clear voice suddenly singing,
high up in the convent wall,
the scent of the elder bushes,
the sporting prints in the hall,
the croquet matches in summer,
the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
there is always a wicked secret,
a private reason for this.
A life measured in words is a noble thing. It has the ability to stretch far beyond bronze sculptures, oil paintings, ancient pottery, fresco or tile, well into the future, nearly intact. It is a time capsule of a person’s most intimate secrets that can reach across eons. The poets inner life always exposed and raw. What I find spellbinding about Auden is his ability to surprise me, mid line, time after time. Auden’s work feels like he never wrote to appease anyone but himself. He never appears to be grand standing. There is a humbleness to Auden that keeps it refreshing and genuine. T. S. Eliot always strikes me a bit like he was writing to pick up girls and get laid. It has a falseness about it sometimes, that lacks sincerity, whereas Auden reads like poetry was the only intimate act between two people he ever considered.
I wonder if the digital world will overwhelm posterity with mediocrity someday? Will Auden’s work be buried beneath the next thousand years of marginal poets creating sedimentary formations in the digital world that will obscure his greatness? Or will his work become compressed to be a layer of energy, like oil deep beneath the ground, just waiting to be tapped? I hope there will be men and women like me, every generation, who will discover Auden and keep his words alive.
An interesting thing to consider is whether English will be a spoken language in 2,000 years? Or will it become like Latin, an ancient readable, translatable text, that no living human being can converse or speak naturally. And if English becomes a dead language, how will Auden be translated? Will his ideas survive further into the future than the words themselves? And what will human kind think of this man in their new vocabulary that inspires them to evolve him through translation into their modernity?
The Hidden Law
by W. H Auden
The Hidden Law does not deny
Our laws of probability,
But takes the atom and the star
And human beings as they are,
And answers nothing when we lie.
It is the only reason why
No government can codify,
And verbal definitions mar
The Hidden Law.
Its utter patience will not try
To stop us if we want to die;
If we escape it in a car,
If we forget It in a bar,
These are the ways we’re punished by
The Hidden Law
2 thoughts on “A Private Reason For This”
I think you would like like Alexander McCall Smith – what Auden can do for you. I am so pleased I saw your blog. I am an artist you works with ink also. I have just done two drawings – in praise of limestone – and the winds must come from somewhere when they blow. I agree the integrity of the word is profound. You might also like Holding Proteus in his book of poems ‘ the swithering’ by Robin
Robertson – a living poet who has the same Depth of soul as Auden. My Instagram is clancyinthestudio and the Auden ink paintings are part of ‘ the Reforesting the soul series ‘ thank you for your work and generosity of heart and mind.
Thank you so much for the recommendations. I will check it out.