[xmca] A bit of Auden

From: David Preiss (davidpreiss@puc.cl)
Date: Thu Aug 04 2005 - 13:02:26 PDT

As we went into the literary, i thought a bit of Auden would do no harm
A Reactionary Tract for the Times

 Ares at last has quit the field,

 The bloodstains on the bushes yield

      To seeping showers,

 And in their convalescent state

 The fractured towns associate

      With summer flowers.

 Encamped upon the college plain

 Raw veterans already train

      As freshman forces;

 Instructors with sarcastic tongue

 Shepherd the battle-weary young

      Through basic courses.

 Among bewildering appliances

 For mastering the arts and sciences

      They stroll or run,

 And nerves that steeled themselves to slaughter

 Are shot to pieces by the shorter

      Poems of Donne.

 Professors back from secret missions

 Resume their proper eruditions,

      Though some regret it;

 They liked their dictaphones a lot,

 T hey met some big wheels, and do not

      Let you forget it.

 But Zeus' inscrutable decree

 Permits the will-to-disagree

      To be pandemic,

 Ordains that vaudeville shall preach

 And every commencement speech

      Be a polemic.

 Let Ares doze, that other war

 Is instantly declared once more

 'Twixt those who follow

 Precocious Hermes all the way

 And those who without qualms obey

 Pompous Apollo.

 Brutal like all Olympic games,

 Though fought with smiles and Christian names

      And less dramatic,

 This dialectic strife between

 The civil gods is just as mean,

      And more fanatic.

 What high immortals do in mirth

 Is life and death on Middle Earth;

      Their a-historic

 Antipathy forever gripes

 All ages and somatic types,

      The sophomoric

 Who face the future's darkest hints

 With giggles or with prairie squints

      As stout as Cortez,

 And those who like myself turn pale

 As we approach with ragged sail

      The fattening forties.

 The sons of Hermes love to play

 And only do their best when they

      Are told they oughtn't;

 Apollo's children never shrink

 From boring jobs but have to think

      Their work important.

 Related by antithesis,

 A compromise between us is


 Respect perhaps but friendship never:

 Falstaff the fool confronts forever

       The prig Prince Hal.

 If he would leave the self alone,

 Apollo's welcome to the throne,

      Fasces and falcons;

 He loves to rule, has always done it;

 The earth would soon, did Hermes run it,

      Be like the Balkans.

 But jealous of our god of dreams,

 His common-sense in secret schemes

       To rule the heart;

 Unable to invent the lyre,

 Creates with simulated fire

      Official art.

 And when he occupies a college,

 Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge;

      He pays particular

 Attention to Commercial Thought,

 Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport,

      In his curricula.

 Athletic, extrovert and crude,

 For him, to work in solitude

      Is the offence,

 The goal a populous Nirvana:

 His shield bears this device: Mens sana

      Qui mal y pense.

 Today his arms, we must confess,

 From Right to Left have met success,

      His banners wave

 From Yale to Princeton, and the news

 From Broadway to the Book Reviews

      Is very grave.

 His radio Homers all day long

 In over-Whitmanated song

      That does not scan,

 With adjectives laid end to end,

 Extol the doughnut and commend

      The Common Man.

 His, too, each homely lyric thing

 On sport or spousal love or spring

      Or dogs or dusters,

 Invented by some court-house bard

 For recitation by the yard

      In filibusters.

 To him ascend the prize orations

 And sets of fugal variations

      On some folk-ballad,

 While dietitians sacrifice

 A glass of prune-juice or a nice

      Marsh-mallow salad.

 Charged with his compound of sensational

 Sex plus some undenominational

      Religious matter,

 Enormous novels by co-eds

 Rain down on our defenceless heads

      Till our teeth chatter.

 In fake Hermetic uniforms

 Behind our battle-line, in swarms

     That keep alighting,

 His existentialists declare

 That they are in complete despair,

     Yet go on writing.

 No matter; He shall be defied;

 White Aphrodite is on our side:

     What though his threat

 To organize us grow more critical?

 Zeus willing, we, the unpolitical,

     Shall beat him yet.

 Lone scholars, sniping from the walls

 Of learned periodicals,

     Our facts defend,

 Our intellectual marines,

 Landing in little magazines

     Capture a trend.

 By night our student Underground

 At cocktail parties whisper round

     From ear to ear;

 Fat figures in the public eye

 Collapse next morning, ambushed by

     Some witty sneer.

 In our morale must lie our strength:

 So, that we may behold at length

     Routed Apollo's

 Battalions melt away like fog,

 Keep well the Hermetic Decalogue,

     Which runs as follows:-

 Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,

 Thou shalt not write thy doctor's thesis

     On education,

 Thou shalt not worship projects nor

 Shalt thou or thine bow down before


 Thou shalt not answer questionnaires

 Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,

     Nor with compliance

 Take any test. Thou shalt not sit

 With statisticians nor commit

     A social science.

 Thou shalt not be on friendly terms

 With guys in advertising firms,

     Nor speak with such

 As read the Bible for its prose,

 Nor, above all, make love to those

     Who wash too much.

 Thou shalt not live within thy means

 Nor on plain water and raw greens.

     If thou must choose

 Between the chances, choose the odd;

 Read The New Yorker, trust in God;

     And take short views.

<http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet_A.html#Auden> W. H.
David Preiss


Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile: <http://www.puc.cl/>

PACE Center at Yale University: <http://www.yale.edu/pace>

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E-mail: <mailto:david.preiss@yale.edu> david.preiss@yale.edu,


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