Unhappy about some far off things
That are not my affair, wandering
Along the coast and up the lean ridges,
I saw in the evening
The stars go over the lonely ocean,
And a black-maned wild boar
Plowing with his snout on Mal Paso Mountain.
The old monster snuffled, “Here are sweet roots,
Fat grubs, slick beetles and sprouted acorns.
The best nation in Europe has fallen,
And that is Finland,
But the stars go over the lonely ocean,”
The old black-bristled boar,
Tearing the sod on Mal Paso Mountain.
“The world’s in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean,”
Said the old father of wild pigs,
Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.
“Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy
And the dogs that talk revolution,
Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies,”
Said the gamey black-maned boar
Tusking the turf on Mal Paso Mountain.
W.â€‰H. Auden had rented variously inadequate apartments since arriving back in New York at the end of the summer of 1945, and had most recently been living with Chester Kallman in a warehouse building on Seventh Avenue, an especially unsatisfactory place that lacked both hot water and a functional front door. So when he and Kallman moved to 77 Saint Markâ€™s Place on the Lower East Side, in February 1954, it promised to be a significant improvement; and he was certainly very pleased with the place from the startâ€”â€œmy N.Y. nest,â€ he called it. Auden would stay there until his ill-fated departure for Oxford in 1972, making it his longest single habitation. From 1949 he summered in Europeâ€”in Ischia until 1957, when he bought a small farmhouse in Kirchstetten in Austria, which delighted him: he devoted a sequence, â€œThanksgiving for a Habitat,â€ in his collection About the House (1965), to a celebration of his domestic existence there. It was in these summerhouses that he tended to write poems: New York was largely for his distinct life as a â€œman of letters,â€ a label he applied to himself. â€œIt is a sad fact about our culture,â€ he once wrote, â€œthat a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing itâ€; but at the same time he prided himself on his professionalism as a reviewer, essayist, anthologist, and commentator, work that in turn often suggested subjects for poems; and that work principally happened on Saint Markâ€™s.
Freshly installed, he excitedly invited round his young friend Charles Miller (â€œCome! Iâ€™ll take you on a tourâ€):
The large first (entry) room with high ceiling had a green marbled fireplace flanked by built-in bookshelves, which also incorporated Wystanâ€™s battered turntable with speaker equipment and his much-used collection of records and albums. A big shabby sofa and a swamped antique coffee table centered the cluttered room. I followed Wystan through an arch into a similar room at the front with another green marbled fireplace. This room was hardly furnished, except for built-in bookcases and Wystanâ€™s small work table just touched by sunlight from the generous nineteenth-century windows. To the right of this room, as we faced Saint Markâ€™s Place, was a small room with its door to the stair hall nailed shut; the room had only a cot bed, on which Wystan slept, he said.
Just touched by sunlight, one imagines: as an undergraduate at Oxford, Auden had preferred to keep his curtains drawn at all times, and he seems to have adopted the same policy in America. When Stephen Spender had visited him in the forties he unwisely attempted to open the curtains and brought them crashing to the ground: â€œYou idiot!â€ Auden scolded him, â€œwhy did you draw them? No one ever draws them. In any case thereâ€™s no daylight in New York.â€ Wystanâ€™s succession of rooms gave his friend Margaret Gardiner â€œthe sensation of brownish caverns, a brown that seemed to pervade everything, even the air itself.â€
Audenâ€™s territory was the front of the apartment; Kallmanâ€™s, the kitchen and the music room at the back of the flat, where there were also separate bedrooms for Kallman and for a tenant. Auden was especially pleased with the fireplaces, and he liked the porcelain tiles in the kitchen. The area had lots of Italian, Polish, and Ukrainian stores selling good food. And the building even had a history: Trotsky had once published works from its basement, a fact that seemed to please Auden; and, some more recent color, an illegal abortionist had been its previous inhabitant. (The flat was buzzed from time to time by would-be clients.) Auden placed his fatherâ€™s barometer on the mantelpiece, and hung over it a watercolor by Blake, The Act of Creation, a present from his rich patron Caroline Newton. But his evident pride in the place did not translate into any instincts to be house-proud, as Millerâ€™s retrospective account, despite its touches of fine writing, communicates well enough:
The coffee table bore its household harvest of books, periodicals, half-emptied coffee cups scummed over with cream, a dash of cigarette ashes for good measure, and a heel of French bread (too tough for Wystanâ€™s new dentures?). An oval platter served as ashtray, heaped with a homey Vesuvius of cigarette butts, ashes, bits of cellophane from discarded packs, a few martini-soaked olive pits, and a final cigarette stub issuing a frail plume of smoke from the top of the heap, signature of a dying volcano. This Auden-scape reeked of stale coffee grounds, tarry nicotine, and toe jam mixed with metro pollution and catshit, Wystanified tenement tang.
And this was his new flat. â€œThe speed with which he could wreck a room was barely credible, certainly dangerous,â€ observed his friend James Stern. He spoke from experience. On one occasion he had left Auden in his flat for the day, dropping back shortly afterward to pick something up: â€œIf it hadnâ€™t been for the pictures on the walls I wouldnâ€™t have known where I was,â€ Stern remembered: â€œFrustrated burglars could not have created greater chaos â€¦ God, Wystan, was a mess! â€˜My dear, I do love this apartment, but I canâ€™t understand why it doesnâ€™t have more ashtrays!â€™â€‰â€ The Saint Markâ€™s apartment rapidly came to resemble what Robert Craft, Stravinskyâ€™s right-hand man, had witnessed with some incredulity in Audenâ€™s previous place, a litter of â€œempty bottles, used martini glasses, books, papers, phonograph records.â€ Dinner with them would be boozy and delicious (Kallman was an excellent cook); but the cutlery would be greasy and the plates often only imperfectly washed. â€œHe is the dirtiest man I have ever liked,â€ said Stravinsky of Auden, a touching if qualified mark of regard.
First published January 29, 1845 in the New York Evening Mirror.
— Edgar Allan Poe (1809 — 1849)
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten loreâ€”
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber doorâ€”
“â€˜Tis some visitor,” I muttered, â€œtapping at my chamber doorâ€”
Only this and nothing more.â€
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;â€”vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrowâ€”sorrow for the lost Lenoreâ€”
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenoreâ€”
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled meâ€”filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“â€˜Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber doorâ€”
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;â€”
This it is and nothing more.â€
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
â€œSir,” said I, â€œor Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard youâ€â€”here I opened wide the door;â€”
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, â€œLenore?â€
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, â€œLenore!â€â€”
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
â€œSurely,” said I, â€œsurely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery exploreâ€”
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;â€”
â€˜Tis the wind and nothing more!â€
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber doorâ€”
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber doorâ€”
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
â€œThough thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, â€œart sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shoreâ€”
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Nightâ€™s Plutonian shore!â€
Quoth the Raven â€œNevermore.â€
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaningâ€”little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber doorâ€”
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as â€œNevermore.â€
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he utteredâ€”not a feather then he flutteredâ€”
Till I scarcely more than muttered â€œOther friends have flown beforeâ€”
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.â€
Then the bird said â€œNevermore.â€
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
â€œDoubtless,” said I, â€œwhat it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden boreâ€”
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yoreâ€”
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking â€œNevermore.â€
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosomâ€™s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushionâ€™s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated oâ€™er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating oâ€™er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
â€œWretch,” I cried, â€œthy God hath lent theeâ€”by these angels he hath sent thee
Respiteâ€”respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!â€
Quoth the Raven â€œNevermore.â€
â€œProphet!â€ said I, â€œthing of evil!â€”prophet still, if bird or devil!â€”
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchantedâ€”
On this home by Horror hauntedâ€”tell me truly, I imploreâ€”
Is thereâ€”is there balm in Gilead?â€”tell meâ€”tell me, I implore!â€
Quoth the Raven â€œNevermore.â€
â€œProphet!â€ said I, â€œthing of evilâ€”prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above usâ€”by that God we both adoreâ€”
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenoreâ€”
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.â€
Quoth the Raven â€œNevermore.â€
â€œBe that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!â€ I shrieked, upstartingâ€”
â€œGet thee back into the tempest and the Nightâ€™s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!â€”quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!â€
Quoth the Raven â€œNevermore.â€
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demonâ€™s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light oâ€™er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be liftedâ€”nevermore!
Goths, Vandals, Huns, Isaurian mountaineers,
Made Roman by our Roman sacrament,
We can know little (as we care little)
Of the Metropolis: her candled churches,
Her white-gowned pederastic senators,
The cut-throat factions of her Hippodrome,
The eunuchs of her draped saloons.
Here is the frontier, here our camp and place—
Beans for the pot, fodder for horses, And Roman arms.
Enough. He who among us
At full gallop, the bowstring to his ear,
Lets drive his heavy arrows, to sink
Stinging through Persian corslets damascened,
Then follows with the lance—he has our love.
The Christ bade Holy Peter sheathe his sword,
Being outnumbered by the Temple guard.
And this was prudence, the cause not yet lost
While Peter might persuade the crowd to rescue.
Peter reneged, breaking his sacrament.
With us the penalty is death by stoning,
Not to be made a bishop.
In Peter’s Church there is no faith nor truth,
Nor justice anywhere in palace or court.
That we continue watchful on the rampart
Concerns no priest. A gaping silken dragon,
Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God.
We, not the City, are the Empire’s soul:
A rotten tree lives only in its rind.
He is regarded as one of Englandâ€™s greatest writers, whose poems were praised as the nationâ€™s favourites and whose books were lauded as classics of children’s literature.
But it appears that Rudyard Kipling has fallen out of favour with todayâ€™s generation of students, after it emerged that his â€œIfâ€ poem has been scrubbed off a building by university students who claim he was a â€œracistâ€.
Student leaders at Manchester University declared that Kipling â€œstands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rightsâ€.
The poem, which had been painted on the wall of the studentsâ€™ union building by an artist, was removed by students on Tuesday, in a bid to â€œreclaimâ€ history on behalf of those who have been â€œoppressedâ€ by â€œthe likes of Kiplingâ€.
In lieu of Kiplingâ€™s If, students used a black marker pen to write out the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou on the same stretch of wall.
today, as a team, we removed an imperialistâ€™s work from the walls of our union and replaced them with words of the maya angelou – god knows black and brown voices have been written out of history enough, and itâ€™s time we try to reverse that, at the very least in our union ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/VT5N3zlfyN
â€” Fatima Abid (@fatimabidSU) July 16, 2018
Sara Khan, the liberation and access officer at Manchesterâ€™s studentsâ€™ union (SU), blamed a â€œfailure to consult studentsâ€ during the renovation of the SU building for the Kipling poem being painted on the wall in the first place.
â€œWe, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for,â€ Miss Khan said.
First there was a god of night and tempest, a black idol without eyes, before whom they leaped, naked and smeared with blood. Later on, in the times of the republic, there were many gods with wives, children, creaking beds, and harmlessly exploding thunderbolts. At the end only superstitious neurotics carried in their pockets little statues of salt, representing the god of irony. There was no greater god at that time.
Then came the barbarians. They too valued highly the little god of irony. They would crush it under their heels and add it to their dishes.