time for a poem

Post photo: Enjoying coffee | © Pixabay

In times like these, you should, yes, you have to take the time to look for poems that can help you personally and maybe even spiritually. I found such a poem in the New York Times today. Elisa Gabbert wrote on March 6, 2022 under the caption “A Poem (and a Painting) About the Suffering That Hides in Plain Sight' about a poem by WH Auden, which he wrote in Brussels in 1938 in view of the impending Second World War.

I had posted this poem on one of my websites a few years ago and wondered why it got so little attention from readers. Probably the time was simply not yet ripe to deal with this poem in more detail.

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous births, there must always be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forget
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shines
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

WH AUDEN (December 1938)

So today I was more than pleasantly surprised when I read the discussion of this poem by Elisa Gabbert was allowed to read. This review alone is worth subscribing to The New York Times.

And still very much impressed by this review, I dare not comment on this poem either. So I can only recommend everyone not only to read the poem, but also to make the effort and read the related review by Gabbert.

About WH Auden one can report very briefly that he was born British, took US citizenship in 1946, was married to a German woman and became part-time Austrian in the last years of his life, where he is also buried.


"We would rather be ruined than changed 

We would rather die in our dread 

Than climb the cross of the moment 

And let our illusions die."

WH Auden, The Age of Anxiety (2011 [1947]: 105, epilogue)
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2 thoughts on "time for a poem"

  1. Re: "... In times like these, you should, yes, you have to take the time to look for poems that can help you personally and maybe even spiritually..."

    Dear Heinrich Kummerle,
    When reading the poem and the review, I remembered a broadcast by SWR on January 1, 2020, which dealt with the effect of poems and their “surprising and above all physically verifiable effects that can even have functions that are important for survival..” , deals. In addition to the presentation of examples from poetry, the program also reports on neurological research that investigates the reactions of special areas of the brain and the heart/circulatory system to the rhyme, the foot of the verse, the repetition, the rhythm, the same initial and final sounds via the so-called "Response nerves" react and can influence our well-being.
    The broadcast and the manuscript for the broadcast can be found under the following link:
    https://www.swr.de/swr2/wissen/manuskript-aula-2020-01-01-die-lyrische-hausapotheke-100.pdf

    With kind regards,

    peter schulze

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