Friday 20 September 2013

Anthology 9

Talking of formal brilliance, here's a beautifully constructed sonnet by Auden. Breaking neatly (into tears) at the approved point (between lines 8 and 9), it presents the facts of the great man's life in the first eight lines, the truth in the following six. The octave stands above the sestet like a monument atop its reflection in a lake.


A shilling life will give you all the facts:
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea;
Some of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.

With all his honours on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.

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