Monthly Archives: March 2011

David Hockney’s "Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C P Cavafy"

Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
Bild 047He’d been sitting in the café since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute.
Midnight went by, and he was still waiting for him.
It was now after one-thirty, and the café was almost deserted.
He’d grown tired of reading newspapers
mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings
only one was left: waiting that long,
he’d spent the others on coffees and brandy.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
So much waiting had worn him out. Because
alone like that for so many hours,
he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts
about the immoral life he was living.

But when he saw his friend come in—
weariness, boredom, thoughts vanished at once.

His friend brought unexpected news.
He’d won sixty pounds playing cards.

Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness,
the sensitive love they shared
were refreshed, livened, invigorated
by the sixty pounds from the card table.
Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm,
they went—not to the homes of their respectable families
(where they were no longer wanted anyway)—
they went to a familiar and very special
house of debauchery, and they asked for a bedroom
and expensive drinks, and they drank again.

And when the expensive drinks were finished
and it was close to four in the morning,
happy, they gave themselves to love.

Following the Recipe of Ancient Greco-Syrian Magicians
Bild 051Said an aesthete: “What distillation from magic herbs
can I find—what distillation, following the recipe
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians—
that will bring back to me for one day (if its power
doesn’t last longer) or even for a few hours,
my twenty-third year,
bring back to me my friend of twenty-two,
his beauty, his love.
What distillation, following the recipe
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians, can be found
to bring back also—as part of this return of things past—
even the little room we shared.”

In an Old Book
Bild 052Forgotten between the leaves of an old book—
almost a hundred years old—
I found an unsigned watercolor.
It must have been the work of a powerful artist.
Its title: “Representation of Love.”
“…love of extreme sensualists” would have been more to the point.
Because it became clear as you looked at the work
(it was easy to see what the artist had in mind)
that the young man in the painting
was not designated for those
who love in ways that are more or less healthy,
inside the bounds of what is clearly permissible—
with his deep chestnut eyes,
the rare beauty of his face,
the beauty of anomalous charm,
with those ideal lips that bring
sensual delight to the body loved,
those ideal limbs shaped for beds
that common morality calls shameless.

In the Boring Village
DavidHockney_InTheDullVillage_LGIn the boring village where he works—
clerk in a textile shop, very young—
and where he’s waiting out the two or three months ahead,
another two or three months until business falls off
so he can leave for the city and plunge headlong
into its action, its entertainment;
in the boring village where he’s waiting out the time—
he goes to bed tonight full of sexual longing,
all his youth on fire with the body’s passion,
his lovely youth given over to a fine intensity.
And in his sleep pleasure comes to him;
in his sleep he sees and has the figure, the flesh he longed for…

Their Beginning
hockn_beginningTheir illicit pleasure has been fulfilled.
They get up and dress quickly, without a word.
They come out of the house separately, furtively;
and as they move along the street a bit unsettled,
it seems they sense that something about them betrays
what kind of bed they’ve just been lying on.
But what profit for the life of the artist:
tomorrow, the day after, or years later, he’ll give voice
to the strong lines that had their beginning here.

One Night
P1188The room was cheap and sordid,
hidden above the suspect taverna.
From the window you could see the alley,
dirty and narrow. From below
came the voices of workmen
playing cards, enjoying themselves.
And there on that common, humble bed
I had love’s body, had those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual,
red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I’m drunk with passion again.

In Despair
P1189He lost him completely. And he now tries to find
his lips in the lips of each new lover,
he tries in the union with each new lover
to convince himself that it’s the same young man,
that it’s to him he gives himself.
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
He wanted, his lover said, to save himself
from the tainted, unhealthy form of sexual pleasure,
the tainted, shameful form of sexual pleasure.
There was still time, he said, to save himself.
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
Through fantasy, through hallucination,
he tries to find his lips in the lips of other young men,
he longs to feel his kind of love once more.

David Hockney has enjoyed international fame ever since the early 1960s. He began his artistic training in 1953 to 1957 at the Bradford College of Art and continued studying at the Royal College of Art in London from 1959 to 1962. He exhibited his first works in 1960 and participated in the exhibition of the ‘London Group 1960’ in 1960 and was also presented for the first time with the ‘Young Contemporaries’ at the R.B.A. Galleries in London. He was awarded the Royal College Drawing Prize in the year he graduated. Hockney began working on his first engraved cycle ‘A Rake’s Progress’ as early as in 1961 – it was published in 1963. Hockney traveled to New York, Berlin and Egypt after having finished his studies, in order to find ideas for his illustrations. His friend, Henry Geldzahler, the curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, encouraged him to move to Los Angeles in 1964. Hockney was offered a teaching post at the University of Iowa in the summer of the same year. His first one-man exhibition in the USA was successfully opened in the same year at the Alan Gallery in New York. He had other teaching posts until 1967 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, in Los Angeles and in Berkeley.
Hockney came across the Greek poet Konstantinos Kavafis, also called Cafavy, as early as in his studies. He was fascinated by Cafavy’s clear and unpretentious way of writing about homosexuality. Thus the idea for a cycle of etchings was born, which was, however, not solely due to his fascination for the Greek poet, but also because of his basic desire to create literature etchings. The project was not put into practice before 1966, as the translation of the poems which was in existence then could not be used for legal reasons. This is why Hockney decided to entrust his friend Stephen Spender, an English poet, and his colleague Nikos Stangos with a new translation of the poems. The project was completed in just 6 months. In general, the works of the cycle were not intended to be exact illustrations of the poem, but rather visual interpretations of Cafy’s poetry.
Hockney accepted a post as a guest professor at the Kunsthochschule in Hamburg in 1969. His international fame increased with his invitations to exhibit at the documenta 4 and 6 in Kassel in 1968 and 1977. He made numerous stage stets for ballets and operas by Mozart, Strawinsky, Wagner and Strauss from the mid 1970s to the 1990s. In 1982 Hockney began making Polaroid collages in a Cubist manner. He also began making color-copy prints, abstract computer graphics and fax drawings at the end of the 1980s. Hockney is often associated with Pop-Art, but he refuses to accept this labeling of his art.

I only used seven of the fourteen poems featured in Hockney’s work, but these were the seven I found most intriguing. Each of the above poems were translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard.  In Hockey’s book, they were translated by Stephen Spender and Nikos Stangos.

Happy 150th Birthday Italy!!!


On March 17, 1861, King Victor Emmanuel proclaimed the foundation of the kingdom of Italy. 


Reforms introduced by France into its Italian states in the Napoleonic period remained after the states were restored to their former rulers in 1815 and provided an impetus for the movement. Secret groups such as Young Italy advocated Italian unity, and leaders such as Camillo Cavour, who founded the journal Il Risorgimento (1847), Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Giuseppe Mazzini called for liberal reforms and a united Italy. After the failure of the Revolutions of 1848, leadership passed to Cavour and Piedmont, which formed an alliance with France against Austria (1859). The unification of most of Italy in 1861, followed by the annexation of Venetia (1866) and papal Rome (1870), marked the end of the Risorgimento.

Rome Oct. Week 1, 2006 042The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or “Il Vittoriano” is a monument to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885; sculpture for it was parceled out to established sculptors all over Italy, such as Angelo Zanelli. It was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935.

Oscar Wilde and Jefferson Davis

In continuing my look at Oscar Wilde for St. Patrick’s Day, I came across this very interesting.  As a southerner, It amazes me that Wilde and Davis met 1882. (My look at Cavefy will continue tomorrow).

Oscar Wilde
Playwright, wit, and gay icon


Jefferson Davis
Politician, traitor, and Confederate icon


While on his tour of the United States in 1882, there was one man Wilde wanted to meet above all others. No, not Walt Whitman (although the two did meet—and share a kiss—at Whitman’s New Jersey home that January). It was Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy. Wilde finally got his chance on June 27, 1882, when he blew through Beauvoir, Mississippi on his way to Montgomery, Alabama to deliver a lecture on “Decorative Art” at the local opera house. The seemingly mismatched pair actually found they had a lot in common. Wilde remarked on the similarities between the American South and his native Ireland: both had fought to attain self-rule and both had lost. He went on to declare that “The principles for which Jefferson Davis and the South went to war cannot suffer defeat.”

As for the ensuing lecture, that proved to be something of a letdown. “An immense assemblage of the morbidly curious will greet him,” declared the Selma Times in an article previewing the event. The Montgomery Advertiser was also eager to hear what the famous wit had to offer.  “No lady has heard of Mr. Wilde that is not anxious to see and hear him; and, ‘tis said, he ‘adores the fair sex.’” But the Irishman’s observations on aesthetics, delivered in such a strange and exotic accent, were wasted on the Southern audience. “The lecture was one of the peculiar nature that should be heard to be appreciated,” the Advertiser summed up afterwards, “and a synopsis or even a brief sketch will not be attempted.

Oscar Wilde’s Influence on Gay Identity

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to post this piece on the most famous Irish homosexual (it was Oscar Wilde or Graham Norton, I chose to be a bit more serious, LOL).  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

After his 1895 trial for gross indecency, Oscar Wilde’s name became a byword for immorality. But in the 20th century, gay men embraced Wilde as an icon of gay history.

555314_com_ow1Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet, playwright, critic, essayist, novelist, and the preeminent aesthete of the Victorian era, whose unparalleled genius for witty conversation and a well-turned aphorism elevated him to the height of English society in the 1880s and 1890s. But his 1895 trial for “gross indecencies” (homosexual acts), and his defense of love between men, made Wilde an inadvertent hero of the 20th century’s gay rights movement.

Wilde’s Impact on Victorian Social Propriety

Wilde studied with the critic Walter Pater at Oxford’s Magdalen College and adopted Pater’s appreciation of “Art for Art’s sake”—that is, to worship Beauty simply because it is beautiful. Some of Pater’s critics insinuated that Aestheticism was merely a euphemism for homosexuality.

oscar wilde sentenceWilde himself was the opposite of the stereotypically strapping, hale Victorian male: he wore his hair in long waves; the London World reported he favored a costume of “open-work embroidered shirt showing black silk lining, a large yellow silk handkerchief thrust in the breast of the coat, and a high stock [stocking] of the past ages,” and always wore an ostentatious flower (a lily, a green carnation) in his buttonhole.

Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), told the fable of a young aesthete who embraces Youth and Beauty while his soul, embodied in a portrait of himself, reveals the depths of his moral decay. Nevertheless, young men in 1890s London knowingly imitated Wilde’s unique style of dress and comportment, perhaps recognizing Wilde’s coded homosexuality under a socially-acceptable veneer of aesthetic admiration.

Wilde’s Trials and Defense of Love Between Men

wildeIn 1891, Wilde had met and fallen in love with handsome Oxford student Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie to his friends) to the unending chagrin of Bosie’s pugnacious father, the Marquess of Queensberry. In 1895 the Marquess accused Wilde of being a sodomite; Wilde sued him for libel and lost. Soon afterwards, the government charged Wilde with “gross indecencies.” Wilde was asked to define “the love that dare not speak its name,” a phrase from one of Bosie’s own poems:

“It is beautiful; it is fine; it is the noblest form of affection. It is intellectual and has existed repeatedly between an elder and a younger man when the elder has the intellect and the younger has all the joy and hope and glamour of life. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”

Victorian society, unfortunately, made a moral example of Wilde. He was convicted in May 1895 and sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years’ hard labor. Upon his conviction, producers erased his authorship from playbills, and his name connoted immorality, in particular the disgrace of homosexuality, for years after his death in 1900.

Gay men in the first few decades of the twentieth century, identifying with the symbol of homosexuality’s consequences, internalized the shame and self-loathing imposed on Wilde. In E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice, set in the Edwardian period, the title character seeks a cure for his homosexual feelings, admitting that he is “an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.”

Wilde’s Revival in Mid-to-Late Twentieth Century

As the infamy of his trial faded from memory, and as sexual mores relaxed after World War I, a more sympathetic light was cast on Wilde.

770093_com_owbWhen the gay rights movement erupted in the United States and Europe, LGBT people sought historical icons with which to identify. Wilde’s life seemed to encompass the extremes of being homosexual: possessing brilliance, wit, and beauty, but suffering shame, opprobrium, and fear in the name of love. Gays embraced this iconography in the 1960s and 1970s. As one example of Wilde’s reclamation, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop opened in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1967, one block from where the Stonewall rebellion would take place two years later. The bookstore closed on March 29, 2009.

Read more at Suite101: Oscar Wilde’s Influence on Gay Identity: Wilde’s Impact on 19th and 20th Century Gay Culture

Constantine Cavafy

Duane Michals-The Adventures of Constantine CavafyDuane Michals. “The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy”

Born 29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933

Background: Constantine P. Cavafy was born Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis (or Kabaphs) in Alexandria, Egypt, into a wealthy merchant family. Originally the family came from Constantinople, Turkey, where Cavafy lived from 1880 to 1885. After his father’s death in 1872 he was taken to Liverpool, England, for five years. Apart from the years in Istanbul (1882-85), he spent the rest of his life in Alexandria. “Whatever war-damage it’s suffered, / however much smaller it’s become, / it’s still a wonderful city,” Cavafy once wrote of his cosmopolitan home town – perhaps not without ironic attitude.

cavafy50Work: When the family’s prosperity declined, Cavafy worked 34 years intermittently as journalist, broker, and in the Irrigation Service, from which he retired in 1922.

Enjoying his family’s respectable position in the cosmopolitan society of Alexandria, Cavafy led an uneventful life of routine, which was interrupted only by short trips to Athens, France, England, and Italy. His first book was published when he was 41, and reissued five years later with additional seven poems. He published no further works during his lifetime.

As a writer Cavafy was perfectionist – he printed his poems by himself and delivered them only to close friends. The poems had sometimes handwritten corrections. Main themes in his works were homosexual love, art, and politics. He started writing poetry under the influence of late-Victorian and Decadent European models, but then abandoned his attempts to compose in foreign tongues.

Fourteen of Cavafy’s poems appeared in a pamphlet in 1904. The edition was enlarged in 1910. Several dozens appeared subsequent years in a number of privately printed booklets and broadsheets. These editions contained mostly the same poems, first arranged thematically, and then chronologically. Close to one third of his poems were never printed in any form while he lived. ‘One Night,’ written 1907, was one of the erotic poems Cavafy wrote during the years in Alexandria, and referred to a passing sexual encounter. It showed the poet’s devotion to a sensual pleasure, free and joyous.

And there on that common, humble bed,
I had love’s body, hand those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual, red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I’m drunk with passion again.

In book form Cavafy’s poems were first published without dates before World War II and reprinted in 1949. PIIMATA (The Poems of Constantine P. Cavafy) appeared posthumously in 1935 in Alexandria. Cavafy died on April 29, 1933 in Alexandria. Nowadays the cafés that the poet frequented on the Rue Misalla (now Safiya Zaghlul) have been largely replaced by shops.

prt09973_david_hockney_signed_print_portrait_of_cavafy_in_alexandria_iCavafy composed rhymed as well as free verse, but never loose, unstructured, or irregular poems. He used iambic, eleven-syllable measures, including the popular fifteen-syllable verse of the demotic tradition. After giving up experiments with different literary models, Cavafy mixed the demotic and pure Greek called katharevousa, and used his wide knowledge of the history of East Roman and Byzantine empires as the basis of his themes.

Like in Oscar Wilde, aestheticism and skepticism marked Cavafy’s work. One of his central motifs was regret for old age: Past and present, East and West, Greek and ‘barbarian’ were fused into sophisticated commentaries on paganism, Christianity, and decadent modern world. Cavafy sketched a rich gallery of historical, semi-obscure, or fictitious characters, whom he used as personae acting, or being discussed, in the episodes of his poems. Often his style was dramatic, as in the famous ‘Waiting for the Barbarians.’ Among his confessional poems with homosexual theme is ‘The Bandaged Shoulder,’ much admired by Lawrence Durrell.

Friends & Relationships: His first love affair was with his cousin, George Psilliary, in 1882. he would often visit male brothels or the Café Al Salam where there were plenty of available young men – in particular a handsome young car mechanic called Toto. His only long-term lover was Alexander Singopoulos whom he made his heir and literary executor. Although he was upset when Alexander got married he later became fond of his wife Rika.
Cavafy held afternoons from 5 until 7 at his flat with metses and ouzo or whisky and he would observe quietly his friends and his handsome youths.
Cavafy lived in West London for three years from 1873 – 1876. He died on his seventieth birthday after a long fight against throat cancer. His last act was to place a dot into the center of a circle he had drawn. In Hidden Things he predicted:

Later, in a more perfect society, Someone else made just like me
Is certain to appear and act freely.

The Ides of March

by Constantine P Cavafy

julcaehlFear grandeurs, O soul.
And if you cannot overcome
your ambitions, pursue them with hesitation
and caution. And the more you advance,
the more inquisitive, careful you must be.

And when you reach your peak, Caesar at last;
when you assume the form of a famous man,
then above all beware when you go out in the street,
a conspicuous ruler with followers,
if by chance from the mob approaches
some Artemidorus*, bringing a letter
and says hastily ‘Read this immediately,
these are grave matters that concern you,’
do not fail to stop; do not fail to push aside
all those who salute and kneel
(you can see them later); let even the Senate
itself wait, and immediately recognize
the grave writings of Artemidorus.

Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,
Greek Original (for any of you who know Greek):

Μάρτιαι Ειδοί
Τα μεγαλεία να φοβάσαι, ω ψυχή.
Και τες φιλοδοξίες σου να υπερνικήσεις
αν δεν μπορείς, με δισταγμό και προφυλάξεις
να τες ακολουθείς. Κι όσο εμπροστά προβαίνεις,
τόσο εξεταστική, προσεκτική να είσαι.

Κι όταν θα φθάσεις στην ακμή σου, Καίσαρ πια·
έτσι περιωνύμου ανθρώπου σχήμα όταν λάβεις,
τότε κυρίως πρόσεξε σαν βγεις στον δρόμον έξω,
εξουσιαστής περίβλεπτος με συνοδεία,
αν τύχει και πλησιάσει από τον όχλο
κανένας Αρτεμίδωρος, που φέρνει γράμμα,
και λέγει βιαστικά «Διάβασε αμέσως τούτα,
είναι μεγάλα πράγματα που σ’ ενδιαφέρουν»,
μη λείψεις να σταθείς· μη λείψεις τους διαφόρους
που χαιρετούν και προσκυνούν να τους παραμερίσεις
(τους βλέπεις πιο αργά· ας περιμένει ακόμη
κ’ η Σύγκλητος αυτή, κ’ ευθύς να τα γνωρίσεις
τα σοβαρά γραφόμενα του Αρτεμιδώρου.

Constantine P Cavafy

(1863 – 1933)

[Cavafy]Cavafy, one of the most prominent Greek poets, was born on April 29, 1863 and died on the same date in 1933 in Alexandria (Egypt). Here’s a short biographical note by the poet himself:

I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria — at a house on Seriph Street; I left very young, and spent much of my childhood in England. Subsequently I visited this country as an adult, but for a short period of time. I have also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived over two years in Constantinople. It has been many years since I last visited Greece.

My last employment was as a clerk at a government office under the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French, and a little Italian.

Constantine P. Cavafy, also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, orKavaphes (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης) (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) was a renowned Greek poet who lived in Alexandria and worked as a journalist and civil servant. In his poetry he examined critically some aspects of Christianity, patriotism, and homosexuality, though he was not always comfortable with his role as a nonconformist. He published 154 poems; dozens more remained incomplete or in sketch form. His most important poetry was written after his fortieth birthday.

After finding this poem, I did some research on Cavafy, who seems to be a very interesting poet.  Cavafy, a homosexual, wrote many sexually explicit poems. W. H. Auden noted as much in his introduction to the 1961 volume The Complete Poems of C. P. Cavafy when he wrote, “Cavafy was a homosexual, and his erotic poems make no attempt to conceal the fact.” Auden added: “As a witness, Cavafy is exceptionally honest. He neither bowdlerizes nor glamorizes nor giggles. The erotic world he depicts is one of casual pickups and short-lived affairs. Love, there, is rarely more than physical passion. . . . At the same time, he refuses to pretend that his memories of moments of sensual pleasure are unhappy or spoiled by feelings of guilt.”

More about Cavafy will be posted this week.

*Julius Caesar – Act 2, Scene 3 by William Shakespeare

SCENE III. A street near the Capitol.

   Enter ARTEMIDORUS, reading a paper

    ‘Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius;
    come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna, trust not
    Trebonius: mark well Metellus Cimber: Decius Brutus
    loves thee not: thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius.
    There is but one mind in all these men, and it is
    bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal,
    look about you: security gives way to conspiracy.
    The mighty gods defend thee! Thy lover,
    Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,
    And as a suitor will I give him this.
    My heart laments that virtue cannot live
    Out of the teeth of emulation.
    If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live;
    If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive.


One Minute Puberty

Moment of Zen: The Kiss of Life


Rocco Morabito won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot Photography for this photograph – “The Kiss of Life.”

Apprentice lineman J.D. Thompson is breathing life into the mouth of another apprentice lineman, Randall G. Champion, who hangs unconscious after receiving a jolt of high voltage.

Morabito was driving on West 26th Street in July 1967 on another assignment when he saw Champion dangling from the pole. He called an ambulance and grabbed his camera.

Champion recovered.

In Praise of Limestone

NCP25058843801In Praise of Limestone” is a poem written by W. H. Auden in Italy in May 1948. Central to his canon and one of Auden’s finest poems, it has been the subject of diverse scholarly interpretations. Auden’s limestone landscape has been interpreted as an allegory of Mediterranean civilization and of the human body. The poem, sui generis, is not easily classified. As a topographical poem, it describes a landscape and infuses it with meaning. It has been called the “first … postmodern pastoral”. In a letter, Auden wrote of limestone and the poem’s theme that “that rock creates the only human landscape.”

In December 1948, a few months after he had celebrated the maternal aspects of the flesh in “In Praise of Limestone,” Auden celebrated the male flesh in a less sacramental style. “Deciding that there ought to be one in the Auden corpus” — his choice of the noun is deliberate — “I am writing a purely pornographic poem, The Platonic Blow,” he told Kallman. He borrowed the nameless syncopated metre (“It was a Spring day, a day for a lay, when the air / Smelled like a locker-room”) invented by Charles Williams for the poems of his highly sacramental Taliessin through Logres, but the word “Platonic” in Auden’s title was an ironic spoof. The sexual act described by the poem in microscopic physiological detail is “Platonic” only in the popular sense that it is perfect of its kind — Auden asked friends to contribute their relevant ideas of perfection — and not in the sense that the bodies that perform the act are in any way transcended.


In Praise Of Limestone

Tuke,_Henry_Scott_(1858–1929)_-_1920_-_Youth_on_beachIf it form the one landscape that we, the inconstant ones,
Are consistently homesick for, this is chiefly
Because it dissolves in water. Mark these rounded slopes
With their surface fragrance of thyme and, beneath,
A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,
Each filling a private pool for its fish and carving
Its own little ravine whose cliffs entertain
The butterfly and the lizard; examine this region
Of short distances and definite places:
What could be more like Mother or a fitter background
For her son, the flirtatious male who lounges
Against a rock in the sunlight, never doubting
That for all his faults he is loved; whose works are but
Extensions of his power to charm? From weathered outcrop
To hill-top temple, from appearing waters to
Conspicuous fountains, from a wild to a formal vineyard,
Are ingenious but short steps that a child’s wish
To receive more attention than his brothers, whether
By pleasing or teasing, can easily take.

Watch, then, the band of rivals as they climb up and down
Their steep stone gennels in twos and threes, at times
Arm in arm, but never, thank God, in step; or engaged
On the shady side of a square at midday in
Voluble discourse, knowing each other too well to think
There are any important secrets, unable
To conceive a god whose temper-tantrums are moral
And not to be pacified by a clever line
Tuke,_Henry_Scott_(1858–1929)_-_1921_-_Boys_bathing_on_rocksOr a good lay: for accustomed to a stone that responds,
They have never had to veil their faces in awe
Of a crater whose blazing fury could not be fixed;
Adjusted to the local needs of valleys
Where everything can be touched or reached by walking,
Their eyes have never looked into infinite space
Through the lattice-work of a nomad’s comb; born lucky,
Their legs have never encountered the fungi
And insects of the jungle, the monstrous forms and lives
With which we have nothing, we like to hope, in common.
So, when one of them goes to the bad, the way his mind works
Remains incomprehensible: to become a pimp
Or deal in fake jewellery or ruin a fine tenor voice
For effects that bring down the house, could happen to all
But the best and the worst of us…
That is why, I suppose,
The best and worst never stayed here long but sought
Immoderate soils where the beauty was not so external,
The light less public and the meaning of life
Something more than a mad camp. ‘Come!’ cried the granite wastes,
“How evasive is your humour, how accidental
Your kindest kiss, how permanent is death.” (Saints-to-be
Slipped away sighing.) “Come!” purred the clays and gravels,
“On our plains there is room for armies to drill; rivers
Wait to be tamed and slaves to construct you a tomb
In the grand manner: soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.” (Intendant Caesars rose and
Left, slamming the door.) But the really reckless were fetched
By an older colder voice, the oceanic whisper:
“I am the solitude that asks and promises nothing;
That is how I shall set you free. There is no love;
Tuke_Henry_Scott_1858–1929_-_1914_ca_-_Two_boys_and_a_dogThere are only the various envies, all of them sad.”

They were right, my dear, all those voices were right
And still are; this land is not the sweet home that it looks,
Nor its peace the historical calm of a site
Where something was settled once and for all: A back ward
And dilapidated province, connected
To the big busy world by a tunnel, with a certain
Seedy appeal, is that all it is now? Not quite:
It has a worldy duty which in spite of itself
It does not neglect, but calls into question
All the Great Powers assume; it disturbs our rights. The poet,
Admired for his earnest habit of calling
The sun the sun, his mind Puzzle, is made uneasy
By these marble statues which so obviously doubt
His antimythological myth; and these gamins,
Pursuing the scientist down the tiled colonnade
With such lively offers, rebuke his concern for Nature’s
Remotest aspects: I, too, am reproached, for what
And how much you know. Not to lose time, not to get caught,
Not to be left behind, not, please! to resemble
The beasts who repeat themselves, or a thing like water
Or stone whose conduct can be predicted, these
Are our common prayer, whose greatest comfort is music
Which can be made anywhere, is invisible,
And does not smell. In so far as we have to look forward
SunBather_TukeTo death as a fact, no doubt we are right: But if
Sins can be forgiven, if bodies rise from the dead,
These modifications of matter into
Innocent athletes and gesticulating fountains,
Made solely for pleasure, make a further point:
The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
Having nothing to hide. Dear, I know nothing of
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.

W.H. Auden

The paintings are by Henry Scott Tuke.

Quotes by W. H. Auden

The class distinctions proper to a democratic society are not those of rank or money, still less, as is apt to happen when these are abandoned, of race, but of age. 

In a land which is fully settled, most men must accept their local environment or try to change it by political means; only the exceptionally gifted or adventurous can leave to seek his fortune elsewhere. In America, on the other hand, to move on and make a fresh start somewhere else is still the normal reaction to dissatisfaction and failure. 

A doctor, like anyone else who has to deal with human beings, each of them unique, cannot be a scientist; he is either, like the surgeon, a craftsman, or, like the physician and the psychologist, an artist. This means that in order to be a good doctor a man must also have a good character, that is to say, whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must love his fellow human beings in the concrete and desire their good before his own. 

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish. 

Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table. 

America has always been a country of amateurs where the professional, that is to say, the man who claims authority as a member of an ?lite which knows the law in some field or other, is an object of distrust and resentment. 

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