Thursday, September 19, 2019

Poem for a Thursday: Auden

Roman Wall Blues

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose. 
The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why. 
The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone. 
Aulus goes hanging about her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face. 
Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish. 
She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay. 
When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

-W. H. Auden

Well, having just posted about Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian yesterday, and reading in Lives of the Later Caesars today, this poem was on my mind. It's been a bit of an earworm. Especially as I just learned that Tungria is Tongres/Tongeren, a town now in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. And that because I also learned today, the assassin who murders the emperor Pertinax in 193 A.D. is a Tungrian member of the imperial guard. I suspect Auden had been reading Lives of the Later Caesars, too.

Anyway, this one is an old favorite. Hope you like it, too.

Jennifer has a lovely poem by Carl Dennis, a poet new to me. Brona compares two translations of a Wislawa Szymborska poem. Szymborska is definitely a favorite of mine.


  1. i've wondered if Auden had a sense of humor... he does!

    1. There's also the dirty limericks! 'The Bishop elect of Hong Kong' and 'As the poets have mournfully sung'

  2. Auden playing against Kipling. The last two lines are haunting.

    1. They are, aren't they? Those are the ones that always stick in my head.