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.

4 comments:

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

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

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

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

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