Saturday, January 15, 2011

WH Auden Again...

My English professor once remarked that Auden was a "disgusting" human being physically (I have no idea if he was refering to his slobby demeanour, or to his "queerness"), but a "great" poet. This was the same professor who wrote his dissertation on Graham Greene (a novelist my wife has read more on than myself), and had read Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics through three times, and yet regarded himself (in a personal letter to my father at my graduation) as "lazy" and "slothful".

So I am reading an article on Auden. As is my wont, I like to read a review of a review, or an article, or to take some "indirect" approach into the material.

The Auden-Eliot debate over the nature of "religion" seems intensely interesting. Auden was a natural elite who was anti-elitist. He and Chesterton shared a vision of a democratic God. However problematic this is (as anyone who has read a little of my website knows I believe), Auden was no dummy. He ended up his life in a Russian Orthodox Church, after helping his Anglican parish remodel their liturgy. Utterly Auden.

T.S. Eliot thought of religion as “the still point in the turning world,” “the heart of light,” “the crowned knot of fire,” “the door we never opened”—something that remained inaccessible, perfect, and eternal, whether or not he or anyone else cared about it, something absolutely unlike the sordid transience of human life.

W.H. Auden thought of religion as derived from the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”—an obligation to other human beings despite all their imperfections and his own, and an obligation to the inescapable reality of this world, not a visionary, inaccessible world that might or might not exist somewhere else.

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