Thursday, 14 December 2017

Writers Beware! WH Auden’s 'Minor Devils'

I am reading and enjoying a whole range of 20th century and earlier poetry as a very pleasurable part of my research for my new novel: Lifespan - A World for Alice. I am perpetually surprised, even stunned, by the prescience of poets who hold the future, the present and the past in their synoptic gaze. Great examples of this are the witty, ironic,  Roman poet Ovid, the inimitable, deceptively down to earth, Ted Hughes,  and the all-seeing WH Auden. 

For example:

Extract from Cattivo Tempo written in 1949  by WH Auden

‘Sirocco brings the minor devils:
A slamming of doors
At four in the morning
Announces they are back,
Grown insolent and fat
On cheesy literature
And corny dramas,
Nibbar, demon
Of gaga and bêtise
Tubervillus, demon
Of gossip and spite.

Nibbar to the writing room
Plausibly to whisper
The nearly fine,
The almost true;
Beware of him, poet
Lest, reading over
Your shoulder, he find
What makes him glad,
The manner arch,
The meaning blurred,
 The poem bad.

Tubervillus to the dining room
Intently to listen,
Waiting for his cue; 
Beware of him, friends,
Lest the lest the talk
at his prompting  
Take a wrong turning,
The unbated tongue
In mischief blurt
the half-home-truth
The fun turn ugly,
The jokes hurt.

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