25th August 2004, 23:13
Mr Ron Price
W.H. Auden on 'Books and Writing'
THANKING MR AUDEN
Since the underlying reason for writing is to bridge the gulf between one person and another, as the sense of loneliness increases, more and more books are written by more and more people with little or no talent. -W.H. Auden in: An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents, ed. Naomi Mitchison, 1932.
Well, there’s some truth there Mr A,
but there is much vanity in this calling
so intercede for me as others did for you,
to help us deal with the trahison des clercs*,
the sadnesses and bitternesses
that cloud our lives so easily,
so insinuatingly, so subtlely,
making what is written in a better state
than those who write.
In some ways, Mr A, as you say,
we never are alone.
Writing is not so much a bridge
as a dictionary of definitions
of who we are,
what’s going on in front of us,
behind us, over us, below us
as we try to make our way,
in our enchanted and not-so-enchanted
habitats, with and without integrity:
that stirling coin that cannot always
be freshly minted to meet the occasion.
2 July 1995
* A betrayal of a cause or of standards by intellectuals
Ron Price is a retired teacher, aged 60. He taught for 30 years in primary, secondary and post-secondary schools.