Issue 99, Spring 1986
From Vienna it’s picture-postcard all the way.
Tell me, was ever such a land at ease!
The fat farms glistening, the polished pigs.
Each carven window box disgorging red
Geraniums, pencil pines and chestnut trees.
The gaily painted tractor rigs.
Steeples with onion domes that seem to say
Grüss Gott, come lie here in our flowerbed.
How many times did Auden take this train
Till that bright autumn day when he was borne
Back in a baggage car after his last
Recital, back to his horatian house,
His cave of making, now the mask outworn,
The geographical visage consummated,
Back to the village, home to the country man
Without a country, home to the urban bard
Without a city he could call his own.
But suddenly a startling word
Leaps from the signpost of the country lane,
It’s AUDENSTRASSE -
The poet becomes a street, the street a poet,
English with German music mated.
Here will arrive no pilgrim mob
As in Westminster Abbey, where his name
Is chiseled next to Eliot’s. The sole cab
Has never heard of Auden, has to ask
Gasthaus directions, but we find him there
Ten yards away and settled with his slab.
The bracketed dates, the modest designation.
His plot planted to suffocation
In the country style of horror vacui.
Close by, a granite soldier stands
Bareheaded, bowed, without a gun,
Wearing his empty cartridge belt,
A blunt reminder of the First World War,
Signed Unseren helden for those villagers
Who never returned and lay somewhere in France
Entre deux guerres before the next
World War should be begun
By the ultimate twentieth century hun.
Far from his foggy isle
The poet rests in self-exile.
Earth of the great composers of the wordless art
Enshrouds this master of the English tune
Not many miles from where Beethoven scrawled his will
When he could no longer hear the trill
Of the little yellow-hammer, nor the titanic storm.
In such a place Dame Kind
Released the intellectual minstrel’s form.