Friday, January 25, 2013

“Words should be withheld from ... birds”

In my reading and research work that went along with preparing the program notes for CONCORA’s upcoming “Modern Masters” program, I got better acquainted with British poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973). Here are my favorite things – birds, music, and words – all wrapped up in one amazing revelation:

Their Lonely Betters
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

“Their Lonely Betters” (1950) from Collected Poems by British poet W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

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