Thursday, March 12, 2009

Auden After the News


(image: W.H. Auden)











I listened to and watched some news tonight on television. Staunch Republican Frank Gaffney is still claiming that Saddam Hussein consorted with those responsible for attacking the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and that, therefore, the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. Then I learned that respected (if controversial) reporter Sy Hersh, speaking at a forum in the Midwest, explained that the Bush administration included an assassination-squad that reported directly to the Vice President and operated independently--traveling to other countries, not even bothering to communicate with the CIA, and killing people named on a list. The book containing Hersh's reporting is not due out for 18 months or so; we'll have to wait on the evidence for a while, but perhaps others will dig into the story now to see if it will hold up. Fortunately (or, in this case, unfortunately) Hersh almost always gets things right.

Having had enoughof the news, I turned to W.H. Auden's Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957 (New York: Vintage 1975) and read "A Walk After Dark," which ends this way:


For the present stalks abroad
Like the past, and its wronged again
Whimper and are ignored,
And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn't have happened did.

Occurring this very night
By no established rule,
Some event may already have hurled
Its first little No at the right
Of the laws we accept to school
Our post-diluvian world.

But the stars burn on overhead,
Unconscious of final ends,
As I walk home to bed,
Asking what judgment waits
My person, all my friends
And these Unitd States.

(pp. 232-233)
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