Friday, October 9, 2009

O Tell Me The Truth About Love, a poem by W H Auden.

Post 343 - Wystan Hugh Auden, who signed his works W. H. Auden, was born in York, England, in 1907 and graduated with a degree in English literature from Christ Church, Oxford in 1928. A prolific writer, Auden was a noted poet, playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work was a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic. As a young man, he visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States where he became an American citizen. He divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in 1973 at age of 66 in Vienna.

Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973. He was honored with the Pulitzer prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen, Alexander Droutsky, and Guinness prizes. He joined ASCAP in 1958, and collaborated musically with Igor Stravinsky. His musical works include On This Island (poems set to music), and the opera The Rakes Progress.

He once observed, "Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh."

O Tell Me The Truth About Love by W H Auden

Some say love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't over there;
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

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