Among pelagian travelers, Lost on their lewd conceited way To Massachusetts, Michigan, Miami or L.A., An airborne instrument I sit, Predestined nightly to fulfill Columbia-Giesen-Management's Unfathomable will, By whose election justified, I bring my gospel of the Muse To fundamentalists, to nuns, to Gentiles and to Jews, And daily, seven days a week, Before a local sense has jelled, From talking-site to talking-site Am jet-or-prop-propelled. Though warm my welcome everywhere, I shift so frequently, so fast, I cannot now say where I was The evening before last, Unless some singular event Should intervene to save the place, A truly asinine remark, A soul-bewitching face, Or blessed encounter, full of joy, Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan. Since Merit but a dunghill is, I mount the rostrum unafraid: Indeed, 'twere damnable to ask If I am overpaid. Spirit is willing to repeat Without a qualm the same old talk, But Flesh is homesick for our snug Apartment in New York. A sulky fifty-six, he finds A change of mealtime utter hell, Grown far too crotchety to like A luxury hotel. The Bible is a goodly book I always can peruse with zest, But really cannot say the same For Hilton's Be My Guest. Nor bear with equanimity The radio in students' cars, Muzak at breakfast, or--dear God!-- Girl-organists in bars. Then, worst of all, the anxious thought, Each time my plane begins to sink And the No Smoking sign comes on: What will there be to drink? Is this a milieu where I must How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig! Snatch from the bottle in my bag An analeptic swig? Another morning comes: I see, Dwindling below me on the plane, The roofs of one more audience I shall not see again. God bless the lot of them, although I don't remember which was which: God bless the U.S.A., so large, So friendly, and so rich.
From About the House by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1965 by W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.