Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poem: "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio" by W. H. Auden


For the perpetual excuse
Of Adam for his fall – “My little Eve,
God bless her, did beguile me and I ate,”
For his insistence on a nurse,
All service, breast, and lap, for giving Fate
Feminine gender to make girls believe
That they can save him, you must now atone,
Joseph, in silence and alone;
While she who loves you makes you shake with freight,
Your love for her must tuck you up and kiss good night.

For likening Love to war, for all
The pay-off lines of limericks in which
The weak resentful bar-fly shows his sting,
For talking of their spiritual
Beauty of chorus-girls, for flattering
The features of old gorgons who are rich,
For the imprudent grin and Irish charm
That hides a cold will to do harm,
To-day the roles are altered; you must be
The Weaker Sex whose passion is passivity.

For all those delicious memories
Cigars and sips of brandy can restore
To old dried boys, for gallantry that scrawls
In idolatrous detail and size
A symbol of aggression on toilet walls,
For having reasoned – “Woman is naturally pure
Since she has no moustache,” for having said,
“No woman has a business head,”
You must learn now that masculinity,
To Nature, is a non-essential luxury.
                
Lest, finding it impossible
To judge its object now or throatily
Forgive it as eternal God forgives,
Lust, tempted by this miracle
To more ingenious evil, should contrive
A heathen fetish from Virginity
To soothe the spiritual petulance
Of worn-out rakes and maiden aunts,
Forgetting nothing and believing all,
You must behave as if this were not strange at all.

Without a change in look or word,
You both must act exactly as before;
Joseph and Mary shall be man and wife
Just as if nothing had occurred.
There is one World of Nature and one Life;
Sin fractures the Vision, not the Fact; for
The Exceptional is always usual
And the Usual exceptional.
To choose what is difficult all one’s days

As if it were easy, that is faith. Joseph, praise.