Friday, July 22, 2005

W H Auden: tohu-bohu

I have seen this stanza a couple of times in the last 24 hours. It is from In Sickness and in Health, a longish poem written in the autumn of 1940 by W H Auden and dedicated to Maurice and Gwen Mandelbaum. Auden's poem September 1, 1939 was much quoted after 9/11. Now, another Auden that seems appropriate for these times.
Beloved, we are always in the wrong,
Handling so clumsily our stupid lives,
Suffering too little or too long,
Too careful even in our selfish loves;
The decorative manias we obey
Die in grimaces round us every day,
Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice
Which utters an absurd command -- Rejoice.
Here is the complete poem, but I think the best is above. See for yourself (scroll down). Tohu-bohu? That's a French phrase for confusion/disorder.

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