Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Quick Recall? What's That? I Forget ...

I'm getting frequent reminders these days that my Quick Recall is now my Not-So-Quick Recall. Just yesterday, for example ...

  1. I posted a couple of days ago on Facebook that--in honor of the equinox--I'd memorized W. H. Auden's poem "Autumn Song" (link to poem).* It didn't take me all that long--about a day, looking at it now and then, repeating it over and over. But there was one word--one damn word--that I kept forgetting. It's in the fourth stanza--"Trolls run scolding for their food." And scolding, for some reason, would not stay in my head. Then ... yesterday ... I hit upon a mnemonic device: "run scolding" I reduced to RSC, the letters of the Royal Shakespeare Company. How could I forget that! I proudly went in to see Joyce and announced my superb mnemonic. Then ... early the next morning ... running through the poem in bed, I could not remember that word. I remembered the SC business, but I could not come come up with the word that began with sc-. I confessed. Joyce laughed (gently, gently). Then I realized that troll and scold are words that sound alike, and so my problem was solved ... until this morning ... see the * below.
  2. Yesterday afternoon, walking around the indoor track at the health club, I was rehearsing in my head some sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of which was "Only until This Cigarette Is Ended." (See below.) It's a poem I occasionally had my WRA students memorize, too. Well, yesterday, when I got to the 8th line (the one that ends with attended), I realized I was saying extended again--not possible: she'd already used that rhyming word. I assailed my memory, searching pitifully through its ruins for the word that really belonged. Could not come up with it and had to wait until after my shower when I could consult my trusty iPhone. This is a poem I have rehearsed thousands of times, by the way.
  3. Finally, last night, coming back from Szalay's (a farm market near us), Joyce and I--neither of us--could come up with the name of Truman Capote. I forget (!) how Capote came up in the conversation (we were talking, I think about the liberties a nonfiction writer can take?), but neither of us could name him--though both of us could describe him, could list his books, could imitate his voice, etc. I told Joyce after a bit that his name, I thought, started with a C because I could sort of "see" his books on our shelf. A moment later ... she had it! Whew!
So ... Time marches on, trampling my Quick Recall underfoot with the utmost disregard--even disdain.

*Okay, a bit of a shock this morning. When I was setting up a link here for readers who wanted to read the Auden poem, I discovered that the version I'd memorized is not, apparently, the accurate one. I just now ordered the scholarly edition of Auden's poems, so when it arrives, I'll be able to tell. I actually prefer the "newer" version I found online ... what do you think? (They're both posted below.) I'm gonna go ahead and "revise" what I've memorized ... and we'll see if I've done the right thing ...


Only until this cigarette is ended,
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,--farewell!--the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.


Autumn Song
—W. H. Auden

    Now the leaves are falling fast,
    Nurse's flowers will not last;
    Nurses to the graves are gone,
    And the prams go rolling on.

    Whispering neighbours, left and right,
    Pluck us from the real delight;
    And the active hands must freeze
    Lonely on the separate knees.

    Dead in hundreds at the back
    Follow wooden in our track,
    Arms raised stiffly to reprove
    In false attitudes of love.

    Starving through the leafless wood
    Trolls run scolding for their food;
    And the nightingale is dumb,
    And the angel will not come.

    Cold, impossible, ahead
    Lifts the mountain's lovely head
    Whose white waterfall could bless
    Travellers in their last distress.


Autumn Song

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

March 1936

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