Dawn Reader

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Traitor Memory, Careless Internet ...


Incident One:

Okay, recently I mentioned that I'd had a bit of a shock. I'd just memorized W. H. Auden's poem "Autumn Song" (actually, it's part of a series from 1936, "Twelve Songs"; "Autumn" is no. VI). I'd used a text I'd found on the Internet on this site: link

And I was proud of myself: I learned it in about a day. Smirk, smirk.

But then, wishing to post the poem on FB, I again went to the Internet, this time using a different site: link

And there I found quite a few differences--and those differences (in version 2) were, I thought, much better than the "original" I'd found.

Well--oddly--we had no collections of Auden's poems (at least, not any that I could locate), so I ordered his Collected Poems; it came yesterday; I leapt to pp. 139-40, home to "Autumn Song."

And I learned ... the second version is the correct one.

Meanwhile, I'd already "re-learned" this second version, certain it was the thing to do. (Glad I didn't learn it, re-learn it, then have to re-learn it yet again!)

Incident Two:

I've written before about how I will occasionally realize, when silently rehearsing one of the poems I've memorized, that I've got a word wrong; sometimes, I even freeze up--can't remember what comes next.

Okay, in my head are two poems that allude to the earth cracking open. One, I thought used the word ground; the other, land. But, I realized this morning, I was no longer sure which was which. So ... I went to my trusty pile of index cards (on each card I've Scotch-taped the text of one of the poems I've memorized) and checked--and finding out which said "land," which said "ground." (And, for the life of me now, I can't remember which is which!)

Both poems were fairly recent (thus, on top of the pile), and when I was looking through them to find those particular two, I noticed a poem I memorized not all that long ago--but had totally forgotten the past few weeks (months?) to rehearse every week.

It was by Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet (and Nobel laureate) who died last March--"The Half-Finished Heaven." I remember that I learned it when I saw Kenneth Branagh recite it in one of the final episodes of Wallander (he played the title role). Below, I've reproduced it (translated, of course).

It took me a little while to recapture this nervous bird of a poem. But after a few times going through it (using its card as a cheat-sheet) it came fluttering back, landing on my hand, then swirling back into my brain. Where I promise to take much better care of it in the future.

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

The Half-Finished Heaven

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

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