Monday, May 14, 2012

Auden's :The Fall of Rome" ...fear the reindeer.

Beware the reindeer, the lurking north. Beware the unhappy worker, utterly universal in her discontent. 

It is unlikely that great Rome, or any stand-in for such a powerful, decaying empire, would fear animal or discontented worker. And in its oblivion to danger lies the seeds of trouble, or smouldering coals of, I don't know, conflagration, mongrel hordes, invasion.

Everything must end; those granted poetic hindsight, those who have lived through world wars, as did Auden, can gorgeously dally with reasons.  You can find a wonderful discussion of this poem at The Wondering Minstrels.

The Fall Of Rome

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast. 
W. H. Auden, 1947

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