Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"You and I are here to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know."
~W. H. Auden
Auden is one of my favorite poets. He was a controversial but also quite influential person during his time. He was a good person and a great friend.
For Friends Only

Ours yet not ours, being set apart
As a shrine to friendship,
Empty and silent most of the year,
This room awaits from you
What you alone, as visitor, can bring,
A weekend of personal life.

In a house backed by orderly woods,
Facing a tractored sugar-beet country,
Your working hosts engaged to their stint,
You are unlike to encounter
Dragons or romance: were drama a craving,
You would not have come.

Books we do have for almost any
Literate mood, and notepaper, envelopes,
For a writing one (to “borrow” stampsI
s the mark of ill-breeding):
Between lunch and tea, perhaps a drive;
After dinner, music or gossip.

Should you have troubles (pets will die
Lovers are always behaving badly)
And confession helps, we will hear it,
Examine and give our counsel:
If to mention them hurts too much,
We shall not be nosey.

Easy at first, the language of friendship
Is, as we soon discover,
Very difficult to speak well, a tongue
With no cognates, no resemblance
To the galimatias of nursery and bedroom,
Court rhyme or shepherd’s prose,

And, unless spoken often, soon goes rusty.
Distance and duties divide us,
But absence will not seem an evil
If it make our re-meeting
A real occasion. Come when you can:
Your room will be ready.

In Tum-Tum’s reign a tin of biscuits
On the bedside table provided
For nocturnal munching. Now weapons have changed,
And the fashion of appetites:
There, for sunbathers who count their calories,
A bottle of mineral water.

Felicissima notte! May you fall at once
Into a cordial dream, assured
That whoever slept in this bed before
Was also someone we like,
That within the circle of our affection
Also you have no double.

Every time I read one of Auden's poems it seems I feel or see something new. This poem is at points funny, touching, tinged with a little remorse or sadness, it is warm and affable and it tells us how to be a good host and welcome our guests (and that's just for starters!).

Amy p.s.{The picture is two little kittens we rescued last year, Lola and Gidget.}


  1. I've always loved Auden. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Not acquainted with Auden, but will be looking into more of his work. The quote is priceless!