Lecture 21: Palimpsest of the Departed World English 140 UC Santa Barbara Summer 2012 11 September 2012 To-morrow the rediscovery of romantic love; The photographing of ravens; all the fun under Liberty’s masterful shadow; To-morrow the hour of the pageant-master and the musician. To-morrow for the young the poets exploding like bombs, The walks by the lake, the winter of perfect communion; To-morrow the bicycle races Through the suburbs on summer evenings: but to-day the struggle. —W.H. Auden, “September 1937”
An important reminderDon’t forget to bring ablue book to the final!
They passed through towns that warnedpeople away with messages scrawledon the billboards. The billboards hadbeen whited out with thin coats of paintin order to write on them and throughthe paint could be seen a palepalimpsest of advertisements for goodswhich no longer existed. (127-28)
The decay of the world Do I look like an imbecile to you? I dont know what you look like. (65)My brother at last. The reptilian calculations inthose cold and shifting eyes. The gray androtting teeth. Claggy with human flesh. Whohas made of the world a lie every word. (75) We’re not robbers. He leaned one ear forward. What? he called. I said we’re not robbers. What are you? They’d no way to answer the question. (162)
What does he look like? his father said. I dont know. I cant see good. (166)After a while he fell back and after a while theman could hear him playing. A formless musicfor the age to come. Or perhaps the last musicon earth called up from out of the ashes of itsruin. (77)There were times when he sat watching the boysleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollablybut it wasnt about death. He wasnt sure what itwas about but he thought it was about beautyor about goodness. Things that he’d no longerany way to think about at all. (129-30)He’d been ready to die and now he wasnt goingto and he had to think about that. (145)
The boy nodded. He sat looking at the map.The man watched him. He thought he knewwhat that was about. He’d pored over mapsas a child, keeping one finger on the townwhere he lived. Just as he would look up hisfamily in the phone directory. Themselvesamong others, everything in its place.Justified in the world. Come on, he said. Weshould go. (182)
The re-invention of the worldHe [the man] watched him stoke the flames.God’s own firedrake. The sparks rushed upwardand died in the starless dark. Not all dyingwords are true and this blessing is no less realfor being shorn of its ground. (31)The color of it moved something in him longforgotten. Make a list. Recite a litany.Remember. (31)they sat warm in their refuge while he told theboy stories. Old stories of courage and justiceas he remembered them until the boy wasasleep in his blankets. (41)
Sometimes the child would ask him questionsabout the world that for him was not even amemory. He thought hard how to answer. Thereis no past. What would you like? (53-54)[The man’s wife:] You talk about taking a standbut there is no stand to take. (57)he sat holding him while he tousled his hairbefore the fire to dry it. All of this like someancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms.Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremoniesout of the air and breathe upon them. (74)His dreams brightened. The vanished worldreturned. (187)