Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Vocabulary of Grief

AH, hearing of my breakup, wrote me a loving email of consolation. At the end of the message, he wished for me that I would find "the vocabulary of grief" to express my sadness. To speak, and to speak with all the precision and tact such a situation requires would be a relief. It is beyond me right now. But Auden comes to the rescue this morning. While grading poetry papers, I stumble on this lyric written in March 1936, that I knew but forgot.


Dear, though the night is gone,
The dream still haunts to-day
That brought us to a room,
Cavernous, lofty as
A railway terminus,
And crowded in that gloom
Were beds, and we in one
In a far corner lay.

Our whisper woke no clocks,
We kissed and I was glad
At everything you did,
Indifferent to those
Who sat with hostile eyes
In pairs on every bed,
Arms round each other's necks,
Inert and vaguely sad.

O but what worm of guilt
Or what malignant doubt
Am I the victim of;
That you then, unabashed,
Did what I never wished,
Confessed another love;
And I, submissive, felt
Unwanted and went out?


The first line suggests that the speaker is still together with his beloved, after the beloved's confession. Here, my story diverges from Auden's. But I can still say the line and call him "Dear" and still mean it.

2 comments:

Shropshirelad said...

Auden is always good for the soul.

After a while, you will find the necessary words to express your feelings. They are already there, I think. Your heart just hasn't had time to arrange them yet.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Eric.