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Thread: Difficulty in understanding this poem by Auden

  1. #1
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    Difficulty in understanding this poem by Auden

    Is there any biblical reference in this poem?

    A Thought On Death - W.H. Auden

    When life as opening buds is sweet,
    And golden hopes the fancy greet,
    And Youth prepares his joys to meet,
    Alas! how hard it is to die!

    When just is seized some valued prize,
    And duties press, and tender ties
    Forbid the soul from earth to rise,
    How awful then it is to die!

    When, one by one, those ties are torn,
    And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
    And man is left alone to mourn,
    Ah then, how easy 'tis to die!

    When faith is firm, and conscience clear,
    And words of peace the spirit cheer,
    And visioned glories half appear,
    'Tis joy, 'tis triumph then to die.

    When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
    And films, slow gathering, dim the sight,
    And clouds obscure the mental light,
    'Tis nature's precious boon to die.
    Last edited by abbyroselou; 04-11-2017 at 10:28 AM.

  2. #2
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    I don't see any overt biblical references in it. But I could be wrong.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  3. #3
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    "A happy death" sounds like an oxymoron, but I seem to remember that phrase from my childhood. I don't believe it was part of the official liturgy or strictly canonical, yet the hope of a "happy death" was purportedly the intention for faithful devotion to First Friday masses. Just now I took a quick look at the Goggle machine for scriptural foundations for the notion and found a couple of passages that may obliquely support the idea: Isiah 57:1-2 and 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14.

    But a second look at Auden's poem seems to have stemmed less from religious inspiration than from a humanist stance, i.e., loathing the prospect of one's demise while in the prime of youth, more open to The End once one ages and sees his friends die off and so forth. The point of the piece could be the oft-heard platitude, "Death is a natural part of life," an adage which yours fooly detests, by the bye.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 04-19-2017 at 02:54 PM.

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    thank you so much!! your reply is so helpful!
    I don't really understand what 'slow gathering' means in the poem, why would that dim one's sight when one's getting old?

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    He might be speaking about cataract in a literal and a symbolic sense:
    "A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night.[1] This may result in trouble driving, reading, or recognizing faces.[2] Poor vision caused by cataracts may also result in an increased risk of falling and depression.[3] Cataracts are the cause of half of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide.[4][5]
    Anyway it is an image of gradually clouded vision.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

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    Thank you so much!! I appreciate your help

  7. #7
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    I loved the sentiments and got the general idea of the meaning. Do you think he had a Christian phase ' when faith was firm ect '?Life never leaves us alone , in its different moods it leaves us inconsistent.

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