Sunday Evening Contemplation: W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden
We are lived by powers we pretend to understand:
They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end
The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.

It is their tomorrow hangs over the earth of the living
And all that we wish for our friends: but existence is believing
We know for whom we mourn and who is grieving.

Wystan Hugh Auden (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), May 1939, originally published in Another Time (1940), excerpted from Collected Poems: W. H. Auden

From “The Book of Dust and Hope”

The following poem is from “The Book of Dust and Hope,” an “in progress” book of poems, observations, brief essays, images, and perennial questions on the theme of hope.

 What is Hope

what is hope but land
without water, fingers
without rings, claw-marks
in blue snow

what is hope but speech
without words, language
without fire, wistful
dreams and dust

what is hope but mind
without thoughts, thoughts
without songs, untrammeled
roads in a rich gray fog

what is hope but love
without masks, acceptance
without fear, daily heeding
a sad and tender heart

Rick Visser, May 10, 2019

Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight

Praxilla of Sicyon was a Greek lyric poet of the 5th century BC. She was considered one of the “immortal-tongued” women poets of Greece, and was highly esteemed in her time.

I offer here one of her especially poignant poems; to me, one of the most beautiful and touching of all poems. Perhaps she is contemplating her own mortality and all she must leave behind. Perhaps, reading it today, we may find ourselves contemplating the mortality of the entire human species, and all we must leave behind:

Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight;
Then come glazing stars and the moon's face;
Then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears.

Praxilla, 450 B.C.