W. H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet born in Great Britain who later became an American citizen. He has been regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. I must confess I had not heard of W. H. Auden until I heard a portion of one of his poems, “As I Walked Out One Evening”, quoted by the Ethan Hawke character in the movie “Before Sunrise” released in 1995. The verses:
‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
struck a chord in me that led me to look up the source and to discover this great poet. Later, his popularity and interest in his writings suddenly soared after his poem “Funeral Blues” (“Stop all the clocks”) was read aloud in the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. Reading his works I discovered a number I found particularly memorable, especially the following:
The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.