Autumn Journal: A Poem (Faber Poetry)
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Written between August and December 1938, Autumn Journal is still considered one of the most valuable and moving testaments of living through the thirties by a young writer. It is a record of the author's emotional and intellectual experience during those months, the trivia of everyday living set against the events of the world outside, the settlement in Munich and slow defeat in Spain.
function But a niche at the top, the skimmings of the cream.' And I answer that that is largely so for habit makes me Think victory for one implies another's defeat, That freedom means the power to orders and that in order To preserve the values dear to the élite The elite must remain a few. It is so hard to imagine A world where the many would have their chance without A fall in the standard of intellectual living And nothing left that the highbrow cared about. Which fears must be
possessiveness, jealousy founded on vanity. September has come, it is hers Whose vitality leaps in the autumn, Whose nature prefers Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place; So I give her this month and the next Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already So many of its days intolerable or perplexed But so many more so happy; Who has left a scent on my life and left my walls Dancing over and over with her shadow, Whose hair is twined in all my
veneer could hold The rotten guts and crumbled bones together. And a vulture hung in air Below the cliffs of Ronda and below him His hook-winged shadow wavered like despair Across the chequered vineyards. And the boot-blacks in Madrid Kept us half an hour with polish and pincers And all we did In that city was drink and think and loiter. And in the Prado half- wit princes looked from the canvas they had paid for (Goya had the laugh - But can what is corrupt be cured by laughter?)
Number Two must mimic Number One In bearing, swearing, attitude and accent. And so we jettisoned all Our childish fantasies and anarchism; The weak must go to the wall But strength implies the system; You must lose your soul to be strong, you cannot stand Alone on your own legs or your own ideas; The order of the day is complete conformity and An automatic complacence. Such was the order of the day; only at times The Fool among the yes-men flashed his motley To prick their
pseudo-reason with his rhymes And drop his grain of salt on court behaviour: And sometimes a whisper in books Would challenge the code, or a censored memory sometimes, Sometimes the explosion of rooks, Sometimes the mere batter of light on the senses. And the critic jailed in the mind would peep through the grate And husky from long silence, murmur gently That there is something rotten in the state Of Denmark but the state is not the whole of Denmark; And a spade is still a spade And