Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Or, if he was aware of it, did not care.

From What W.H. Auden Can Do For You by Alexander McCall Smith.
I saw Auden only once. It was in Edinburgh, a short time before his death, at a reading that he gave in the University Lecture Theatre in George Square. I was in my mid-twenties at the time, and I had just taken up my first academic post in Belfast. I was back in Edinburgh for a visit when I stumbled upon a notice announcing that W. H. Auden would read from his work at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a day. I got hold of a ticket and found a seat close to the front.

The poet came in, flanked by members of the committee of the Scottish Society for the Speaking of Verse. The party mounted the stage and introductions were made. Then Auden stood up, and it became evident that the fly-buttons of his trousers were undone. There was an audible gasp from the audience, but Auden seemed unaware of anything untoward or, if he was aware of it, did not care. He began to recite his work, entirely from memory, including “The Fall of Rome” and “Musée des Beaux Arts.”

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