chapter  16
2 Pages

Bonamydobr£e, Review, 'spectator', August 1932

On the steps of'His stone the boys play prisoner's base, turning their backs on the inscription, unconscious of sorrow as the sea of drowning. Passage to music of an unchaste hero from a too-strict country. March, long black piano, silhouetted head; cultured daughter of a greying ironmaster, march through fields. The hammer settles on the white-hot ingot. The telescope focuses accurately upon a recent star. On skyline of detritus, a truck, nose up. Loiterer at carved gates, immune stranger, follow. It is nothing, your loss. The priest's mouth opens in the green graveyard, but the wind is against it. [EA, 69]

Not, Father, further do prolong Our necessary defeat;

Spare us the numbing zero-hour, The desert-long retreat. [Ode VI, EA, 109]

It is, no doubt, the business of a reviewer to try to state what a poem is about; it is useless (though true) to say that a poem is its own explanation. Any attempt must be crude, not to say lop-sided; but if one were to try to state the fundamental theme of 'The Orators', one might suggest that Mr. Auden is intent to explode fear, especially the fear of what might happen to the individual if all the old assumptions were broken down: it is here, and in his contempt for 'safety first' that he is nearest Rimbaud. One large section of the book consists of the Journal of an Airman, a fantasy; the airman, the modern,