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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Collaborating With His Public

 “A poet should always be 'collaborating' with his public, but this public, in the mass, cannot make itself heard, and he has to guess at its requirements and its criticisms.”  Louis MacNeice

Irish poet MacNeice’s body of work was widely appreciated by the public during his lifetime (1907-63), due in part to his relaxed, but socially and emotionally aware style.   He was part of the generation called the Auden Group, also sometimes known as the "Thirties poets,” that included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis (father of renowned actor Daniel Day-Lewis).

Here for Saturday’s Poem is a poem MacNeice plaintively wrote on the occasion of his 50th  birthday.

Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding thoughts in vain.

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