Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 03-25-2017, 08:47 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,984
Default Auden's The Night Mail

I will always be jealous that Auden got to write for the UK General Post Office (GPO) in the 30’s.

Check out this clip of “The Night Mail” documentary if you don’t know it:

The Night Mail (excerpts)

This is the night mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door…

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong…
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 03:27 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 3,693

That poem was one of the first I heard, on the wireless in my formative years. I was bounced to it on my grandfather's knee, with the railway sounds, the changing rhythms, explained and acted-out. I was afraid it had become a relic of the age of steam and I am delighted that it resonates with a later generation.


Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 03-26-2017 at 04:41 AM. Reason: removed a link to a thread that might have been construed as "own-poem" posting.
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 11:18 AM
Nigel Mace Nigel Mace is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: The Borders and Italy
Posts: 1,381

Many memories and associations - of a film which had its place in my history and film lecture rooms. (My first daughter learned the lines on my knee aged 3 while watching the GPO film on my editing desk.) Less known are the precise circumstances in which Auden worked on producing the finished work. He was stuck at a small writing table, facing a wall at the end of a corridor in the GPO Fim Unit's premises and, as the editing process of the film went on, he'd be told that possible sections would/would not 'fit'. These were often screwed up and chucked over his shoulder at a handy waste basket. Basil Wright recalls that they included a passage describing the Border hills as piled up like "flanks of slaughtered horses".
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 12:20 PM
Brian Watson Brian Watson is offline
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 525

The British Film Institute has produced a series of these excellent documentaries: British Transport Films, also uploaded to Youtube: British Transport Film Collection.

I could have sworn the original British Transport documentary had Auden himself reading the poem. I have certainly seen a good video using Auden's own reading, but I can't seem to find it.
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 01:06 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,984

Ann and Nigel, thanks for sharing your UK memories--that's what I had hoped to hear about on this thread.

Nigel, yes, I would love to see the "out-takes" from "The Night Mail"--I bet they are hilarious.

Brian, thank you for commenting. If you can find a recording of Auden reading "The Night Mail" I would love to hear it. Please do post it here.



Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 03-26-2017 at 06:52 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 05:08 PM
Woody Long's Avatar
Woody Long Woody Long is offline
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Posts: 1,268

Aaron —

Thanks for posting this.

I imagine there would be little dramatic effect in a poem and a documentary film about email and texting.

— Woody
Reply With Quote
Old 03-26-2017, 05:36 PM
Nigel Mace Nigel Mace is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: The Borders and Italy
Posts: 1,381

No, Brian - the original recording is actually John Grierson himself, the organiser and éminence grise of the whole GPO Film Unit.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right

Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,853
Total Threads: 18,973
Total Posts: 245,636
There are 288 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right

Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online