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Old 12-23-2017, 07:31 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Default Auden's "For The Time Being"

Every Christmas season I re-read Auden’s oratorio “For The Time Being.” “The Temptation of Joseph” has always especially moved me. If I were to become a Christian, this is the passage that would do it:

My shoes were shined, my pants were cleaned and pressed,
And I was hurrying to meet
My own true Love:
But a great crowd grew and grew
Till I could not push my way through,
Because a star had fallen down the street;
When they saw who I was,
The police tried to do their best.

CHORUS [off]
Joseph, you have heard
What Mary says occurred;
Yes, it may be so.
Is it likely? No.

The bar was gay, the lighting well-designed,
And I was sitting down to wait
My own true Love:
A voice I’d heard before, I think,
Cried: “This is on the House. I drink
To him who does not know it is too late;”
When I asked for the time,
Everyone was very kind.

CHORUS [off]
Mary may be pure,
But, Joseph, are you sure?
How is one to tell?
Suppose, for instance. . . Well. . .

Through cracks, up ladders, into waters deep,
I squeezed, I climbed, I swam to save
My own true Love:
Under a dead apple tree
I saw an ass; when it saw me
It brayed;
A hermit sat in the mouth of a cave:
When I asked him the way,
He pretended to be asleep.

CHORUS [off]
Maybe, maybe not.
But, Joseph, you know what
Your world, of course, will say
About you anyway.

Where are you, Father, where?
Caught in the jealous trap
Of an empty house I hear
As I sit alone in the dark
Everything, everything,
The drip of the bathroom tap,
The creak of the sofa spring,
The wind in the air-shaft, all
Making the same remark
Stupidly, stupidly,
Over and over again.
Father, what have I done?
Answer me. Father, how
Can I answer the tactless wall
Or the pompous furniture now?
Answer them. . .

No, you must.

How then am I to know,
Father, that you are just?
Give me one reason.


All I ask is one
Important and elegant proof
That what my Love had done
Was really at your will
And that your will is Love.

No, you must believe;
Be silent, and sit still.
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Old 12-23-2017, 09:08 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
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Lovely. I'd never seen this, Aaron, thanks for posting it.

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Old 12-23-2017, 11:17 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,090

Thanks for this.
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Old 12-24-2017, 05:46 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Glad you enjoyed this, gentles. Check out the whole work. Auden manages to make Herod sympathetic.
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