Saturday 22 May 2021

W.H. Auden Poems

 Poems: W. H. Auden [21 February 1907 - 29 September 1973]

Wystan Hugh Auden, known as W. H. Auden, was a prolific and influential poet of the 20th century. Born in 1907 in York, England, Auden's poetic career spanned over four decades, and his works covered a wide range of themes and subjects, from politics and war to love and spirituality. His poetic voice was distinctive, and his contributions to the field of literature were significant.

One of the key characteristics of Auden's poetry was his ability to blend traditional poetic forms with contemporary language and themes. He was able to take the classic poetic forms such as the sonnet or the ballad and infuse them with a modern sensibility, making them relevant to his time. This approach to poetry was particularly important during the mid-20th century when modernism was in full swing, and poets were experimenting with new forms and techniques.

Auden was also known for his ability to tackle complex and challenging themes in his poetry. For instance, in his poem "The Shield of Achilles," Auden presents a bleak and disturbing view of the world in the aftermath of World War II. The poem is a commentary on the horrors of war and the potential for violence that lurks within human nature. Similarly, in "September 1, 1939," Auden reflects on the political upheavals of the time and the need for hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

Another notable feature of Auden's poetry was his use of irony and wit. His poems often had a satirical or humorous edge that challenged the reader's assumptions and expectations. For example, in his poem "Miss Gee," Auden portrays the tragic life of a spinster in a small town, but does so with a touch of humor that undercuts the pathos of the situation.

Finally, Auden's poetry was marked by its spiritual and philosophical depth. He was deeply interested in questions of morality, ethics, and spirituality, and his poetry reflects this preoccupation. For example, in his long poem "For the Time Being," Auden explores the meaning of Christmas and the role of the divine in human affairs. He also wrote extensively on the nature of love, and the ways in which it can transform and enrich our lives.

W. H. Auden was a significant figure in the world of poetry, whose work continues to inspire and challenge readers today. His ability to blend traditional poetic forms with contemporary language and themes, his willingness to tackle complex and challenging subjects, his use of irony and wit, and his spiritual and philosophical depth all contributed to the enduring appeal of his poetry.

1. September 1, 1939

W.H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939" is one of the most powerful and influential poems of the 20th century. Written in the aftermath of the outbreak of World War II, the poem reflects on the political turmoil of the time, the rise of totalitarianism, and the sense of despair and anxiety that many people felt as they faced an uncertain future.

The poem is set in a bar in New York City, where the poet is observing the reactions of the people around him to the events that are unfolding. The opening lines of the poem are particularly striking, as they describe the mood of the city in the aftermath of the news of the war:
"I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade"
These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a meditation on the state of the world at the time. Auden reflects on the failure of human beings to live up to their ideals, the danger of nationalism and totalitarianism, and the need for hope in the face of adversity.
One of the most powerful aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. Auden uses vivid and evocative language to paint a picture of a world in crisis. He describes the "cracked tin tray" of the moon, the "thugs" who "can be heroes," and the "blind skyscrapers" that tower over the city.
Throughout the poem, Auden reflects on the idea of love and its role in the world. He writes that "we must love one another or die," and that love is the only way to overcome the forces of hatred and violence that threaten to destroy us. This idea is central to the poem, and it has resonated with readers for generations.
In the final stanza of the poem, Auden reflects on the role of poetry in times of crisis. He writes that "poetry makes nothing happen," but that it can provide comfort and solace to those who are struggling. He suggests that poetry can offer a way to transcend the limitations of the present moment, and to imagine a better future.
"September 1, 1939" is a powerful and moving poem that reflects on the political turmoil of the 20th century. Its vivid imagery, its powerful message of love and hope, and its reflection on the role of poetry in times of crisis have made it one of the most enduring works of literature of the past century.

2. In Memory of W. B. Yeats

W.H. Auden's poem "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" is a tribute to the great Irish poet who had recently passed away. Yeats was a major influence on Auden, and this poem is a reflection on his life and his work, as well as an exploration of the role of poetry in the modern world.
The poem is structured in four parts, each of which explores a different aspect of Yeats' life and work. The first part is a meditation on Yeats' poetry, and the ways in which it reflects the tensions and contradictions of his time. Auden writes that Yeats was able to "make us feel the tumultuous events he lived through" and that his poetry "mirrored the contradictions of his time."
The second part of the poem is a reflection on Yeats' personal life, and the ways in which his poetry was shaped by his experiences. Auden writes that Yeats was "no easy personality" and that his poetry was marked by a sense of "unresolved conflict." He suggests that Yeats' personal struggles were a key part of his creative process, and that his poetry was a way of working through those conflicts.
The third part of the poem is a tribute to Yeats' legacy, and the ways in which his poetry continues to resonate with readers today. Auden writes that Yeats was a "master of the artifice of eternity" and that his work continues to inspire and challenge readers to this day.
The final part of the poem is a reflection on the role of poetry in the modern world. Auden suggests that poetry has lost some of its power in the modern era, as we have become more cynical and skeptical of its ability to change the world. He writes that "poetry makes nothing happen," but that it can still provide comfort and solace to those who are struggling.
Overall, "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" is a powerful and moving tribute to one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Auden's exploration of Yeats' life and work, as well as his reflection on the role of poetry in the modern world, make this poem a timeless and enduring work of literature. It serves as a reminder of the power of poetry to inspire and transform us, and the importance of honoring those who have dedicated their lives to this craft.

3. Epitaph on a Tyrant

W.H. Auden's poem "Epitaph on a Tyrant" is a short but powerful reflection on the nature of dictatorship and the dangers of political power. The poem was written in the aftermath of World War II, a time when the world was still reeling from the atrocities committed by Hitler and other totalitarian leaders. The poem is a warning against the dangers of tyranny and a call to remember the lessons of the past.
The poem is structured as an epitaph, a memorial inscription that is typically written on a tombstone. In this case, the epitaph is written for a fictional tyrant, whose name is not given. The poem reflects on the characteristics of this tyrant, and the ways in which he abused his power.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone, describing the tyrant as "Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after." This line is a clear indication that the tyrant is not simply a madman or a monster, but someone who was driven by a desire for control and order. The line also suggests that the tyrant's pursuit of perfection is what ultimately led to his downfall.
The second stanza of the poem describes the ways in which the tyrant maintained his power, through "fear and the fire of hate." This line is a reminder of the tactics used by many dictators to maintain their grip on power, through the use of propaganda, censorship, and violence.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as it reflects on the legacy of the tyrant and the lessons that can be learned from his life. Auden writes that "He held on tight and rode out the storm," suggesting that the tyrant was able to survive for a time, despite the damage that he inflicted. However, the final lines of the poem serve as a warning, reminding us that "In the nightmare of the dark/All the dogs of Europe bark."
Overall, "Epitaph on a Tyrant" is a haunting and powerful poem that serves as a warning against the dangers of political power. The poem is a call to remember the lessons of the past and to remain vigilant against the forces of tyranny and oppression. Auden's use of language is simple yet effective, and his message is one that remains relevant and important to this day.


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Introductory presentation by Students (2023)

Thursday 20 May 2021

WBYeats Poems

 Poems by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

1. The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Analysis of the poem - 'The Second Coming'

2. On Being Asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these

A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth

We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please

A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Analysis of the poem 'On Being Asked for a War Poem'

Check your understanding of these poems - click here to appear in an online test

Additional Reading resources:
2. Video recording of online class on 'The Second Coming'

3. Video Recording of Online Class on 'On Being Asked for a War Poem

Students Response | On Being Asked for a War Poem

Students Response | The Second Coming

Saturday 8 May 2021

Memorabilia 2021

 Memorabilia 2020-21

The Memorabilia 2021 prepared by the Students can be accessed here

Video Recording of the Online event: Annual Day 2021

From the Desk of the Head of Department of English

#covid19 #coronavirus #corona #pandemic

Our last year, the academic year 2020-21, was entangled in these hashtags. Today is no better. The pandemic has turned India into quagmire. Officially, India is recording highest number of covid infected cases in entire world, for last several days. People are struggling to get oxygen cylinders, ventilators, hospital beds. The hotels are converted into paid-covid centers. Several academic institutes have started temporary covid care units. We are amidst second wave of covid19 pandemic and Indians are the hardest hit in entire world.

It is but obvious that Corona Pandemic is a natural calamity. Though some conspiracy theories try to convince us that this virus is man-made in Wuhan Virus Laboratory in China and it is a sort of biological war started by China to economically destroy India and enemy countries, yet we do not have ample evidences to believe in such theories. What is important for us to believe in, rather than these conspiracy theories, is that how such natural calamities are aggravated by human error of judgement. How, we the humans, are responsible for the tragedies that happen in our societies and in our personal lives – is something very important to be learned from this pandemic.

We are aware of the fact that India lowered its guard against the pandemic in the month of March 2021. Officially, it celebrated the victory against Corona Virus. The leaders got busy with election rallies; the people got busy with religious congregations. There was widespread skepticism regarding vaccination among common-men. All these human errors of judgement are equally responsible for the tragic situation in which we, the Indians, are today. We come into such a dire situation because people in power deny to accept the advises of the experts. At times, they are taking decisions based on intuitions or astrology instead of scientific evidences. And then we all suffer!

However, it is not only the natural mutations of the virus and the errors of judgement by human agency that is responsible. It is our immunity or lack of it, also, to be made accountable. We have rich heritage of Yoga, Pranayama and Ayurveda. But when it comes to make it a part and parcel of everyday life, we are the laziest lots. These precautionary life-style is neglected, I would say, criminally neglected, and then, when the house is on fire, we think of digging the well. Then, when the milk is spilled, what’s the use of crying over it.

We are supposed to keep one law of nature at our fingertips: A single rotten mango can infect all the healthy mangoes, but all healthy mangoes can not remove the rot from a single infected mango.

The point is, we all have to be hale and hearty. Even if a single person in a society is not taking care of his/her health, s/he is a danger to all human beings. If s/he gets infected by virus, s/he is going to spread and infect all healthy immune system. All healthy immune systems are incapable to transmit good health to a sick human. A sick human is capable to transmit sickness to all healthy humans. Isn’t this the crude and bitter reality of nature!

The life lessons we learn from the zeitgeist of our times are useful in our normal times also:

  1. 1)    When it comes to take decisions, which can affect innumerable lives and it may turn down to be the matter of life and death, believe in conclusions drawn out of logic and rationality. In short, do not take decisions based on intuition or irrational calculations.
  2. 2)    Never celebrate small victories. What seems to have ended might be just a small battle. The war might still be going on and we may be unaware about it.
  3. 3)    Always ask – ‘What next!’.
  4. 4)    Always remember – ‘Readiness is all’. Remember, so many sports persons got infected with corona virus. The Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) has been postponed because of several cricketers got infected in the bio-bubble. So, even if you are keeping your immunity stronger with yoga, pranayama, Ayurveda or sports and outdoor games, be ready for the infection. So far as rotten mangoes are with us, we, the healthy mangoes, are prone to infection.
  5. 5)    Every thing is just a mind game! Keep your mind engaged with some sort of activities. Only keeping body fit is not enough for immunity. The mind, too, shall be engaged with something creative, constructive and beautiful. Keep your mind busy with the work you love to do!
  6. 6)    Learn to enjoy isolation! Practice individualism. It is not to say that do not be a part of community. Be ready to help the community but be self-reliant, Atmanirbhar! In short, do not give the remote control of your happiness or sorrow to others. Have a control over your remote control.
  7. 7)    Remember, immunity is the key to happy life! Health is heaven, and illness is hell! No better than corona pandemic can teach this simple lesson so effectively.

Writing for this very well edited Memorabilia 2021, I am indeed glad to see that almost of all students are safe and healthy in this time of illness. Baring a few students, all others are hale and hearty. It was great to see that in the Webinar Presentation Season 4, all students made their presentation and no body gave an excuse on the grounds of illness. This is something rarely found even in normal days. It seems you in good health because you all are keeping yourself creatively and constructively engaged with your studies and other work. Keep doing so! Never keep your mind idle!

Finally, I would like to say that this was a very good batch (2019-21) of students. Most of you were very eager to know more, your eyes were hungry to learn more and more, your sincerity in your work was very genuine, your habit of doing a little bit more than expected was something very rarely found these days.

The prime objective of our Department is to (i) develop literary sensibility, (ii) generate interest in academic & research writing, (iii) make students critical thinkers, and (iii) hone digital skills among our students. In this batch, I am glad to say that, the number of students who displayed these achievements are in large number than those who didn’t. Many of you have set a higher benchmark for the batches to come.

This year was a year of learning and doing so many new things. It was the year of disruptions. After teaching for two and half decades, the teachers start getting safe in their cocoon. In our younger days, we break the cocoon to get ourselves beautiful wings to fly like butterfly. The metamorphosis from caterpillar – to – chrysalis - to – butterfly

gets somewhere stagnant. We start believing that we have metamorphosed into butterfly. The corona year, for me, was a realization that there were I got stagnant was a phase of ‘chrysalis’. The challenges of teaching and also learning lot many things in this corona year was something like ‘becoming a butterfly’. This year was full of trials and errors, in short, of learning a lot – to teach in online mode, hybrid mode – to make lightboard, to try various innovative practices in teaching – learning to live stream events – was like getting new wings to fly.

All that was done during this pandemic year – is documented here .

Best wishes to all the students to shine out in real life situations. Never let your guards down. Keep on honing new sills. Never think that you have already metamorphosed into butterfly. Always keep in mind that you may be still in your cocoon and keep on breaking the self-imposed limits. The tough times make us tougher. The bitter times make us better. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!