September 08, 2002
Two Pedantic Quibbles

Two comments on Eugene Volokh's new website Shards: Poems from the War:

1. The first poem quoted is Auden's "September 1, 1939". The last line of the second-to-last stanza is famous:

We must love one another or die.

What should be equally famous is the corrected version:

We must love one another and die.

Just as true in its own way. Various websites attribute this to second thoughts on Auden's part, but I first saw it as a bon mot of the German music professor in Randall Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution (1954). Did Auden get the idea from Jarrell, or was the professor (whose name escapes me) supposed to be quoting Auden's second thoughts or coming up with the same emendation independently?

2. Volokh offers a couple of epigrams of his own composition. Here is the longer of the two:

In my youth, the world was quiet,
No-one called me off to war.
Who can blame me? Should it shame me?
Just got lucky, nothing more.
Write a poem now, stay at home now,
I am safely thirty-four.

I think the questions in line 3 are supposed to be rhetorical, but the answer to the first one is 'Philip Shropshire' -- also 'Hesiod' and 'Atrios' and 'Eric Alterman'. Unless of course they have all been shamed into silence by my previous post, which seems unlikely.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at September 08, 2002 12:01 AM

Gottfried Rosenbaum. It's odd that Jarrell is known as a poet, because Pictures from an Institution is very good, and the poems are uniformly terrible.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on September 8, 2002 06:31 PM