In 1940 when Europe was being ravaged by war a 33 year old W. H. Auden penned his ‘New Year Letter’ to a friend. The poem’s length and copyright prevents its being reproduced here. However, Gil Bailie spent a few weekly sessions in January 1990 reflecting on this long poem full of erudite references to historical, literary, political and religious subjects. I thought it would be appropriate to make this audio presentation available at this juncture before resuming work on Gil’s series on Shakespeare’s plays.
These talks will be edited and made available here on our webstore in the coming months. Our donors will receive the recordings in CD and/or MP3 format as they become available. Please consider supporting our efforts by becoming a donor and receiving our complimentary monthly audio materials. Visit our Donations page for details.
Here is a snippet from the end of Part 1 of New Year Letter:
Though language may be useless, for
No words men write can stop the war
Or measure up to the relief
Of its immeasurable grief,
Yet truth, like love and sleep, resents
Approaches that are too intense,
And often when the searcher stood
Before the Oracle, it would
Ignore his grown-up earnestness
But not the child of his distress,
For through the Janus of a joke
The candid psychopompos spoke.
May such heart and intelligence
As huddle now in conference
Whenever an impasse occurs
Use the Good Offices of verse;
May an Accord be reached, and
This aide-memoire on what they say,
This private minute for a friend,
Be the dispatch that I intend:
Although addressed to a Whitehall,
Be under Flying Seal to all
Who wish to read it anywhere,
And, if they open it, En Clair.
Thank you for visiting our website. We pray for a peaceful and truthful New Year.