Thursday, 28 May 2009

Arbiters of morality

The current spat about who might be a designated poet has awakened thoughts I had when my life required some knowledge of poetry. There were a number of poems back then where I felt that the sentiments ascribed were maybe not of the best.
So, maybe I was right? Someone has undertaken a blog on that very point. Starts off like this:
Would WH Auden have won the professorship, in 1956, had the sleepy electorate at Oxford been apprised by a hail of anonymous lettres de cachet alerting them to the fact that the poet's most famous love poem:

Lay your sleeping head, my love,

Human on my faithless arm.

was addressed to a 13-year-old schoolboy? Who would have won that year, had the "paedo-poet" been drummed out? Harold Nicolson was his rival for the professorship. But, hold on, wasn't he the complaisant husband who was happy to have his wife, Vita Sackville-West, diddle other poets' wives? Meanwhile, of course, Harold Nicolson did a lot of extra-marital same-sex diddling of his own. It was not merely immoral but criminal (as was Auden's love-life) by the brutal laws of the day. In 1956Lord Montagu had just got out of clink for committing the "crimes" Auden and Nicolson more discreetly got away with.

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