This makes little sense

If one can abide stars that are simply points of light, inert things that don’t watch us and are no kind of companion—and certainly this is what we all believe nowadays—one can learn to adjust to an empty sky. An empty sky is awfully beautiful, too, and, moreover, reminds us that we are the more loving ones—the only ones who love. That is something of a distinction. Bronte would never adjust… but she is lost in her fantasy: could the dark of her pillow really be a surrogate for the washed out stars? Auden is more cynical. There is no difference between day and night if stars are not the sort to give a damn.

But maybe there is a difference… the daily washout of the stars by the blood-red sun doesn’t faze Auden while the total dark sublime would take (him) a little getting used to. I think Mike is right to wonder persistently about that last line. I feel strongly that we are meant to read ‘a little time’ as ‘a hell of a lot of time.’ So which is it—“no worries, man, the stars are just pretty lights anyway” or “this might take a good long while.” Maybe Auden is as susceptible to fantasy as Bronte. I know I am.

One response to “This makes little sense”

  1. I don’t know if Brontë’s paean to the stars requires any fantasy. One needn’t attribute to them any mystical qualities to prefer their light to the harsh, burning rays of the sun. The personification in the poem is remarkably spare, and aside from her heart throbbing with the stars’ solemn “words of light,” most of what she contrasts between the stars and sun is the intensity of the lights.

    I think your reading of Auden’s last line is appropriate, but I don’t think he’s necessarily caught up in fantasy, either. Of course, I’m still thinking the stars are avatars of the less celestial objects of our admiration.