пятница, 11 января 2013 г.

W. H. Auden "There is No Change of Place"

W. H. Auden  "There is No Change of Place"


Who will endure
Heat of day and winter danger,
Journey from one place to another,
Nor be content to lie
Till evening upon headland over bay,
Between the land and sea
Or smoking wait till hour of food,
Leaning on chained-up gate
At edge of wood?

Metals run,
Burnished or rusty in the sun,
From town to town,
And signals all along are down;
Yet nothing passes
But envelopes between these places,
Snatched at the gate and panting read indoors,
And first spring flowers arriving smashed,
Disaster stammered over wires,
And pity flashed.
For should professional traveller come,
Asked at the fireside he is dumb,
Declining with a secret smile,
And all the while
Conjectures on our maps grow stranger
And threaten danger.

There is no change of place:
No one will ever know
For what conversion brilliant capital is waiting,
What ugly feast may village band be celebrating;
For no one goes
Further than railhead or the ends of piers,
Will neither go nor send his son
Further through foothills than the rotting stack
Where gaitered gamekeeper with dog and gun
Will shout ‘Turn back’.

J. Fuller
'No Change of Place'  is based on the paradox that the improved communications of modern industrial society have in fact brought about a state of affairs where no one can any longer communicate except at a distance. Emotional energy is expended on the anticipation of love letters not on human contact, spring flowers arrive smashed, and the impersonality of the telephone reduces human sympathy to a merely functional response (pity is 'flashed', not, I think, like a morse
signal, but like a pass or badge: it has become a shibboleth).
Auden intends the images in lines 4--9 to suggest, not ennui or anxiety, but a kind of vegetative calm. The greater perception and understanding of life that will result from 'journey from one place to another' is simply not being risked: nothing better is known. The mood of Eliot's Prufrock is strongly present in this stanza. In the third stanza, the 'professional traveller' is contrasted with those
suffering from accidie: by making the journey, he has discovered some truth about life which they have not. He has nothing to say to them which they would understand, and their maps seem to bear no relationship to any reality they know (thus perhaps the professional traveller represents the writer, and maps represent modern literature?).
The final stanza develops this theme by indicating that the knowledge which the 'professional traveller' may have acquired has something to do with a possible change of social forms. The capital is waiting for conversion (perhaps this is a financial pun, too), but since nobody travels, nobody finds out: 'no one goes/Further than railhead' (cf. 'had they pushed the rail/Some stations nearer' in 'The Secret Agent'). The hint of decadence in the capital ('brilliant') is matched by corruption in the shires. The village band celebrates the 'ugly feast' of an aristocracy whose hirelings protect their privileges by force ('gaitered gamekeeper with dog and gun'). The point of the poem is simple, but decisively and dramatically put: the retreat from life lived at first hand conspires to perpetuate the stagnation and corruption of political life.

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