Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On the Circuit
by W. H. Auden

Among pelagian travelers,

Lost on their lewd conceited way

To Massachusetts, Michigan,

Miami or L.A.,

An airborne instrument I sit,

Predestined nightly to fulfill


Unfathomable will,

By whose election justified,

I bring my gospel of the Muse

To fundamentalists, to nuns,

to Gentiles and to Jews,

And daily, seven days a week,

Before a local sense has jelled,

From talking-site to talking-site

Am jet-or-prop-propelled.

Though warm my welcome everywhere,

I shift so frequently, so fast,

I cannot now say where I was

The evening before last,

Unless some singular event

Should intervene to save the place,

A truly asinine remark,

A soul-bewitching face,

Or blessed encounter, full of joy,

Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan,

With, here, an addict of Tolkien,

There, a Charles Williams fan.

Since Merit but a dunghill is,

I mount the rostrum unafraid:

Indeed, 'twere damnable to ask

If I am overpaid.

Spirit is willing to repeat

Without a qualm the same old talk,

But Flesh is homesick for our snug

Apartment in New York.

A sulky fifty-six, he finds

A change of mealtime utter hell,

Grown far too crotchety to like

A luxury hotel.

The Bible is a goodly book

I always can peruse with zest,

But really cannot say the same

For Hilton's Be My Guest.

Nor bear with equanimity

The radio in students' cars,

Muzak at breakfast, or--dear God!--

Girl-organists in bars.

Then, worst of all, the anxious thought,

Each time my plane begins to sink

And the No Smoking sign comes on:

What will there be to drink?

Is this my milieu where I must

How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!

Snatch from the bottle in my bag

An analeptic swig?

Another morning comes: I see,

Dwindling below me on the plane,

The roofs of one more audience

I shall not see again.

God bless the lot of them, although

I don't remember which was which:

God bless the U.S.A., so large,

So friendly, and so rich.

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