May 15, 2013

W.H. Auden: Old People's Home (from Epistle for a Godson, 1972)


All are limitory, but each has her own
nuance of damage. The elite can dress and decent themselves,
        are ambulant with a single stick, adroit
to read a book all through, or play the slow movements of
        easy sonatas. (Yet, perhaps, their very
carnal freedom is their spirit's bane: intelligent
        of what has happened and why, they are obnoxious
to a glum beyond tears.) Then come those on wheels, the average
        majority, who endure T.V. and, led by
lenient therapists, do community singing, then
        the loners, muttering in limbo, and last
the terminally incompetent, as impeccable,
        improvident, unspeakable as the plants
they parody. (Plants may sweat profusely but never
        sully themselves.) One tie, though, unites them: all
appeared when the world, though much was awry there, was more
        spacious, more comely to look at, its Old Ones
with an audience and secular station. (Then a child,
        in dismay with Mamma, could refuge with Gran
to be revalued and told a story.) As of now,
        we all know what to expect, but their generation
is the first to fade like this, not at home but assigned
        to a numbered frequent ward, stowed out of conscience
as unpopular luggage.
                  As I ride the subway
        to spend half-an-hour with one, I revisage
who she was in the pomp and sumpture of her hey-day,
        when week-end visits were a presumptive joy,
not a good work. Am I cold to wish for a speedy
        painless dormition, pray, as I know she prays,
that God or Nature will abrupt her earthly function?


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 15, 2013 5:43 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I do not like this poem at all. Or the image.

Posted by: ahem at May 15, 2013 12:13 PM

Not everything can be a home run to everybody. That's why they call it a batting average.

Posted by: vanderleun at May 15, 2013 2:38 PM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but they deserve everything they're getting. They sold their children and every other generation to follow to the government for their own ease in retirement. They replaced their families with a government chit. My grandparents paid almost nothing into Social Security and reaped what they considered a fortune, with nary a thought to where the money came from.

Posted by: JustDeserts at May 15, 2013 6:24 PM

I agree with JustDeserts. The Greatest Generation has set all this in motion. They wanted rewarded.
They fight a graceful, natural death. They are afraid of heaven. We have come to value quantity of years over quality of life.
This generation of takers hasn't waited for old age.
Think of the statistic of number of 25-45 year olders who are "disabled" and the huge increase in disability recipients over just the past 5 years.

Posted by: Grace at May 17, 2013 12:05 AM