Where are brigands
most commonly to be found?
Where boundaries converge.
W.H. Auden, 1907 – 1973. Polytropic Anglo-American poet, his poetry ranged widely in scope and style, as did his writing generally: author of prose essays and reviews, also of opera librettos, poetic drama; some involvement with documentary films. Considered to be one of the 20th century’s greatest and most influential writers. Wikipedia tells us that “the tone and content of his poems ranged from pop-song clichés to complex philosophical meditations, from the corns on his toes to atoms and stars, from contemporary crises to the evolution of society.” Underlying all, however, is a keen attentiveness to the moral fabric of life.
Born in England, Auden lived in the United States from 1939, also spent much time in Austria; he moved back to England shortly before his death in Vienna. He served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for The Age of Anxiety, and received a National Book Award in Poetry for The Shield of Achilles in 1956. In the words of the National Book Committee, which awarded him the National Medal for Literature in 1967, Auden’s poetry “has illuminated our lives and times with grace, wit and vitality. His work, branded by the moral and ideological fires of our age, breathes with eloquence, perception and intellectual power.” A memorial stone for Auden was placed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1974.
This little poem is one of a series of “Shorts” (this particular group being from the latter part of the poet’s life). I have encountered it as I follow the trouble in Ukraine, but the observation therein surely applies to many areas of life (gardens, for instance :) ). You can find these lines in Collected Poems of W.H. Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson (with a Note about—a “critical assessment” of—the poet, and a Preface by the Editor); 2007 Modern Library Edition. Amazon ca offers a “Look Inside” this book, while Amazon com offers a “Look Inside” the Selected Poems (Expanded Edition) (which also has a very lucid and readable introduction to Auden’s work, by Mendelson, the book’s editor) and an earlier edition of the Collected Poems.
UPDATE: Sadly, the “Look Inside” option doesn’t exist anymore for these books; Amazon must be careful, I suppose, not to give away too much for free.