David Wagoner

Auden's words stay with you for a long time. Once you see "Four Weddings and a Funeral", you don't easily forget the beautiful, funereal reading of "Stop All the Clocks". Since the early '60s, I often remember Auden's words, not only because I loved some of the ballads ("As I Walked Out One Evening") and resonated to "Unknown Citizen" but also because David Wagoner taught me how to be an active reader. He assigned "Musee des Beaux Arts" and I dutifully read it. Beyond duty, I enjoyed Auden's contrast in tone as he shows how life goes on in the midst of suffering. He refers to Brueghel's "Icarus" as an illustration of this, how "the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse/Scratches its innocent behind on a tree." When Wagoner asked the class about our familiarity with the painting, none of us had bothered to look it up. He pulled out a reproduction of the painting and sternly instructed us that reading requires rereading, digging, looking up every reference. I learned that day to read with a pencil (I think this was pre-highlighter), and to read with a library. Like a good movie, Auden can be enjoyed with a one-time reading, but the more you know and the more you reread, the more your enjoyment increases. I thank David Wagoner for that.

Professor Margaret Lewis Bates, '64
City College of New York

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