We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Hours before dawn we were woken by the quake. My house was on a cliff. The thing could take Bookloads off shelves, break bottles in a row. Then the long pause and then the bigger shake. It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
And far too large for my feet to step by. I hoped that various buildings were brought low. The heart of standing is you cannot fly.
It seemed quite safe till she got up and dressed. The guarded tourist makes the guide the test. Then I said The Garden? Laughing she said No. Taxi for her and for me healthy rest. It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
The language problem but you have to try. Some solid ground for lying could she show? The heart of standing is you cannot fly.
None of these deaths were her point at all. The thing was that being woken he would bawl And finding her not in earshot he would know. I tried saying Half an Hour to pay this call. It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
I slept, and blank as that I would yet lie. Till you have seen what a threat holds below, The heart of standing is you cannot fly.
Tell me again about Europe and her pains, Who's tortured by the drought, who by the rains. Glut me with floods where only the swine can row Who cuts his throat and let him count his gains. It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
A bedshift flight to a Far Eastern sky. Only the same war on a stronger toe. The heart of standing is you cannot fly.
Tell me more quickly what I lost by this, Or tell me with less drama what they miss Who call no die for a god for a throw, Who says after two aliens had one kiss It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
But as to risings, I can tell you why. It is on contradiction that they grow. It seemed the best thing to be up and go. Up was the heartening and the strong reply. The heart of standing is we cannot fly.
The poem is partly about WW2, I think. An "aubade" is a lyric poem about lovers separating at dawn. Sir William Empson, a poet and great literary critic, wrote the fascinating and masterful 7 Types of Ambiguity (when he was 21), which I recommend to anyone who enjoys language and writing.
Here's a review of a new bio of the passionately religion-hating Empson, and here's a 1949 Time Magazine comment on the publication of his Collected Poems.
A reminder: the form of this poem is called a villanelle. The most well-known esample of a villanelle is Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night".
But "Aubade" is IMHO the finest villanelle ever written in English. Empson is the master of ambiguous indirection -- he did, after all, write "Seven Types of Ambiguity" -- and, no matter how much biographical material about the poet you absorb, an absolute single meaning to any part of this poem is impossible to determine.