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Old People's Home Analysis

Author: poem of W.H. Auden Type: poem Views: 5

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     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 improvident,

     unspeakable, impeccable 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, it's 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?


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