Wednesday was WH Auden's birthday. I know this because it says so on the poetry calendar my husband gave me for Christmas. I have been out of the office since Monday, so I only turned that page over today. Much of my poetry of choice is American in origin (Frost, Auden, Dickinson, Whitman, Pound and my all time favourites cummings and Jeffers), and I would reproduce the Auden poem used on the calendar, only it would seem to be against copyright, so instead I will link to it on someone else's site, and let them worry about copright!
The little shpiel commemorating the day relates the following story:
Dorothy Day was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in New York and did much to soldier against poverty with slim resources. Unfortunately, her compassion for others didn't win any sympathy from the government. She was once fined $250 because one of her hostels was "not up to code." Leaving the courthouse disheartened - for she had no ready means to cover the fine - she passed a sorry group of men looking for handouts. One man, as scruffy as the rest, emerged from amid the group and pressed a piece of paper into her hand. Explaining that he heard what had happened, he said, "I want to help out a little. Here's two-fifty." Day beamed as she thanked him, much cheered by this small act of selflessness. It wasn't until she was on the subway home that she looked at the check. It was a check for two hundred and fifty dollars, not two dollars and fifty cents - and it was signed by WH Auden. The poet once quipped, "We are here on earth to good for others. What the others are here for, I don't know."I have related this today for no other reason than that it touched a chord with me. I didn't need a reason to like Auden's poetry, but this story certainly did the man no harm in my eyes.