Sunday, June 19, 2011

Under the Lyre of Hermes

This piece by Adam Kirsch is a very clear statement of the reading of Auden's "Under Which Lyre" that has motivated me to postpone (again) my return to academe. I have recently come dangerously close, I fear, to "committing a social science".

It is my firm belief that social science competes with poetry for our understanding of ourselves. Science has been trying to stabilize our subjective positions with a vast array of objective relations, which a good poem always liberates us from. ("The human brain," said Cyril Connolly, "once it is fully functioning, as in the making of a poem, is outside time and place and immune from sorrow" [TUG, p. xvi].) Since the second world war, however, social science has been winning, and poetry has been pushed to the margins. The lyrical subject has suffered terribly under the lyre of Apollo.

Other than not committing such a science, at this moment I must admit that I don't quite know what to do about it. So I suppose I'll just have to live beyond my means, eschew plain water and raw greens, choose the odd chances over the even ones, "read The New Yorker, trust in God; and take short views." My fidelity, now that I think about it, to Auden's decalogue is actually quite remarkable.


ayeh said...

does it mean that you are secretly agreeing with "the supreme leader" on the usage of social sciences??! he'd be more than happy to hear that! ;)

Thomas said...

well, it is my understanding that he doesn't exactly propose poetry as an alternative.