Monday, October 11, 2010

A Prospero Poet by way of three epitaphs

Hardy, Yeats, and Frost have all written epitaphs for themselves.

I never cared for life, life cared for me.
And hence I owed it some fidelity...

Cast a cold eye
On life and death
Horseman pass by.

I would have it written of me on my stone
I had a lover's quarrel with the world.

Of the three, Frost surely comes off the best. Hardy seems to be stating the Pessimist's Case rather than his real feelings. "I never cared..." Never? Now, Mr. Hardy, really. Yeats's horseman is a stage prop; the passer-by is much more likely to be a motorist. But Frost convinces me that he is telling neither more nor less than the truth about himself. And when it comes to wisdom, is not having a lover's quarrel with life more worthy of Prospero than not caring or looking coldly? - W.H. Auden


  1. Your punctuation of the Hardy doesn't match the Complete Poems version. What is your source for this?

    The second line runs

    "And hence I owed it some fidelity"

    A striking difference. Given that the poem is titled Epitaph...