Marginal notes, on Noturne & stuff.

By Tuur Ghys.

This post has no big idea’s, just the random things I wanted to add after our discussion of the poem Nocturne.

I like to look at it from a religious point of view. He denounces the goddess of the moon for reasons we associate with his theories in the Virgin and the Dynamo. But I think he also had to denounce her for she is a false god – and he only has one god.

The moon has to wear a mask by definition, for he could not recognize any other god. This is not to say that a god – as a cultural phenomenon – can’t wear a mask or even be a mask. But this sort of god would be nothing (‘silly’) compared to the big monotheistic gods. His god is the only one that can ‘make sense’ standing in between the natural and historical world. In all its metaphysics it can’t be reduced to a bunch of barren craters, but lesser gods that are associated with actual things/bodies can. Just because the Christian god is all-present, all powerful, and what not,  He (?) doesn’t run the risk of being falsified as a mask, since he is above/beyond that. So I think that in Nocturne Auden also once again takes the side of his Christian god against both paganism and the atheist sides of modernity.
By doing so he can hold a very powerful position: being against modernity in a conservative religious way without being reactionary. Or maybe he’s just a decadent hypocrite.

Talking about masks, would there be any link between Auden and the Flemish painter Ensor? (who painted masks as his trademark).


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