Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Runner - W.H. Auden (1960)

The Runner

All visible visibly
Moving things
Spin or swing,
One of the two,
Move, as the limbs
Of a runner do,
To and fro,
Forward and back,
Or, as they swiftly
Carry him
In orbit go
Round an endless track:
So, everywhere, every
Creature disporting
Itself according
To the law of its making
In the rivals’ dance
Of a balanced pair
Or the ring-dance
Round a common centre,
Delights the eye
By its symmetry
As it changes place
Blessing the unchangeable
Absolute rest
Of the space all share

The camera’s eye
Does not lie
But it cannot show
The life within,
The life of a runner,
Of yours or mine,
That race which is neither
Fast nor slow,
For nothing can ever
Happen twice,
That story which moves
Like music when
Begotten notes
New notes beget
Making the flowing
Of time a growing
Till what it could be
At last it is,
Where Fate is Freedom,
Grace, and Surprise.

Wilma Rudolph (USA) wins the 100 m at the 1960 Olympics

In 1960 W.H. Auden was commissioned to write a poem for a BBC programme about athletics - presumably tied in with the Olympic Games which were held that year in Rome.  My favourite section of 'The Runner' is the opening of the second stanza: 'The camera’s eye, Does not lie, But it cannot show, The life within,  The life of a runner' . A reminder that we can never see the interior life of the athlete - or anybody else.

More running related literature:

1 comment:

  1. This article gives the back story, including an interview with the runner who inspired it: http://lithub.com/w-h-auden-wrote-poetry-for-a-beautiful-short-film-about-running/