the more loving one, by w.h. auden
reading this poem made me think of the crisp, clear night when i saw so many stars in the endless tapestry of the night sky over Pai.
it was a coincidence – i crashed overnight at the Pai hotspring resort, in the hut/villa of friends whom i ran into. it happened because i missed the bus to Soppong (only 2 a day). their hut overlooked a padi field and offered a completely unobstructed view of the sky. i think about that night sky frequently, and how I’d love to return to that spot to stargaze with a lover.
i suppose it is true, as stanza 3 suggests, that we never realise what we are missing out on until we do. living in Singapore, where light pollution levels are one of the worst in the world, stars are a luxury we can only enjoy when we leave the country to visit the countryside in another. most of the time, we make do without. we have the beautiful moon to gaze at, and it was indeed beautiful on mid-autumn night. yet, how many of us took the time to enjoy the sight, instead of rushing off to do whatever it is we busy ourselves with?
and thus i find myself disagreeing with the persona in stanza 4, where he finds the total darkness of the ’empty sky’ sublime. there is a grandeur in the shadows and in darkness, but i suspect many of us would not notice the difference.
* * *
[failed, unintelligent, lazy attempt at ‘reader-response’]
i know, i am missing the more obvious point about [not] having an object to love that the poet seems to be lamenting. getting used to that, accepting that, is presented as a rational solution to unrequited love. i disagree with that sickening seemingly self-imposed self-sacrifice that the persona exerts on himself.
perhaps i dislike it only because the opening lines seem to describe my post break-up state only too well: “the stars…for all they care, i can go to hell”. it does feel that way, when one is cut off so abruptly and so cruelly from your beloved; when, within a month or two, your beloved’s facebook is cleared of all traces of you.
and so, which would you have? would you rather be the indifferent one, and have your beloved suffer as you do, pining for you as you have for him, or would you submit yourself to be “the more loving one”, accepting the way things are stoically, trusting the passage of time to get you used to solitude?
sometimes, i can persuade myself to be that, to wallow in unrequited love and want only the best for him. sometimes, i turn selfish and find myself nowhere near as self-sacrificial as the persona. i want him to hurt the way i have, if only to make it feel more fair, even if it serves no further purpose than having more broken hearts than necessary.