August 31, 2008

In my lifetime trains were an omnipresent part my everyday life. I left my home to go away to the Air Force by train. Trains were an alternative mode of transportation to get us where we had to go. Up to recently I awoke sometimes to the sounds of train activity from across our town. Through most of my life in our town and most other towns you could not go from one side to another without having to wait for a passing train. I miss them and wish they would make a comeback. In these troubled times of energy crisis springing up frequently it might be a good idea.

This poem written by W.H. Auden in the thirties brings back memories of the day of the train, and also in
stanza three another activity that has in fact disappeared into memory, and that is letter writing. The letters we used to write with pen and ink. I was never very good at it, and in fact much prefer email, but you have to admit getting a letter on paper, written in ink, and sent in a stamped envelope means something a whole lot different. You were receiving something personal, it felt that way, and in some romantic instances it even smelled nice. Email can't do that.

Anyways, I miss those days, I suppose because it is part of my past. You understand.


by W.H. Auden (1907 - 1973)

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.


Dawn freshens. Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.


Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.


Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

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