Auden, Adorno, Obscurity

Adorno writes, “Language is itself something double. Through its configurations it assimilates itself completely into subjective impulses; one would almost think it had produced them. But at the same time language remains the medium of concepts, remains that which establishes an inescapable relationship to the universal and to society” (43).

Although I had a hard time getting through this criticism, Adorno’s loose definition of lyric poetry language as having one foot in the universal and another in society, while at the same time, being subjective to impulsive associations on an individual level, began to demonstrate the varied levels that lyric poetry is functioning at. This complex approach to poetry spanning several levels of interaction across different concepts of societies was most closely associated with Auden’s poem 34, Spain, because Auden uses the word “Yesterday” and “To-morrow” in reference to several different temporal periods, each with both specific and generic details. For example, the references I picked up toward the end of the poem were “To-morrow the enlarging of consciousness by diet and/breathing” as a strangely prophetic reference to modern super-food health consciousnesses; next, “Tomorrow the rediscovery of romantic love” seemed a nod toward Romanticism, and the next, a different time, “Tomorrow the exchanging of tips on the breeding of terriers” (seems grounded in the 19th century, breeding the dogs in England and Ireland for hunting). In this manner, they create a spontaneous reaction from the frustrated reader for trying to unravel the obscure references, but at the same time remain unknown enough to maintain a cryptic-and-strangely-universal tone with lines like “The stars are dead. The animals will not look.” Is he talking about his very day, or the todays that are also the “yesterdays” and “tomorrows” of other times?