The Word ‘Intellectual’: W H Auden


To the man-in-the-street who, I’m sorry to say,

Is a keen observer of life,

The word intellectual suggests right away

A man who’s untrue to his wife.

W H Auden

Collected Shorter Poems
The illustration is ‘An intellectual near the Sorbone University, Paris’ dated 2008 by Jorgeroyan, via Wikimedia. Of course, the attachment of this photograph to this statement should in no way be taken to imply that Ratiocinativa believes the subject to be unfaithful to his wife.

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Word ‘Intellectual’: W H Auden

  1. May I add Byron’s celebrated rhyme ‘hen-peck’d you all’ in context?

    He was a mortal of the careless kind,
    With no great love for learning, or the learn’d,
    Who chose to go where’er he had a mind,
    And never dream’d his lady was concern’d;
    The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
    To see a kingdom or a house o’erturn’d,
    Whisper’d he had a mistress, some said two–
    But for domestic quarrels one will do.
    Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
    A great opinion of her own good qualities;
    Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
    And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
    But then she had a devil of a spirit,
    And sometimes mix’d up fancies with realities,
    And let few opportunities escape
    Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
    This was an easy matter with a man
    Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
    And even the wisest, do the best they can,
    Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
    That you might ‘brain them with their lady’s fan;’
    And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
    And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
    And why and wherefore no one understands.
    ‘T is pity learned virgins ever wed
    With persons of no sort of education,
    Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
    Grow tired of scientific conversation:
    I don’t choose to say much upon this head,
    I ‘m a plain man, and in a single station,
    But–Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
    Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?
    Don Jose and his lady quarrell’d–why,
    Not any of the many could divine,
    Though several thousand people chose to try,
    ‘T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
    I loathe that low vice–curiosity;
    But if there ‘s anything in which I shine,
    ‘T is in arranging all my friends’ affairs,
    Not having of my own domestic cares.

    (from the first Canto of Don Juan)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s