Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rowan Williams in the pink on Auden

It’s not every day that an Archbishop of Canterbury writes an appreciation of a dead rampant homo and his work. But then Rowan Williams – aka Beardie - is no ordinary Archbish.

He writes the foreword to today's Guardian’s booklet on WH Auden in its imaginative series on great poets of the 20th Century. It’s a thoughtful little piece. The dark and menacing Pennine imagery of Auden’s early poetry serves as a metaphor for ... “the sense of doubleness and loneliness ... that was bound up at this point in his life with Auden’s homosexuality,” Beardie writes. He alludes to Auden’s “deepest and longest-lasting sexual relationship” (he does not name Chester Kallman whom he modishly calls elsewhere Auden’s “partner”). One of the poems selected is Lullaby which includes the line about homophobic “fashionable madmen” and “their pedantic boring cry.”

All this is very fine. And yet I doubt that his Anglican Church would countenance the assumed tolerance of homosexuality, the academic detachment from the life that feeds the poetry, the empathy with human complexity. Beardie betrays not a scintilla of disapproval of Auden’s lifestyle, not even in convoluted code. And I only make this point because in 2006 Beardie said of the Church’s attitude to homosexual relationships: "I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself. Welcome is. We don't say 'Come in and we ask no questions'. I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions." In other words, no cock-cocking or cunt-cunting, matey.

However, Beardie – as a dual-minded Gemini – has grown used to saying one thing and then saying and doing another. I think his Guardian piece exhibits the true mind of Rowan Williams: liberal, inclusive, not bothered by trifles like homosexuality; enlightened. He’d make a great humanist. But faced by the trad beardies in his Church he pirouettes about citing the collective position rather than the personal.

I can’t think why Rowan Williams would want to be part of a Church of fashionable madmen, listening to their pedantic boring cry. Perhaps he just likes dressing up.

11 comments:

drf said...

I always heard that the relationship between Auden and his partner was not sexual - Auden wanted it to be, Kallman didn't. They had sex at the very beginning but almost at once Kallman decided that this wasn't the way to go and agreed to become Auden's partner only on condition that each found their sexual outlets elsewhere.

with best wishes, Duncan Fallowell

Madame Arcati said...

True. Johyn Bayley summed it up in a review of Auden In Love -

"Auden's agape had sheltered Kallman like the wings of the dove and its removal was the end of him. Though he had the same faults of envy and destructiveness, Kallman was the opposite of that archetypal diabolic boyfriend, Lord Alfred Douglas. He needed to be loved, and the older man needed to love him.

"Kallman refused any permanent sexual relations with Auden and disclaimed any notion of possession of fidelity, although Auden paid for and looked after him and found him his jobs. Auden suffered much ... "

Anonymous said...

I think many of the African bishops will go barmy when they read about this. Williams should cut his losses and lead the Church of England into the 21st Century. Who cares if he's left with a quarter of his present congregation? Leave the rest with their haps and their claps.

Duralex said...

<< I think his Guardian piece exhibits the true mind of Rowan Williams: liberal, inclusive, not bothered by trifles like homosexuality; enlightened. He’d make a great humanist. >>

Applause, applause. Too bad it's paradoxically not always obvious that this "true mind" is yours as well.

Madame Arcati said...

My interest is in slebs who play the media like a violin, promoting their wares but pleading personal privacy. I always have a laugh about that.

Anonymous said...

You say Dr Williams is a Gemini but I have noticed that you too Madame are "dual minded", just as likely to adopt one position one minute as to say the very opposite in the next with no sense of embarrassment or discomfort. Perhaps you and the fine Archbishop are related? Certainly you are right to say that Dr Williams occupies an awkward position on the matter of gays in the Church. Some might call it economical on integrity.

Anonymous said...

At least he's not the Bishop of Motherwell - wanting gays banned from attending Holocaust memorial services. It's all a massive conspiracy apparently...


http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/news/display.var.2115192.0.Fury_at_bishops_gay_persecution_claim.php

Anonymous said...

Dear Madame, I never quite know how serious you are. You take Dr Williams to task for his literary appreciation of Auden but then redundantly bring in the matter of his star sign. Is it that you select themes merely to advertise your hobby horses? Or you post things merely to irritate?

Duralex said...

<< My interest is in slebs who play the media like a violin, promoting their wares but pleading personal privacy. >>

Ah, because promoting one's "cultural wares" necessarily implies that one must display their private life ? Première nouvelle (that's a new one on me) !

Recusant said...

It might help if you knew a little more about Auden. In particular his embrace of Catholicism towards the end of his life.

Madame Arcati said...

His "embrace of Catholicism" towards the end of his life is irrelevant to this post. It might help if you read what's under your nose, Pope lover.