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Thomas R. Thornburg
BALL STATE MONOGRAPH NUMBER FIFTEEN
Prospero, the Magician-Artist: Auden's The Sea and the Mirror
Thomas R. Thornburg
Instructor in English Ball State University
BALL STATE MONOGRAPH NUMBER FIFTEEN Publications in English, No. 10 Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana 47306 1969
Excerpts from The Sea and the Mirror by W. H. Auden, copyright 1944 by W. H. Auden, are reprinted from THE COLLECTED POETRY OF W. H. AUDEN by permission of Random House, Inc.
@ Thomas R. Thornburg 1969 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-83289
This essay is for Mary Parrish, who taught me when I was a Wilson boy.
to Jon Lawry, Alfred Marks, Frances Mayhew Rippy, Gertrude Kane, Walter McCormack, Mary Mayfield, Mae King, and, especially, Joseph Satterwhite.
1 Setting and Symbol 6 Prospero to Ariel: A Farewell to Magic 15 The Supporting Cast: The Effect of Magic 25 Caliban to the Audience: The Failure of Magic
Setting and Symbol
Auden's The Sea and the Mirror is, as several scholars have suggested and as Frederick McDowell has emphasized, the poet's masterpiece. 1 Certainly the scope of the piece, the more than occasional lyric beauty of the verse which fills its first half, and the probing, yet speculative intensity of the prose portion ("Caliban to the Audience") demand for the work more serious attention than readers have thus far given it in the twenty-four years since its appearance. Perhaps of more significance than its lyric passages, its frequent manifestation of Auden's ability (rare in these times) to employ extremely difficult traditional forms, 2 and its philosophical essence (its theme, if the piece may be said even to possess a theme) 3 is that the work comprises an artistic presentation of the poet's aesthetics. During his tenure as a chief man of letters in this time, Auden has in his poetry and his critical pronouncements sought consistently to establish what he views as the proper role of the poet, of the artist. Further, he has sought untiringly to provide to his own satisfaction a meaningful melange of what he has determined to be the three major postures an artist may assume, as well as to identify the three postures themselves. The poet has suggested, and his own work has from time to time reflected the suggestion, that the artist may give himself simply to entertaining his audience, that he may simply introduce his reader to "a pure world of play." 4 Besides the relatively innocent role of entertainer, however, Auden suggests that the poet may assume the role of a magician, a kind of propagandist who works a verbal magic and whose art becomes a means of enchanting its audience—of introducing its audience not to a world of play, of innocence, but to a
See, e.g., Frederick P. W. McDowell, "The Situation of Our Time: Auden in His American Phase," in Aspects of American Poetry: Essays Presented to Howard Mum ford Jones (Columbus, 1962), ed. Richard M. Ludwig, pp. 223-55; Francis Scarfe, H. Auden (Monaco, 1949), p. 49; Mark Schorer, "Auden, Shakespeare and Jehovah," New York Times Book Review (September 17, 1944), p. 4; Edward Callan, "The Development of W. H. Auden's Poetic Theory Since 1940," Twentieth Century Literature, IV (October, 1958), 84; and Bent Sunesen, "'All We Are Not Stares Back At What We Are': A Note on Auden," English Studies, XL (December, 1959), 430-49. Cf. Joseph Warren Beach, The Making of the Auden Canon (Minneapolis, 1957), p. 296. 2 McDowell, "The Situation of Our Time," passim. ' Its theme, according to Edward Callan, "is the relationship between art and reality." For a sometime valuable assessment of Auden's subject matter, see Edward Callan, "Auden's 'New Year Letter': A New Style of Architecture," Renascence, XVI (1963), 13-19. Hayden Carruth, "Understanding Auden," Nation, CLXXIII (December, 1951), 550.
world which affords a kind of intellectual and ethical surrogate of the real world. 5 The true function of the poet, however, is neither to be entertainer (insipid, empty) nor magician (a poetic liar, for Auden, one capable of real harm). 6 For Auden, the true artist holds up for his audience the "mirror of nature," providing for that audience the truthful reflection of itself—of its own human condition. The proper role of the artist is that of disenchanter; he must, above all else, tell truths. The proper sphere of his art form is that of disenchantment— "its proper effect, in fact, is disenchanting." 7 But what of the fusion of the three postures—and what of the danger of one's work becoming only a kind of magic, or perhaps mere entertainment, in spite of the artist's intention? For Auden, the artist must somehow work a marriage in his art form between the stern realities of the human condition and the equivalent reality—never to be discounted—of the poetic presentation. He must, Auden would say, wed Aridl and Caliban, providing the synthesis of reality and poetic caprice. Only having provided this synthesis has the poet fulfilled his role as artist; only then might he profess to have answered the responsibility of his high art. Having presented a mirror for the human condition in his art form, the artist is necessarily incapable of preventing his art's being seen as a kind of magic if the audience insists on viewing it as such. There are areas in which the poet is powerless; having relinquished his work to its audience, he can only hope for understanding. 8 Whether an intended magic or not, then, for Auden the failure of art may be said to be that of its being viewed as a kind of magic, enchanting rather than properly disenchanting its audience. Thus it is that Auden's Prospero is a figure representative of the failed-artist, indeed, representing Auden himself in that he realizes the potential
The reason for Auden's well-known intense dislike for Shelley stems probably from that poet's claiming poets to be "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," a phrase which for Auden "more aptly describes the secret police." For much the same reason, Auden dislikes Kipling's work, e.g., the much-quoted lines from "If": "If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds worth of distance run, / Yours is the earth and everything that's in it, / And, which is more / you'll be a man, my son" may be sound advice for potential mile runners, but only that. °Auden, "The Poet of the Encirclement," New Republic, CIX (October, 1943), 579-81; Auden, "The Guilty Vicarage: Notes on the Detective Story, by an Addict," HarPer's, CXCVI (May, 1948), 406-12; Auden, "Squares and Oblongs," Poets at Work (New York, 1948), pp. 163-81; Stephen Spender, "W. H. Auden and His Poetry," Atlantic, CXCII (July, 1953), 74-79; and John Bayley, The Romantic Survival (New Jersey, 1957), p. 148. Auden, "The Poet of the Encirclement," p. 579. 8 .A. philosophical piece, what Auden would call a "Prospero dominated" piece, might become for its audience only an entertaining little story. See, e.g., my article "Mother's Private Ghost: A Note on Frost's 'The Witch of Coos,' " in a forthcoming issue of Ball State University
magical quality of his own ante-Sea and the Mirror verse. 9 In his magic (symbolically, magic-art), Prospero succeeds only in partially disenchanting certain of the people who come under its sway, who partake of his art. As for the two chief characters who refuse his art —Caliban and Antonio—it is Antonio who refuses the mirror because he "loves himself alone" and is therefore disinterested in the human condition generally, 19 while Caliban it is who "sprawls in the weeds and will not be repaired"—who represents that very human condition excepted from Prospero's enchanted circle of those for whom his art has provided only a new enchantment, those who go "like children in a ring, dancing." The subtitle of The Sea and the Mirror is "A Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tempest." Although Auden's piece employs Tempest characters and is set on an island, little actual commentary on The Tempest exists; 11 the only direct commentary is that of Caliban in his prose speech, and his remarks have to do with Shakespeare (as a poetic figure), rather than the poet's Tempest. That commentary, however, is significant in that Auden suggests that Shakespeare, too, understood the danger of his art's becoming a kind of magic. There exists an affinity between Auden and Shakespeare in that Shakespeare's poetic Prospero is a symbolic antecedent of Auden and his use of the Prospero symbol. 12 Probably for both poets, and for Auden certainly, Prospero exists as the poetic persona, musingly rendering "a detached moving reflection of life. . . ."; 13 thus it is that the peroration of the stage manager's speech reminds us that "ripeness is all." For Auden's Prospero, in his art, has come to the knowledge that beside the mirrored truth of his art, all the rest is indeed silence; and ripeness (the ripeness, for Auden, of the coming to age in time of his art form) is indeed all, both the coming hither and the going hence. Auden's Prospero, then, represents an artist-figure whose art is viewed as magic by his audience (the supporting cast) in the play. It is in this fashion that Prospero becomes a magician-artist, in this manner that the posture of magic is artistically introduced by Auden.
Particularly that of the 1930's, in which "he constantly recurs to the moral and cultural state of the world— . . . he is perpetually ringing the changes on the popular slogans, 'It is later than you think,' and 'You can't go home again.' He is frankly and boldly didactic. . . ." See Joseph Warren Beach, "Poems of Auden and Prose Diathesis," Virginia Quarterly Review, XXV (July, 1949), 367. 19 A condition reflected by the novelist, who "must / Become the whole of boredom, subject to / Vulgar complaints, like love; among the just / Be just, among the filthy filthy too; / And in his own weak person, if he can, / Must suffer dully all the wrongs of man." u Richard Hoggart, Auden: An Introductory Essay (New Haven, 1951), p. 26. 12 Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. Francis Fergusson (New York, 1965), p. 170. 12 Ibid.
Auden's Ariel represents a poetic presentation of the posture of entertainment (in himself alone, Prospero's "boy"), while Caliban's is the symbolic manifestation of the reality of the human condition, so necessary for the mirror of art. An excerpt from a well-known Auden essay may clarify this point: We want a poem to be beautiful, that is to say, a verbal earthly
paradise, a timeless world of pure play, which gives us delight precisely because of its contrast to our historical existence with all its insoluble problems and inescapable suffering; at the same time we want a poem to be true, that is to say, to provide us with some kind of revelation about our life which will show us what life is really like and free us from self-enchantment and deception, and a poet cannot bring us any truth without introducing into his poetry the problematic, the painful, the disorderly, the ug l y ,14
The passage from "Robert Frost" constitutes a reiteration, actually, of what Auden has said previously regarding the artistic postures, and it affords a clue towards understanding the postures as they appear in their Sea and the Mirror form. In the excerpt, all those judgments preceding the semicolon are indicative of the posture of entertainment, the "poetry as play" syndrome so frequently associated with Auden; those following the semicolon, of art, for it is Caliban's "painful, problematic" world which Prospero ideally introduces. In the play, however, that painful reality escapes Prospero-poet, and his art fails of any real significance. Besides his dramatis personae, Shakespeare's island setting is significant for Auden's purpose in the play. Auden's use of island imagery and allegorical landscape has been examined by at least two critics, and Auden himself has dealt with a critical analysis of the island in literature. 15 Of Auden's landscape imagery, Richard Hoggart says:
To turn abstractions into terms of allegorical landscapes seems indeed to be characteristic of Auden's mind. Conversely, a landscape can bring to mind, sharply and symbolically, some abstract comment on life or the psyche. 16
Auden's penchant for the island as symbol is reflected in such poems as "Paysage Moralise," "The Voyage," "The Orators," "Journey to
Auden, "Robert Frost," The Dyer's Hand (New York, 1963), p. 338. Auden, The Enchafed Flood (New York, 1950). See especially "The Sea and the Desert," fuissim. Hoggart, Introductory Essay, p. 26.
Iceland," "Atlantis," and others. Of Auden's island symbolism, Joseph Warren Beach says: . . . islands are dangerous and to be avoided because, as etymology would indicate, they isolate us; they remove us from reality and from our fellows into a private dream world that weakens and betrays us. . . . Islands are associated with sensuality and with childish dependence on one's father. . . . The island, then, is a place where the disturbing realities of the world are not present, and those disturbed by their erotic indulgences may imagine themselves pure again, their sense of guilt washed away. . . . It is true that in crossing water you enter the realm of magic. Islands are magical and deceptive. . . . islands stand for the illusory world of dreams, of wish-fulfillment, and whoever indulges in such dreams is bound to be cruelly disillusioned when he comes up against the world of everyday reality. 1 7 This passage is entirely indicative of the use of the island setting and its symbolic significance for Auden's play, for the island, symbolically, is the place where Prospero can work what becomes his magic. The island, having removed Prospero and most of the others from reality, is exactly that "illusory world of dreams"; it is the place where enchantment might occur. It is Prospero's cruel disillusionment which occurs when he faces the sullen mask of everyday realityCaliban. The specific disillusionment is Prospero's failure in his art, his magic, manifested in his wish to get off his island. Thus, Auden's symbolical use of Shakespearean character and setting.
Joseph Warren Beach, Obsessive Images (Minneapolis, 1960), pp. 120-29, passim.
Prospero to Ariel: A Farewell to Magic
The aged catch their breath, For the nonchalant couple go Waltzing across the tightrope As if there were no death Or hope of falling down; The wounded cry as the clown Doubles his meaning, and 0 How the dear little children laugh When the drums roll and the lovely Lady is sawn in half.t
So the play opens with the stage manager's speech, a commentary on a situation with a circus-like aura in which ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages are being entertained. The aged, who are so close to death, are astounded at the ease with which the entertainers toy with death: all is order and precision; there are no accidents; the couple "waltzes" across the rope. There is, in fact, even no "hope" of what Auden has called "the miraculous birth"; the lovely lady is sawn in half, much to the delight of children who, for the time being, are not going to fall through the ice "on a pond, at the edge of the woods. . . ." 19 No one, in short, is going to be hurt by the entertainment. No one will die. There may be a hope that someone will fall, but the entertainers do not show it, for what the aged and the little children watch in no fashion reflects their true condition, a condition, we are reminded, where there is death and where people are entertained and where, indeed, the "hope" that someone will fall is what makes the act so entertaining. So it is that the first section of the stage manager's address is devoted to entertainment. After a break in the text, the stage manager begins a commentary on a typical instance of the posture of entertainment's becoming that of magic:
0 what authority gives Existence its surprise? Science is happy to answer
This and all following excerpts from The Sea and the Mirror are taken from The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York, 1945), pp. 351-404. 19 Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts."
That the ghosts who haunt our lives Are handy with mirrors and wire, That song and sugar and fire, Courage and come-hither eyes Have a genius for taking pains. But how does one think up a habit? Our wonder, our terror remains.
If the reader will recall, the posture of magic is used to advise, to give a set of values, and those who deal in magic are authorities of a sort. The question is the audience's question: "Who are those people who make such surprising analyses of life (Existence)?" The world of fact (Science), Auden says, is willing to call all art a kind of magic; the ghosts, then, are magicians, people who give advice; their tools (mirrors and wire) are the tools of their magical trade. The second question, however, signals the failure of magic, for what "code" can we adopt to be habitually good? What outside force can teach us to lead the good life always? No answer is given; we are still fearful, still full of awe. And as magic inevitably fails us, just so do those who would use the artist as magician fail us, those who actually want the artist to become a sort of propagandist: • . . when the mansion of the West is a heap of smoking rubble,
• . . the helpless authorities turn as a last resort to the artist and promise him all . . . if he will forsake the artistic life and become an official magician, who uses his talents to arouse in the inert masses the passions which the authorities consider socially desirable and necessary, 2 o
Thus, for Auden, the culpability of magician-artists, as well as those who would make the artist a sycophant to their own political purpose. The third part of the stage manager's address, which has had to do thus far with entertainment and magic, is concerned with the posture of art; the first four lines reflect, again, the artifice of entertainment and magic, and the attempt of those two postures to relieve us of our actual condition. The allusion in the first four lines to original sin (Flesh/Devil) is strengthened by a capitalization which is an ironical comment on the attempt of magic to absolve us of our guilt: 21
Art opens the fishiest eye To the Flesh and the Devil who heat The Chamber of Temptation
Auden, "Henry James and the Artist," HarPer's, CXCVII (July, 1946), 39. Cf. Gabriel's speech in Auden's For The Time Being.
Where heroes roar and die. We are wet with sympathy now; Thanks for the evening; but how Shall we satisfy when we meet, Between Shall-I and The lion's mouth whose hunger No metaphors can fill?
The heroes who "roar and die" in entertainment are artificial; those of magic are unreal; the point is that neither the entertainment nor the magic will last. They are good only for "now." The "lion's mouth" metaphor rings in the "terror and wonder" again, the terror and wonder of life, the true condition; the question is, what does magic give us, where are the metaphors to fill the lion's mouth? There are, alas, none. And so, the stage manager concludes, there is only art:
Well, who in his own backyard Has not opened his heart to the smiling Secret he cannot quote? Which goes to show that the Bard Was sober when he wrote That this world of fact we love Is unsubstantial stuff: All the rest is silence On the other side of the wall; And the silence ripeness, And the ripeness all.
"Who in his own backyard" has not faced the human conundrum; what "little fever," having "heard large afternoons at play," has not longed to "be his father's house and speak his mother tongue," 22 has not become aware, in short, of that "smiling secret," the enigma of his own human condition? The world of fact we love is, perhaps, only the fact we fancy it to be, wishing as we do to be enchanted. But this is not, Auden would have us know, the world of art, for art it is that mirrors the true reality; art, that truly disenchants. Once effected, that ripeness, once achieved, is all. The rest is silence. The figure who has come his noisy way to silence, who has come to new knowledge, is Prospero, who decides to forego his magic. Initiating his farewell, Prospero notes that his leaving affects only himself; his separation from Ariel will not affect Ariel. Entertainment, if only
See Auden's The Quest: A Sonnet Sequence.
that, will continue to abound: "Ages to you of song and daring, and to me / Briefly Milan, then earth." Where Prospero goes now, death is: ". . . at last I can really believe I shall die," which was hitherto not the case at all,
For under your [Ariel's] influence death is unconceivable; On walks through winter woods, a bird's dry carcass Agitates the retina with novel images, A stranger's quiet collapse in a noisy street Is the beginning of much lively speculation, And every time some dear flesh disappears What is real is the arriving grief; thanks to your service, The lonely and unhappy are very much alive. . . .
Ariel's act continues to go on, "as if there were no death"; the irony gains weight, "thanks to your service," the lonely and the unhappy, who have seen no mirroring of their reality in Ariel's merely entertaining mirror, are more alive than ever. Thus it is that Prospero's farewell is, metaphorically, the casting of his books into the sea: But now all these heavy books are no use to me any more, for
Where I go [into reality], words of magic carry no weight: it is best, Then, I surrender their fascinating counsel To the silent dissolution of the sea Which misuses nothing because it values nothing; Whereas man overvalues everything Yet, when he learns the price is pegged to his valuation, Complains bitterly that he is being ruined ..
So Prospero comes to reality. Before he came to that reality, however, Prospero explains that he had resolved to flee it, to make great changes in the world:
When I woke into my life, a sobbing dwarf 23 Whom giants served only as they pleased, I was not what I seemed; Beyond their busy backs I made a magic To ride away from a father's imperfect justice, Take vengeance on the Romans for their grammar,
Determined to fashion a new reality, Prospero had determined to get things done, to give advice (take vengeance on the Romans for their grammar), to escape an "imperfect justice," a phrase which echoes Auden's discussion of true art "where we may know the Law as Love
Cf. Auden's "Mundus et Infans."
and not the law. . . ." 24 Prospero had not understood that justice for what it was—Love. 25 Now disenchanted, Prospero knows reality:
Now, Ariel, I am that I am, your late and lonely master, Who knows what magic is;—the power to enchant That comes from disillusion. What the books can teach one Is that most desires end up in stinking ponds, . .
One recalls the "ugly reality" of Caliban's tumbling in the pond of horse urine in Shakespeare's Tempest. Knowing this reality at last, Prospero addresses Ariel finally as the poetic muse, the necessary lyric corollary to Caliban, their artistic synthesis the mirror of our human selves, the echo of our voice:
But we have only to learn to sit still and give no orders, To make you offer us your echo and your mirror; We have only to believe you, then you dare not lie; To ask for nothing, and at once from your calm eyes, With their lucid proof of apprehension and disorder, All we are not stares back at what we are. For all things In your company, can be themselves: . . . Thus it is that the disenchantment of art occurs.
Following another break in the text, Prospero speaks in typical Audenesque song, in which he reminds us that people may not want the disenchantment of art; indeed, that they probably prefer magic, what "all of us, high-brow and low-brow alike, may secretly want art to be." Prospero sings:
Could he but once see Nature as In truth she is forever, What oncer would not fall in love? Hold up your mirror, boy, to do Your vulgar friends this favour: One peep, though, will be quite enough; To those who are not true, A statue with no figleaf has A pornographic flavour.
There are always those, Prospero says, who are not "true," those who wish to be enchanted. Following his song, Prospero speaks of the artist's relation to his muse, in this case, Prospero's to Arid; he speaks also of those char24
Auden, "The Guilty Vicarage," imssim. Cf. Auden's "Herman Melville."
acters who have come under his own magic-art's sway, who have adopted a new enchantment. Prospero then returns to a further consideration of the failure of entertainment and magic (another ironical little song), and, following that song, he reviews his work as a magician. It is at this point that one may see most clearly Auden's own profile under Prospero's paint. Knowing reality, Prospero says, he is now free, for having been convinced of the efficacy of his magic, he had, not surprisingly, enchanted himself. At the same time, however, Ariel's freedom (the artificial freedom entertainment provides) was a freedom of sorts. The problem is that entertainment wears thin; it will not last. For Prospero, however, "Today I am free and no longer need your freedom. . . ." For others that freedom does not exist; Ariel, Prospero knows, is potently persuasive: there will be other "likely victims" whom Ariel can lead "absurdly by their self-important noses." The Prospero-Ariel union, Prospero says, has resulted only in a kind of magic because of the exclusion of Caliban; that union has resulted only in an implacable hatred (Antonio's) and an "'impervious disgrace" (Caliban, himself): . . . thanks to us both [Ariel and Prospero] I have broken
Both of the promises I made as an apprentice;— To hate nothing and to ask nothing for its love. • . . Caliban remains my impervious disgrace. We did it, Ariel, between us; you found on me a wish For absolute devotion; result—his wreck That sprawls in the weeds and will not be repaired: My dignity discouraged by a pupil's curse, I shall go knowing and incompetent into my grave.
One recalls Shakespeare's Caliban, who worshipped his master's power, who, given speech, could curse. For Auden's Prospero, the failing is that of the magical in literature; e.g., Caliban lies wrecked as a result of that magic, metaphorically, in Prospero's hands. Caliban's "absolute devotion" is that of the fealty pledged to his magical master, who realizes, too late, that he has failed his art. Following a break in the text, Prospero, musing about the possible effect his magic has had on others in the cast, speaks specifically of Sebastian, Alonso, Trinculo, and Stephano. The magician notes that all of these people have been changed by his magic, and "to all, then, but me, their pardons," the point being that they will never pardon 11
Prospero. They are enchanted by his magic, their lives unreal, and when the inevitable disenchantment occurs—magic cannot last—they will blame him for having dabbled in their lives. The greatest worry is that for Ferdinand and Miranda:
Will Ferdinand be as fond of a Miranda Familiar as a stocking? Will a Miranda who is No longer a silly lovesick little goose, When Ferdinand and his brave world are her profession, Go into raptures over existing at all?
For that "existing" is real; the "stocking familarity," although held in abeyance by "the hours of fuss and fury, the conceit, the expense" must inevitably occur. Knowing that which Ferdinand and lovesick Miranda do not, Prospero is left only his wit, his irony, which are manifested in his song. Bidding Ariel to sing, Prospero reflects, again, upon the emptiness of the merely entertaining and the real danger of the magical. There is, he sings, the world of play only:
Sing first that green remote Cockagne Where whiskey-rivers run, And every gorgeous number may Be laid by anyone; . . .
There is the need for enchantment, for an artificial sureness:
Tell then of witty angels who Come only to the beasts, Of Heirs Apparent who prefer Low dives to formal feasts; For shameless Insecurity Prays for a boot to lick, And many a sore bottom finds A sorer one to kick.
There is the lie of magic, what Auden has called "agit-prop" art, a kind of corporative catharsis meant to serve a sinister end:
Wind up, though, on a moral note;— That Glory will go bang, Schoolchildren shall cooperate, And honest rogues must hang; Because our sound committee man Has murder in his heart: But should you catch a living eye, Just wink as you depart.
If that is what they want, Prospero says to Ariel, give it to them—and wink at the truth. But the song will not suffice for Prospero, who feels "as if I had been on a drunk since I was born," and who is now, knowing reality, "cold sober." Knowing his magic for what it is, Prospero says, he must forsake it, to take the journey that "really exists." It is prescisely at this juncture that Prospero is obviously Auden himself, reviewing, it would seem, his ante-Sea and Mirror verse. Of that verse, John Bayley says:
Magic persists . . . the unromantic and satirical approach can itself lead to the state of aesthetic equilibrium and completeness which constitutes Magic. The more perceptive and unified the approach, the greater chance that the intelligent reader will simply sit back and enjoy the situation. . . • 26
"The unromantic and satirical approach" reminds us of the "lively speculation" occasioned by "a stranger's quiet collapse," the "bird's dry carcass" which "agitates the retina with novel images," of which Prospero has already spoken. But now, Prospero says, he must take his journey, a journey that before might have been only a useful collection of symbols for him: The symbols . . . were mainly these: the difficult journey from home, the keeping of the mountain passes, disused mines and factories, rusting machinery, military tactics and discipline, infiltration by the enemy . . . landscapes and geography (mountains, islands, cities) and the familiar features of an industrial England. .27 Now "cold sober," Prospero says it was for him "as if through the ages I had dreamed"
About some tremendous journey I was taking, Sketching imaginary landscapes, chasms and cities, Cold walls, hot spaces, wild mouths, defeated backs, Jotting down fictional notes on secrets overheard In theatres and privies, banks and mountain inns, And now, in my old age, I wake, and this journey really exists, And I have actually to take it, inch by inch, Alone and on foot, . . .
John Bayley, The Romantic Survival, p. 162. Joseph Warren Beach, "Poems of Auden and Prose Diathesis," p. 367.
So, Prospero says, he will forsake magic, to become perhaps "just like other old men . . . forgetful, maladroit, a little grubby, . . ." But he wonders, as Auden himself perhaps was at the time wondering, whether he can learn to "be quiet, and sit still." . . . Can I learn to suffer Without saying something ironic or funny On suffering? . . • 28 There is little doubt that Auden is thinking of himself in this context. Throughout the entirety of his long speech, Prospero reflects Auden's previous critical pronouncements. Having come to his knowledge of reality, Prospero must now face death (the "stumping question"), but to Ariel (entertainment, minus the reality of art itself) "that doesn't matter." So Prospero bids his magic sprite, his "unfeeling god," to sing:
Sweetly, dangerously Lucidly out Of the dozing tree, Entrancing, rebuking The raging heart With a smoother song Than this rough world,
Return to your world, Prospero says, to your "dozing tree" where there is no sorrow, no despair:
0 brilliantly, lightly, Unanxious one, sing Trembling he [Prospero] takes The silent passage Into discomfort.
"He [Auden] is, perhaps, thinking of himself. . . ." Richard Hoggart, Introductory Essay, p. 216.
The Supporting Cast: The Effect of Magic
The speeches of the supporting cast begin with a speech by Antonio, the being outside Prospero's magic. It is Antonio who introduces what we may accept as the reason for Prospero's effort in his magic-art; the truth, Antonio says, is that Prospero wanted everybody to be "reconciled," to love one another. Antonio, however, loves no one save himself (as Prospero has already guessed), and he mocks Prospero and his efforts in magic-making: Yes, Brother Prospero, your grouping could
Not be more effective: given a few Incomplete objects and a nice warm day, What a lot a little music can do.
Antonio delights in reminding Prospero that his magic-art is nothing more than "a little music," and it is Antonio whose mocking refrain appears at the end of the speech of every other character, who assures Prospero that so long as he (Antonio) exists, the magician's art is a failure, no matter how the magician tries:
. . • while I stand outside Your circle, the will to charm is still there. 2 9
It is Antonio who represents those who refuse the magic because they are suspicious of it; the suspicion itself is that the art is really only magic-art, enchanting, but only that. So it is that Antonio can mock Prospero with his failure, for while Antonio remains himself (a state of being which may or may not be one of phantasy), Prospero never really succeeds:
Your all is partial, Prospero; My will is all my own: Your need to love shall never know Me: I am I, Antonio, By choice myself alone.
Following Antonio's speech there is a discourse by Ferdinand, who is quite obviously still caught in his "era of mirrors and muddle," and
See Auden's The Poet of the Encirclement," passim.
who is avidly in love with Miranda. Ferdinand says that it is enough that he and Miranda possess one another, "As world is offered world . . ." and it is this very immature line of thought that brings Prospero's conjecture as to whether Ferdinand will love Miranda "familiar as a stocking." But, Ferdinand says of himself and Miranda that ". . . neither without either could or would possess, / The Right Required Time, The Real Right Place, 0 Light." Ferdinand and Miranda have been enchanted by the magician-artist's work; they have not been properly disenchanted. Antonio mocks the enchanted as well as the enchanter: "Hot Ferdinand will never know" the passion that is Antonio's, and which is his alone. The failure of magic-art with Stephano is a different failing, but a failing none the less. All Stephano has managed to do is get drunk again, a thing at which he seems to have been fairly adept all along. While other apostrophes are addressed to other persons, Stephano's is addressed to his own belly: "Embrace me, belly, like a bride; . . ." Stephano, yet a drunkard, has not been disenchanted at all; he can neither be seriously comic nor comically serious; he speaks of his belly, the sensual life, as "Wise nanny, with a vulgar pooh." He puns at drinking glasses, which have helped enchant him, and mirrors (The Mirror) which have failed to disenchant him: "Exhausted glasses wonder who / Is self and sovereign, I or You?" Stephano carries on his own phantasy; his life revolves from drinking bout to drinking bout: "A lost thing looks for a lost name." Stephano is a past failure presently failing. He represents one of the many for whom the Mirror (art) offers a warped picture (I or You); consequently, Prospero's failure continues to be what he feared—magic-art. So, Stephano is static in his magic world; the drunkard is oblivious and slightly self-sympathetic in his inebriation; and Antonio, outside the circle, continues to mock:
Inert Stephano does not know The feast at which Antonio Toasts One and One alone.
Prospero's failure continues with Gonzalo, who has exchanged one enchantment for another, although he does not know it. He gazes back fondly on ". .. that island where / All our loves were altered .. ." and he remembers that his error was in making "Consolation an offence." 30 Auden's Gonzalo seems to feel that it was his harping on
Cf. The Tempest,
the supposed loss of Ferdinand that brought about the plot on Alonso's life, 31 and he knows that that was wrong—an enchantment. But, his enchantment continues: Gonzalo is still enchanted because he believes that "All have seen the Commonwealth, / There is nothing to forgive." He assuages his remembrance of having failed once 32 by presuming (fallaciously) that even old men have their places:
Even rusting flesh can be A simple locus now, a bell The Already There can lay Hands on if at any time It should feel inclined to say To the lonely—'Here I am,' To the anxious—'All is well.' One must remember that it was Arid, doing Prospero's bidding, who
belled Gonzalo. 33 Gonzalo is not disenchanted; he has merely been granted a different phantasy. Antonio speaks waspishly of "Decayed Gonzalo" who knows nothing, really. Adrian and Francisco are given a typical Audenesque couplet as their only speech in the play, and the couplet has to do with their obvious fascination with Ariel's sleight-of-hand tricks in making the banquet disappear. Of all the characters in the play, it is Adrian and Francisco who are entirely captivated by entertainment only. Prospero's attempt has no effect on this pair; Ariel, however, shows them entertainment and they adore it. They are intrigued by the play within the play; thus it is that they are given the droll little couplet:
Good little sunbeams must learn to fly, But it's madly ungay when the goldfish die.
Antonio refuses to be part of that audience, too. Still refusing the mirror, he reminds Prospero: "Nor Adrian nor Francisco know / The drama that Antonio / Plays in his head alone." Alonso's speech is addressed to Ferdinand, the heir apparent to his throne. The speech is a rather long one, since Alonso is concerned with past failures and his present state (misnamed success, understanding), as well as with the future of his son. Alonso speaks alternately of "sunburnt" situations and "watery depths," of "fire" and "ice"; he warns Ferdinand of becoming too enamoured with himself, since time (death, which Alonso must face) will be intolerant of him:
n Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid.
Remember as bells and cannon boom The cold deep that does not envy you, The sunburnt superficial kingdom Where a king is an object. 34
Alonso continues to advise Ferdinand and to employ his hot-cold image; he tells Ferdinand to expect no help from a king's sycophants who make magic, who do not appreciate a king's position: • . . In their Royal Zoos the Shark and the octopus are tactfully Omitted; synchronised clocks march on Within their powers: without, remain The ocean flats where no subscription Concerts are given, the desert plain Where there is nothing for lunch. 35 Alonso says that Ferdinand, if he becomes proud and blind as Alonso was once, can only hope for a new understanding, and a new tempest:
That the whirlwind may arrange your will And the deluge release it to find The spring in the desert, the fruitful Island in the sea, where flesh and mind Are delivered from mistrust.
The mirror that has disenchanted Alonso has given him a new enchantment in that he imagines all who left the island are "delivered from mistrust." Alonso merely substantiates Antonio's accusation and Prospero's apprehension; the failure of magic-art continues; the mirror has not properly disenchanted; a new phantasy is introduced. Antonio's mocking refrain signals the failure of magic-art:
My empire is my own; Dying Alonso does not know . . . The enchantment evidenced by the Master and Boatswain is that of delicious, hopeless nostalgia; the two old sailors have been disenchanted to the degree that they can take stock of what appears to be their errant ways, but a new enchantment is imposed because of their viewing themselves as old romantic rakes. For them, the mirror has presented a warped picture; the art has become magic-art again. Thus, they brag a bit:
Ibid., Ariel's song: "Full fathoms five. . . ." See Richard Hoggart, Introductory Essay, p, 26.
At Dirty Dick's and Sloppy Joe's We drank our liquor straight, . . .
Thus, their disenchantment:
And two by two like cat and mouse The homeless played at keeping house. . . .
Thus, their bravado (enchantment recurring):
I was not looking for a cage In which to mope in my old age. . . . Again, the disenchantment, the bravado, the enchantment in one: The nightingales are sobbing in The orchards of our mothers, And hearts that we broke long ago Have long been breaking others; Tears are round, the sea is deep: Roll them overboard and sleep.
Without the symbolic manifestation of the three postures in the play, the Master-Boatswain speech is rather senseless; with it, it becomes one of the most telling of the entire play. Antonio choruses:
Nostalgic sailors do not know The waters where Antonio Sails on and on alone.
Probably the only truly disenchanted figure in the entire play is Sebastian, and to him Auden has given what are probably the best lines of the play. Sebastian speaks in an intricate blank-versed pattern of six line stanzas, in which a crown, a dream, and a sword symbolically work. The dream is the dream of unreality, of phantasy, of enchantment; the crown serves as the symbol of further enchantment; the sword serves as the symbol of reality, of disenchantment. Of course, the three symbols are turned about a bit: the sword is that with which Sebastian meant to kill Alonso, and, poetically, it becomes Sebastian's saving grace (his disenchantment); the crown is that which Antonio promised him; and the dream is that sleep brought on by Ariel, which, affecting Alonso and the others, is suddenly disrupted by Ariel's song, and all are saved. Sebastian announces that his proof of mercy is that he wakes without a crown, and that his dream was where "Prudence flirted with a naked sword." The line is a tricky one; it would have been more prudent at the time to kill Alonso than not; Antonio 19
has appealed to Sebastian's prudence to do the thing. Sebastian says that now he knows he was enchanted, that he envied his brother:
The arrant jewel singing in his crown Persuaded me my brother was a dream I should not love because I had no proof, . . .
Sebastian says that the phantasy of his being was a lie, a promise of a kingdom that was unreal. Sebastian was not only living in a phantasy of his own, but he was living in hope of another phantasy. Poetically:
The lie of Nothing is to promise proof To any shadow that there is no day Which cannot be extinguished with some sword, To want and weakness that the ancient crown Envies the childish head, murder a dream Wrong only while its victim is alive.
To Sebastian (a shadow, unreal) a further phantasy is given; the lie is that murder is wrong only while the victim lives (again, a phantasy). For Sebastian, the mirror affords a true picture: 0 blessed be bleak Exposure on whose sword
Caught unawares, we prick ourselves alive! I smile because I tremble, glad today To be ashamed, not anxious, not a dream. Just Now is what it might be every day, Right Here is absolute and needs no crown, Ermine or trumpets, protocol or sword. In dream all sins are easy, but by day It is defeat gives proof we are alive; The sword we suffer is the guarded crown.
Truly disenchanted, Sebastian sees himself as finally come alive; he no longer plots the murder of a king, and he sees his phantasy as what it is: a "guarded crown" forever denied him by the sword we suffer—reality. This speech represents a paradigm of what Prospero has hoped for: Sebastian has seen himself as he really is. There may remain a problem with Sebastian. He understands that his Eden is forever distant, forever denied him, but he sees it as a "guarded crown"; he will not accept it as the reality which it is. It may be that Sebastian is also potentially one of those who really wish art to 20
be a form of magic. It seems that this is what Antonio thinks when he reminds Prospero that his "conscience is his own" and that "Pallid Sebastian does know . . ." what Antonio does. At any rate, Sebastian is the only one of the characters who has committed a complete turnabout because of what the mirror has shown him; he is also the only one who has helped himself to see at least a portion of reality. However that may be, Sebastian's speech does reflect the three postures once more: Sebastian's phantasy is that of the dream, and a different phantasy is offered him wth the symbol of the "guarded crown." The first works as Sebastian's personal enchantment; the second works as that enchantment worked by Ariel (at Prospero's bidding) when Ariel causes the king and his ministers to fall asleep. The art, the proper disenchantment for which Prospero has been striving, comes about with Sebastian's "accidental pricking" on the sword of reality— "bleak Exposure." Sebastian, more than any other person in the drama, is disenchanted by the mirror of Prospero's art. The speech of Trinculo is like that of Stephano in that Trinculo is another for whom the mirror affords no disenchantment. Trinculo's predicament, however, is one brought on by himself; he has been so long a clown that he can no longer be approximately serious; he must always make jokes. His role is that of a rather familiar pseudo-tragic figure: he is a sad clown. He can make others laugh, but he cannot make himself happy—he cannot find happiness.
Mechanic, merchant, king, Are warmed by the cold clown Whose head is in the clouds And never can get down.
Trinculo, curiously enough, has a reality of his own much like that of Antonio. Trinculo's reality is a magic world where no one can touch him, but the problem is that he can touch no one either. His reality becomes the usual jocularity one associates with clowns, but for him the joke is forever, yet not funny to him. He is a "cold clown":
Into a solitude Undreamed of by their fat Quick dreams have lifted me; The north wind steals my hat.
Trinculo longs only for the lost Eden of his innocent childhood: the red roof where I/ Was Little Trinculo." But Trinculo is
one who refuses the mirror; he has been captivated by himself too long; he is forever the enchanted one. The cold clown recognizes his paradox, that he who can make others laugh will never laugh himself, but he is aloof, clinging to his particular reality. Trinculo's greatest threat ("A terror shakes my tree,/ A flock of words fly out,") is, of course, that his magic might fail him, that no one laugh at his jokes. It is only then that his reality might cease to exist and that he might be forced to face a new reality, to become disenchanted. This threat is so great and the fear of the failure of magic so overwhelming that Trinculo wishes for death:
Wild images, come down Out of your freezing sky, That I, like shorter men, May get my joke and die.
Following Trinculo's speech the usual mocking refrain from Antonio appears, but Auden seems to have been preparing for Antonio's closing remarks directly before Caliban's prose address in this instance. Antonio comments on the paradox of the entire cast as he closes Trinculo's speech:
Tense Trinculo will never know The paradox Antonio Laughs at, in woods, alone.
The paradox that so amuses Antonio is that of the other characters in the play who think that they have been disenchanted when, in reality, they have merely accepted another form of enchantment as a substitute for their past enchantment. The crux of the paradox is that art, which is meant to disenchant, has been turned about by the persons reflected in the mirror, so that the mirror affords a warped picture in that no one is properly disenchanted (witness the problem remaining with Sebastian); rather, all are given a new enchantment— hence, art becomes magic-art again. The paradox continues simply because the magician-artist knows that his art has failed, but those reflected in the mirror are convinced that the art has succeeded, that they are actually disenchanted. So it is that Antonio, who knowingly rejects the mirror, chides Prospero with the magnitude of his failure, for, actually, Prospero wanted all to love and understand one another. By their enchantment, their blindness to reality, the characters in the play will never fully understand one another; if they do happen occasionally to love one another, it will be for the wrong thing, for, by 22
definition, they are still living an enchantment—they do not know the real. Too, if they ever do become disenchanted, they will (perhaps rightly) blame Prospero for his having dabbled in magic-art. The absolute manifestation of Prospero's failure will be that which he fears: the potential reality (disenchantment) of Ferdinand and Miranda if they discover that their love is not really love at all, but a prolonged enchantment brought about by the magician—Miranda's own father. The fact that the failure of Ferdinand and Miranda manifests the failure of all the magic-art itself is the reason for the appearance of Miranda's speech near the end of the second major section of the play. Miranda's speech reflects her enchantment; she exists in a nevernever land of childhood happiness where the only change in the innocent garden is that of the shifting seasons, and in which all of the characters of childhood fiction—a Dear One, a Black Man, a Witch, an Ancient, a Good King—play harmlessly about her. The constant refrain is that of innocence ("And the high green hill sits always by the sea") and of unknowing enchantment ("My Dear One is mine as mirrors are lonely"). Miranda's refrain signals the enchantment mistaken for disenchantment of the whole cast—i.e., those who have been worked on by the magic. Ferdinand belongs to Miranda only "as mirrors are lonely"; that is to say, he loves her as much as she can say he loves her. The unhappy truth is that of which she is unaware: Ferdinand really is hers only as The Mirror is lonely; they are enchanted still and will become disenchanted only when The Mirror is no longer "lonely"—when it gives a true reflection and they see themselves as they are. But, Miranda insists that he and she are truly disenchanted: He kissed me awake, and no one was sorry; The sun shone on sails, eyes, pebbles, anything, And the high green hill sits always by the sea. Miranda says that all are really happy:
So, to remember our changing garden, we Are linked as children in a circle dancing: My Dear One is mine as mirrors are lonely, And the high green hill sits always by the sea.
The circle to which Miranda alludes is precisely the problem of what has occurred; all have been joined in a magic circle by Prospero's workings; consequently, all are enchanted—Miranda, like the others, 23
is happy but not disenchanted, so the danger remains of her becoming "familiar as a stocking," of her later disenchantment. Following Miranda's speech is the usual mocking reminder by Antonio and, since it is Antonio's last speech, he finally reminds Prospero that the "magic circle" has failed. Antonio is not included in the enchantment; his enchantment is his own:
One link is missing, Prospero, My magic is my own; Happy Miranda does not know The figure that Antonio, The only One, Creation's 0 Dances for Death alone.
Antonio is not like the others; he will not love because he refuses the mirror; he refuses to be disenchanted, to see himself as someone who should love. 36 So ends die second major portion of The Sea and the Mirror. Prospero has attempted to show all of the other characters reality; he has tried to disenchant them through the mirror-world of his art, and has failed. None of the characters have been truly disenchanted; some have lost their old enchantments only to find new ones; some have kept their own magic, their own enchantment lingers on. Two have remained basically untouched by Prospero's attempt. Those for whom the art has become magic-art are Ferdinand and Miranda, Stephano, Gonzalo, and Alonso; those who have their own magic or who have been dazzled by entertainment are the Master and Boatswain, Trinculo, and Adrian and Francisco. Antonio is outside the circle, outside the mirror's scope; he wills to love no one but himself. The other who has been affected by Prospero but who has revolted, who "sprawls in the weeds and will not be repaired" is Caliban. It is Caliban who is given the last major address to the audience; indeed, his prose speech is longer than the rest of the entire play. In his speech, Calibart reiterates what Prospero has hinted at in his verse.
Antonio seems to represent the sort of figure whom Auden has called the "negative religous hero"; his sense of proportion has become so warped that he is committed to his "truth in an absolute passion of aversion and hatred." See The Enchafed Flood, pp. 97-105; see also, Auden, The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard (New York, 1952), pp. 18-19.
Caliban to the Audience: The Failure of Magic
Caliban, who symbolizes the reality art must encompass, speaks to three audiences on the problems of the artist and the audience. First, Caliban speaks to what we may assume to be the shade of Shakespeare. The remarks to Shakespeare are probably intended to be addressed to all artists, to all successful poets. Caliban then addresses himself to the young men in the audience, the would-be artists. After the address to the young men, Caliban turns to the people in the audience who long for the lost world of their innocent childhood, who want the artist to return them to it by magical means. Caliban's rambling disjointed James parody is at times rather turgid, but it does appear that the audience as a whole is divided into two parts, the unsuccessful who want magic and the successful persons who want entertainment. The declaration of what ultimately must constitute art appears in the postscript to the play, in which entertainment and reality are symbolically wrought together. This unification is what constitutes art. The whole postscript to the play is devoted to Ariel's address to Caliban. Symbolically, entertainment admits its affiliation with reality; Ariel must always be associated with Caliban. The echo by the prompter reiterates this essential unification, a unification which results in true art. If the reader is confused by the appearance of Caliban and the eventual unification of Caliban and Ariel, he need only remember that Caliban serves symbolically as the brute fact of the human condition, the recognition of which is part of art. The unification of entertainment and reality is amplified by the real human being outside the play's scope. The prompter's echo—"I"—reaffirms the unification. Very little critical commentary on Caliban's speech has been made; however, F. W. Dupee and Joseph Warren Beach, both Auden scholars, have mentioned Caliban's speech in conjunction with their studies of Auden. F. W. Dupee says that Caliban ". . . is, only too patently, Auden himself." 37 An eminent Auden scholar, Joseph Warren Beach, says that Caliban's speech is ". . . a long-winded disquisition on literary art-in-an-age-of-naturalistic-unbelief." 38 This is a rather dis37
F. W. Dupee, W. H. Auden," Nation, LIX (October, 1945), 537. Joseph Warren Beach, The Making of the Auden Canon, p. 296.
concerting dismissal of what the speech may actually represent. It seems that Beach refuses to be amused by the Henry James parody, and this is understandable; however, perhaps the speech is something more than a "long-winded disquisition." It may be that Beach has misread the play itself. At any rate, Beach dismisses the play as being "relatively uninspired" 39 and he devotes only a few sentences to it in his text. The truth is that Caliban's speech with the subsequent postscript to the play caps an artistic presentation of an aesthetic theory. There is little doubt that the symbolic unification of Ariel and Caliban represents what Auden wishes us to see as the proper role of art, the eventual synthesis of entertainment and reality. As was said, Caliban's first remarks are addressed to all practising poets, and, particularly, Shakespeare. Caliban begins by speaking for the whole audience; he admits that the intrusion of the real has discomfited many in the audience, and this is the reason for his appearance: ... for, in default of the all-wise, all-explaining master . . . who else
indeed must respond to your bewildered cry, but its very echo, the begged question you would speak to him about.
The question which the audience wants to put to the poet is this: Why the intrusion of the real? Why Caliban? Caliban speaks of the usual reception given the new devotee of the arts, of the theater. The arts, incidentally, are represented by what Caliban calls "our native Muse." This representation accounts for the use of the personal pronoun in the description of what the new theater-goer finds: As he looks in on her, so marvellously at home with all her cozy
swarm about her, what accents will not assault the new arrival's ear, the magnificent tropes of tragic defiance and despair, the repartee . . . the pun . . . yet all of them gratefully doing their huge or tiny best to make the party go?
Caliban's description is that of the world of entertainment, of pure play—hence, the party metaphor. Of course, Caliban's speech is ironical, since he—reality, the ugly—is always likely to break up the party. Caliban goes on to echo the audience's accusation of Shakespeare. How could Shakespeare dare to introduce the real; how could any poet bring himself to commit the terrible act of introducing the problematic, the ugly—Caliban?
How could you, you . . . possibly the closest of her trusted inner circle, how could you be guilty of the incredible unpardonable treachery of bringing along the one creature . . . whom she cannot and will not under any circumstances stand . .. the unique case that her attendant spirits have absolute instructions never, neither at the front door nor at the back, to admit? At Him and at Him only does she draw the line, . . .
Caliban continues to echo the audience's hurt feelings; he says that he knows he is always likely to insult someone, to break something: . . . she foresaw what He could do to the arrangements, breaking, by a refusal to keep in step, the excellent order of the dancing ring . . . knocking over the loaded appetising tray . . . upsetting her guests . . . spoiling their fun . . . before the gross climax of His making, horror unspeakable, a pass at her virgin self. Caliban, the real, is always bound to spoil the party, bound to disturb the excellent order of entertainment. The audience is offended, not only at the loss of its entertainment, but also at the potential loss of its magic: We most emphatically do not ask that she should speak to us, or
try to understand us; on the contrary our one desire has always been . . . that in her house . . . the same neutral space accommodates the conspirator and his victim; the generals of both armies . . . cathedral and smugglers' cave . . . the moral law should continue to operate so exactly that the timid should not only deserve but actually win the fair, and it is the socially and physically unemphatic David who lays low the gorilla-chested Goliath with one well-aimed custard pi e, . . .
So, Caliban says, the audience is justly angry. The audience cries that no artist has the right to introduce a party-wrecker like Caliban; no artist should put the real in where he doesn't belong. The audience wants to be enchanted; they want to believe that all Davids do scuttle all Goliaths. Caliban continues to echo the audience's objections; he says that the audience knows all about reality; they come to the theater to be entertained and perhaps enchanted, if only for a few hours. Play-goers come to forget their true condition, to get away from the reality of life, rather than to be shown their own selves, to be actually reflected in the mirror:
So, too, with Time who, in our auditorium, is not her dear old buffer so anxious to please everybody, but a prim magistrate whose
court never adjourns, and from whose decisions, as he laconically sentences one to loss of hair and talent, another to seven days' chastity, and a third to boredom for life, there is no appeal.
Caliban, echoing the query of the audience, observes that because in the real world the privileges and freedoms of the magical entertaining world do not exist, the audience has appeared to view the spectacle. For, the audience complains, the intrusion of reality in a place where it is most unwanted leads to the audience's questioning of the artist's basis for reputation: . . . shouldn't you too, dear master, reflect . . . that we might very well not have been attending a production of yours this evening, had not some other . . . brighter talent married a barmaid or turned religious and shy or gone down in a liner with all his manuscripts, the loss recorded only in the corner of some country newspaper below A Poultry Lover's Jottings? The intrusion of the real sets the audience to thinking. After recalling Shakespeare's definition of his art form as a "mirror held up to nature," Caliban speculates on what the audience of the art may consider the meaning of the definition: • . . for isn't the essential artistic strangeness to which your citation of the sinisterly biassed image would point just this: that on the far side of the mirror [artist's side] the general will to compose, to form at all costs a felicitous pattern becomes the necessary cause of any particular effort to live or act or love or triumph or vary, instead of being as, in so far as it emerges at all, it is on this side, [the audience's side] their accidental effect? The question is that of whether the artist really intended to advise his audience on how to live when the artist himself was merely trying to arrive at some sort of understanding of life. In other words, the artist himself brings on the audience's wish for advice, for magic, for enchantment; the artistic will to collect and compose is the cause for the public wish for composition, rather than an accidental wish for composition that the artist did not intend. Although Caliban's speculation may be rather difficult, the reader would do well to remember that Caliban is still echoing the audience's objection at this time, and it becomes more and more obvious that Caliban is happily lampooning those objections. What Caliban is saying is this: it is the artist's fault that people want to see art as magic, that they take the composition at face value, his will to compose as advice on how to 28
live. What, then, is the idea in allowing an ugly reminder of the real world to invade the hopefully real magic world? What, still, is Caliban doing here? The audience's objection is reduced to this: the audience has been sold short by the artist. Not content with fouling the magic with reality, the artist has even warped the audience's pat idea of reality by turning entertainment loose in Caliban's world. Caliban's speech indicates that the audience is thoroughly confused and dismayed. They had come to be enchanted, to gain a new magic, and they have come face to face with reality—with Caliban. The audience had hoped for some sort of order, any sort of order, and they are given nothing but disorder. The truth is that the audience has not met entertainment, not magic, but art—and they do not want it; they do not want to be disenchanted. The audience can deal with Ariel; they can understand that he gives them a world of play. The audience can even live with Caliban; he is what they left outside the theater. But the combination of Caliban and Ariel—of entertainment and reality—has utterly flabbergasted the audience. They are dismayed to see their own true condition—art. As we shall see, Caliban attempts to answer the questions of the audience, questions which he has so faithfully and puckishly been echoing. Before giving the answers, however, he addresses himself to the young artists who may be in the audience. This second address is made to neophyte poets:
So, strange young man, . . . Somewhere, in the middle of a salt marsh or at the bottom of a kitchen garden or on the top of a bus, you heard imprisoned Arid l call for help, . . .
Now Caliban begins spoofing the would-be poet. Caliban tells us earlier that he speaks to the "gay apprentice of the magical art" because Shakespeare has instructed him to do so. The use of the term "magical art" may refer to Prospero's magic in The Tempest, or it may have to do with Auden's concept of what may constitute magic or the magic posture in literature. Since the whole of The Sea and the Mirror has been building towards the idea of Prospero's magic-art becoming the magic posture in literature, the term "magical art" probably has to do with the magician's efforts in Auden's play. Caliban's speech concerns itself with magic. Caliban notes that the young man will soon become familiar with the "relationship between magician [artist] and familiar [Ariel], whose duty it is to sustain your infinite conceptual appetite with vivid concrete experiences." 29
But the young artist may eventually grow bored with his relationship with Ariel, with what he had always seen as his art form. The relationship may even pejorate to the degree that the young man will tell Ariel to go away somewhere; the young artist may decide that he can do very well without an affair in which "sour silences appear." There is little doubt at this point that Caliban is Auden speaking of the artist's relation to his artistic effort. Ariel will not leave; he even refuses to obey the young artist's orders:
Striding up to Him in fury, you glare into His unblinking eyes and stop dead, transfixed with horror at seeing reflected there in the mirror not what you had always expected to see . . . but a gibbering fist-clenched creature with which you are all too unfamiliar, . . . at last you have come face to face with me, . . .
The reader should notice that the capitalized "H" of "Him" has been shifted from the reference to Caliban to the reference to Ariel. Again, this follows, for Ariel and Caliban are unified in art, and that is what the young artist has encountered. He has come face to face with reality. The next several pages of Caliban's speech are given over to a metaphorical accusation of the young man who has always entertained or attempted to learn magic (magic?) and who has shoved Caliban into a corner by himself. This echoes Prospero, in Auden's play, who has lamented his "impervious disgrace." Caliban concludes his remarks to the young artist by reminding him that from now on they shall both have to put up with one another; both are consigned to reality:
Can you wonder then, when, as was bound to happen sooner or later, your charms, because they no longer amuse you, have cracked and your spirits . . . have ceased to obey . . . and you are left alone with me . . . if I resent hearing you speak of your neglect of me as your 'exile,' . . .
Caliban's speech is directed to the young artist, but the symbolic representation of Caliban as the real—the disenchantment of true art— and the representation of the magician as one who is given to a magic posture is further enhanced herein. Following his address to the young artist, Caliban speaks directly to the audience; that is, he is no longer echoing the complaints of the audience; he is answering them. Caliban begins by informing the audience straightway that he knows what it is howling for. It 30
demands the magical world of childhood; the audience wants a new magic. The reason is that the audience is not composed of children; the people in the audience know Caliban and they know Aria. They want someone to give them a way out of their true condition, some kind of magic. Caliban informs them:
All your clamour signifies is this: that your first big crisis, the breaking of the childish spell in which, so long as it enclosed you, there was, for you, no mirror, no magic, for everything that happened was a miracle [specifically, the world of childhood] . . .
Caliban says that the people are now adults; they have been disenchanted for the first time—they have suffered a loss of innocence: . . . you have now all come together in the larger colder emptier room on this side of the mirror which does force your eyes to recognise and reckon with the two of us [Ariel and Caliban], your ears to detect the irreconcilable difference between my reiterated affirmadon of what your furnished circumstances categorically are [the disenchantment of life itself, the true condition], and His successive propositions as to everything else which they conditionally might be [the happy world of pure play and entertainment in which the scene is always changing]. You have, as I say, taken your first step. After Caliban has devoted some time to assuring the audience of their true disenchantment, and after he has given several metaphorical examples of the real human condition, he says that the audience will ask for a new enchantment, for a magic of some kind. This request may take one of two courses, and the audience may be split. One part of the audience, the unsuccessful adults, may turn to Caliban and petition him to carry them to their world as they remember it. This portion of the audience cries for ". . . the ultimate liberal condition" where there are no rules, no authority, no danger. This portion of the audience calls for a prelapsarian Eden, which they see as the lost land of their childhood. Caliban will be forced to obey their "fatal commands" and to transport them to the real ultimate liberal condition. That condition in a land of no rules is a land of deserts and fiery volcanoes, of explosions and erupting geysers—all of which always go off without warning because there is no method, no pattern to the inferno. The other portion of the audience is composed of successful adults who are bored with their success. They cry for Aridl to release them from their boredom, to carry them away to a world of play. And, Caliban continues, Ariel will obey and transport the 31
audience away to a place where an adventure story is always taking place, where "little girls get their arms twisted," and all sorts of would-be real things occur, but no one ever really gets hurt or lost. The fascination of this land of make-believe eventually palls, for the people are still themselves and no amount of entertainment will actually convince them that they are not. All they will have left amounts to what they had before, the "grey horizon of the bleaker vision," the bleaker reality of the real they left behind them. To recapitulate, the first portion of the audience sues for deliverance, and their suit is addressed to Caliban:
. Carry me back, Master, to the cathedral town where the canons run through the water meadows with butterfly nets and the old women keep sweet-shops . . . . Pick me up, Uncle, let little Johnny ride away on your massive shoulders . . . where the steam rollers are as friendly as the farm dogs . . . . 0 take us home with you, strong and swelling One, home to your promiscuous pastures where the minotaur of authority is just a roly-poly ruminant and nothing is at stake, . .
Caliban will obey; he will deliver them to the real ultimate liberal condition, which is not at all as they imagined it. The liberal condition is not the dear place they imagined, • . . or other specific Eden which your memory necessarily but
falsely conceives of as the ultimately liberal condition.. . . Here you are. This is it. Directly overhead a full moon casts a circle of dazzling light . . . exactly circumscribing its desolation in which every object is extraordinarily still and sharp. Cones of extinct volcanoes rise up abruptly from the lava plateau . . . . Here and there a geyser erupts without warning, . . . all events are tautological repetitions and no decision will ever alter the secular stagnation . . . . Your tears splash down upon clinkers . . . mythology is bosh . . . your existence is indeed free at last to choose its own meaning, that is, to plunge headlong into despair . . . all fact . . . your pure alas. So this is the condition in which the audience finds itself when it begs
to rely only on itself. This is the ultimate liberal condition, a vast wasteland in which there are no rules, ". . . where Liberty stands with her hands behind her back not caring, . . ." where the ultimate worth of the individual is his "pure alas." On the other hand, there are those who wish to transcend ". . . any condition, for direct unentailed power without any . . . obligation 32
to inherit or transmit. . . ." This portion of the audience has had success, Caliban says:
`. • . we have had what once we would have called success. . . . I introduced statistical methods into the Liberal Arts. I revived the country dances and installed electric stoves in the mountain cottages. . . . I gave the caesura its freedom. . .
The irony is obvious. This portion of the audience wants a makebelieve world away from this "ship of fools." So, Ariel is obliged to deliver; the entertainment appears on schedule:
All the phenomena of an empirically ordinary world are given. . . . old men catch dreadful coughs, little girls get their arms twisted, flames run whooping through woods, . . . All the voluntary movements are possible—crawling through sewers, sauntering past shopfronts, tiptoeing through quicksands and mined areas . . .
This is the exciting, scintillating world of forever entertainment—but there is always the sneaking suspicion that it really doesn't count; something is always lacking. The world of entertainment, even if it may become a magic—and it may—is not enough. The real world still waits. The entertainment or magic must fail. What, says Caliban, can the audience do when it meets . . . the black stone on which the bones are cracked, for only there in its cry of agony can your existence find at last an unequivocal meaning and your refusal to be yourself become a serious despair, the love nothing, the fear all? So, Caliban continues, the artist can only show the human condition, can only show people what they are and by that exposition, perhaps they can decide that they should become something else. But the danger of art becoming magic is omnipresent. The people may consider their true condition not a gap between what they should be and what they are but a bridge over the gap. The audience, in other words, may still use art as magic, and this is the problem of the artist:
. . • for the more truthfully he paints the condition, the less clearly can he indicate the truth from which it is estranged . . . and, ultimately, what other aim and justification has he, what else exactly is the artistic gift which he is forbidden to hide, if not to make you unforgettably conscious of the ungarnished offended gap between what you so questionably are and what you are commanded without 33
any question to become, of the unqualified No that opposes your every step in any direction? . . . [But because of the faithful painting of the true condition] the more he must strengthen your delusion that an awareness of the gap is in itself a bridge, your interest in your imprisonment a release, so that, far from your being led by him to contrition and surrender, the regarding of your defects in his mirror, your dialogue, using his words, with yourself about yourself, becomes the one activity which never, like devouring or collecting or spending, lets you down, . . .
So it is that the audience may want to view artistic effort as something, anything, to release them from their true condition; yet, the artistic effort is meant to portray that very condition. And, Caliban continues, the identification of the audience with the art as a mode of living, a magic, is wrong, for the artist is not to be seen as a magician, or one who through his aesthetic performance advises us on how to live. The true artist is one who mirrors all things. All we have left, says Caliban, is the knowledge that we are separated from the good place, from the Eden for which we still long, from the Just City not yet built. Art will not, in spite of any attempt to use it as a vehicle, carry us to that Eden, to that Just City. It is when we understand this that
. . . we are blessed by that Wholly Other Life from which we are separated by an essential emphatic gulf of which our contrived fissures of mirror and proscenium arch—we understand them at last— are feebly figurative signs, so that all our meanings are reversed and it is precisely in its negative image of Judgment that we can positively envisage Mercy; it is just here, among the ruins and the bones, that we may rejoice in the perfected Work which is not ours. Its great coherences stand out through our secular blur in all their overwhelmingly righteous obligation; its voice speaks through our muffling banks of artificial flowers and unflinchingly delivers its authentic molar pardon; its spaces greet us with all their grand old prospect of wonder and width; the working charm is the full bloom of the unbothered state; the sounded note is the restored relation.
In other words, art can never be the reality which it occasionally magically may attempt to be, nor can it be a gateway to the Eden for which we always long. The mirror of art itself can only be a feebly "figurative sign" of that creation and life around us; the purpose of art is only to mirror things as they are, the human condition as it is. Art is not meant to deliver us to the better life, but to show us life per se so that, aware of the "emphatic gulf," we may always seek the 34
better life, the Eden, the state of grace. Art is not magic, nor is the true artist a magician. As was earlier observed, the speech of Ariel to Caliban at the close of the play represents the artistic unification of entertainment and reality which results in art. The echo by the prompter, the human being outside the play, signifies the mirror's reflection of the human condition. The reflection of the human condition, the praising of all things for being, constitutes the aesthetic theory advanced by Auden throughout the entirety of The Sea and the Mirror. The reflection of the real human condition is the function of art. Symbolically, then, the unification of entertainment and reality appears in Ariel's closing speech to Caliban, echo by the prompter:
Weep no more but pity me, Fleet persistent shadow cast By your lameness, caught at last, Helplessly in love with you, Elegance, art, fascination Fascinated by Drab mortality; Spare me a humiliation, To your faults be true: I can sing as you reply
Designed and prepared by the Publications Office, Ball State University
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