New Year Letter by W.H Auden

Art in intention is mimesis

But, realised, the resemblance ceases;

Art is not life and can not be

A midwife to society,

For Art is a fait accompli.
What they should do or how or when

Life-order comes to living men

It cannot say, for it presents

Already living experience

Through a convention that creates

Autonomous completed states.
Though their particulars are those

That each particular artist knows,

Unique events that once took place

Within a unique time and space,

In the new field they occupy,

The unique serves to typify,

Becomes, though still particular,

An algebraic formula,

An abstract model of events

Derived from past experiments,

And each life must itself decide

To what and how it be applied


Trapped in a medium’s artifice,

To charity, delight, increase.

Now large, magnificent and calm,

Your changeless presence disarm

The sullen generations, still

The fright and fidget of the will,

And to the growing and the weak

Your final transformation speak,

Saying to dreaming ‘I am deed,’

To striving ‘Courage. I succeed,’

To mourning ‘I remain. Forgive,’

And to becoming ‘I am. Live’

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