W. H. Auden, Christian humanist, heard in Old South Church
The program sponsored by The American Guild of Organists at Old South Church was titled Into the Light and featured The Old South Church Choir and the Willie Sordillo Jazz Quartet. The anthem for the section on Jesus’ birth was a setting of the chorus from W. H. Auden’s Christmas Oratorio.
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
–W.H. Auden chorus from Christmas Oratorio 1942
“Auden was accepted as not only a great poet but also a Christian humanist sage not because of any conspiracy among moralizing neo-Christian academicians, but because the age required such a figure.” Yale Professor and critic Harold Bloom
“Auden’s poetry has illuminated our lives and times with grace, wit and vitality. His work, branded by the moral and ideological fires of our age, breathes with eloquence, perception and intellectual power.” citation upon presentation of the National Medal of Literature to W. H. Auden in 1967
I imagined Auden might have enjoyed the evening, for several reasons–the city sounds, the general clamor of the environment, the high expectations for music and words in presentation, and the particular collection of attendees in the church. A word of thanksgiving for Auden as a poet was offered silently in that holy place.