The More Loving One
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
WH Auden’s poem, reproduced in full above, is quite gentle; but also quite evocative. What it’s not, though, is offensive, or so you would have thought. But no, apparently it’s too much for the sensitive souls at the Coral Academy of Science in Nevada, who could not condone the possibilities that the words ‘damn’ and ‘hell’ might pass the lips of a fourteen year old student. Jacob Beyhmer-Smith, the lad in question, successfully sought an injunction against his school, who had previously prevented him from reciting it in poetry competitions. The judge wrote that “when spoken in the context of a poem at a school-authorized, off-campus competition and written by a nationally recognized poet, the court finds that the language sought to be censured cannot even remotely cause a disruption of the educational mission”.
From the Reno Gazette-Journal and Findlaw. An excellent letter was written by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, PEN, and the National Council of Teachers of English (all US). The judge was Brian Sandoval, a former (Republican) AG of Nevada.