My Shadow Knows Nothing
At once sarcastic and tender, W.H. Auden’s “The More Loving One” asks us to imagine a night sky empty of stars:
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.— “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden, 1957
I might very well like a starless sky and call it sublime or subtle in its black-on-black nuance, the poet declares, and not mourn the sight of a supernova, which is after all the explosive death of a star, and I may not notice the absence of one should it simply blink out, but in all matters, “If equal affection cannot be,/Let the more loving one be me.”
In all matters attracting my human attention, be it the night sky or my beloved’s face, let the more loving one be me.