Auden, W H - Night Mail
Type of Spiritual Experience
I have provided a link to a youtube video where this poem is used in the film of the same name.
In the documentary "Night Mail" (1936), John Grierson [also the producer] narrates the opening scene with WH Auden's poem of the same name, "Night Mail." Auden wrote the poem specifically for the film.
To make the poem's rhythm better sound like a chugging train, Auden's text was slightly altered for the film.
The GPO Film Unit produced a series of groundbreaking films, including Night Mail (dir. Basil Wright and Harry Watt, 1936) and Coal Face (dir. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1935). In 1934 John Grierson produced at the GPO Film Unit the award winning The Song of Ceylon (dir. Basil Wright) which was sponsored jointly by the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Bureau and the EMB.
Night Mail is about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) mail train from London to Scotland, the music is by Benjamin Britten. The complete film was narrated by John Grierson and Stuart Legg. The Brazilian filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti was sound director. The locomotive featured in the film was Royal Scot 6115 Scots Guardsman, built in 1927. The film has become a classic of its own kind, much imitated by adverts and modern film shorts.
A description of the experience
This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.
Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
The source of the experienceAuden, W H
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsCommuning with nature
Love with visualisation
Squash the big I am