After Auden

Author's Notes



After finishing Part III of Elemental, I realised that I had to re-plot 90% of everything I thought would happen in Part IV. I knew in the back of my head that Something Interesting was going to happen to Bobby and Jubilee during their stay in SHIELD. I also knew that Something Interesting would lead to Rogue taking charge, as it were, of the awkwardness that lay between herself and Remy. I'm nothing if not devoted to Gambit/Rogue.

However, I didn't want to villainise Bobby or Jubilee without a Damned Good Reason. I hate those types flimsy contrivances; they're a lazy way to put a pairing together. So I created a backstory that would force Bobby and Jubilee together in such a way that turning to each other is almost an after-thought or a consequence of their circumstances. Of course when I wrote this in, my fantabulous beta, Mortongirl, rightfully pointed out that this backstory had very little to do with my current plot and would drag it down. I flailed, I raged, and pouted but in the end, clearer minds prevailed and I incised those sections from the story.

I didn't feel right leaving it out though. I adore Bobby and Jubilee, especially in comicverse, because they're the "oh you've got so much potential!" characters. I'm pretty sure they've heard so much about their potential that they want to hit a wall. Lovely, lovely guts to explore. I couldn't, in good conscience, keep them in a hazily villain category as they appeared to be at the end of Elemental and so I dusted off their interludes, edited, added and polished and presented it to you, dear reader. Ta-DAAAA!

As always, the fic's titles also require an essay. W.H. Auden is a poet who worked from the 1930's to the 1970's and he is fantastic. I couldn't even begin to tell you which of his works I like the best but two of them feature here, the Shield of Achilles and Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love. The former is superficially about Hephaestus making a shield for Thetis' son, Achilles, but the glorious battles in Homer's Iliad is countered by all too un-glorious wars Auden experienced in his lifetime. The latter is a love poem, natch, but more about how fleeting love is, questioning the validity of the romantic "death do us part." Both, I think, refer to Bobby & Jubilee's situation.

Because they are awesome, I present both poems here.

The Shield Of Achilles

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

She looked over his shoulder
For ritual pieties,
White flower-garlanded heifers,
Libation and sacrifice,
But there on the shining metal
Where the altar should have been,
She saw by his flickering forge-light
Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

She looked over his shoulder
For athletes at their games,
Men and women in a dance
Moving their sweet limbs
Quick, quick, to music,
But there on the shining shield
His hands had set no dancing-floor
But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

The thin-lipped armorer,
Hephaestos, hobbled away,
Thetis of the shining breasts
Cried out in dismay
At what the god had wrought
To please her son, the strong
Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
Who would not live long.

* * *

Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephermeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but not from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

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