After all, it's rather a privilege
amid the affluent traffic
to serve this unpopular art which cannot be turned into
background-noise for study
or hung as status-trophy by rising executives,
cannot be "done" like Venice
or abridged like Tolstoy, but stubbornly still insists upon
being read or ignored.
That is lovely, and true, and makes me proud to be a person who cares about poetry. But for Auden, pride is always a sin, and so the poem ends like this:
God may reduce you
on Judgement Day
to tears of shame,
reciting by heart
the poems you would
have written, had
your life been good.
(The computer is making it hard to format this correctly but you get the idea). It is beautifully put, but the idea that poetry would be better if poets were better human beings seems to me to be not such a good observation. Ego-maniacs write great poems -- and comic books and television -- and I do not think their poetry would be better if they spent more time loving their neighbor and loving God, which Auden says are the only important things in life, unlike poetry, which he calls frivolous.