Listen to this article
From Mr Stan Trybulski.
Sir, In his essay on W H Auden, Alexander McCall Smith reflects not only on the great poet but on how he affected us in times of crisis (“An affirming flame”, FT Weekend, March 15). Professor McCall Smith specifically refers to the impact of Auden’s poem September 1, 1939 on New Yorkers who had suffered through the September 11 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, which took more than 2,000 lives, including those of two court officers with whom I had worked, and nearly cost that of my wife. It is also important to remember that Auden had import on crises of another sort; crises of conscience.
When I was a prosecuting attorney in New York City, first with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, then with the citywide Office of the Special Prosecutor for Narcotics and Guns, I always kept the following lines from the poem Law Like Love by Auden on the centre of my desk:
Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,/Speaking clearly and most severely,/Law is, as I’ve told you before,/Law is as I know you suppose,/Law is but let me explain it once more,/Law is the Law.
This passage served me well as a reminder that there is very little room on the scales of justice for humanity and that it was incumbent upon all of us in the criminal justice system to use that space when the opportunity arose. By doing so, I managed to avoid those crises of conscience that can too often arise; for Auden was also my affirming flame.
Stan Trybulski, Branford, CT, US