Sunday, February 28, 2010


You need not see what someone is doing
to know if it is his vocation.

You have only to watch his eyes;
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression, forgetting
themselves in a function.

How beautiful it is,
that eye-on-the-object look.
--W.H Auden


At 11:18 AM, Blogger Kass said...

Oh yes, this is so true. Just spent a day with an orthopedic surgeon who described the satisfaction of making things knit together beautifully. The look in his eyes was like Auden's description.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

A wonderful example. I hope said surgeon is not doing any surgery on you.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

I agree. I just love to watch people do what they love to do. Somehow, in the joy of that doing, God's glory shines through.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

There's something about doing what we were intended to do that makes us come alive.

At 7:35 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

By the way, there's an Italian word that fits here: sprezzatura.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

Sprezzatura is a great word, John. I wonder what its etymology is? There's no getting around the spiritual connotations of "vocation."

At 9:53 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Anyone care to do a little quick web research to answer that question about the word's origins? Or perhaps we have a learned reader who already knows.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

Well, I looked on Wiki, and also found this:

But the emphasis here seems to be to be well-rehearsed in order to look nonchalant.... Hmmmm. Good word, nonetheless.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Let's not let that be the last word. I'll try to check some other sources this evening.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Sprezzatura is an Italian word originating from Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” – Wikipedia

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Maria said...

Good poem. Auden was so versatile. "The Unknown Citizen" is one of my favorites.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's the definition I was looking for, Jim. Perfect, and thanks for that. I've always thought of that term with a couple of images in mind: Cary Grant making small talk and Joe DiMaggio playing baseball: a cool sense of elan, economy of motion, and all the style you could ever want.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

William Butler Yeats: "Long-Legged Fly"

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Nice. Thanks for that, Art.

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous kay said...

W. H. Auden said: “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”

At 8:40 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a powerfully expressed idea. But then that seems to have been the norm for Auden. Thanks for adding that, Kay. I think you may be a first-time commenter, so a special welcome.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if there is an opposite to that word? A word that means unecessary noises and complaints to make a job seem more arduous than it is?

At 9:36 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Nothing comes immediately to mind, but I'll continue to noodle on that a little, as perhaps will others.

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous List Submission said...

Excellent job. Make such work available. Thanks.


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