September 17 . Venice. Leaving a concert at night, we collide in a side street with Auden. He is wearing an open-necked shirt, and espadrilles cut to accommodate his corns. Excited and in a great hurry, he tells us he must rush home, "Because I've just learned that Leopardi wasn't born in the south."
September 19 . Auden for lunch. He fusses obsessively about punctuality, and when I.S. is five minutes late asserts: "The Russians won't win the war because they won't be there on time. 'Dieses warten,' as Tristan says." Auden is in a German period, and later, telling us he intends to translate one of Goethe's prose works, he promises to "make him sound like a limey yet." Auden is less bothered by untidiness than by unpunctuality, and he seems to suggest that the Augean cleaning was a great mistake. When I.S. does arrive, Auden is openly contemptuous of the pill bottles arranged in front of his plate, and he whispers to me that "the steadiest business in the world would be a pharmacy next door to Stravinsky." Then,
AUDEN: "A true creator is always ashamed of most of his past work. Are you ashamed?"
I.S.: "No, I would do many things differently but I am not ashamed."