The Fall of Rome

W. H. Auden

 

(for Cyril Connolly)

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.
Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
 
From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Poems by This Author

As I Walked Out One Evening by W. H. Auden
As I walked out one evening,
Epitaph on a Tyrant by W. H. Auden
Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
First Things First by W. H. Auden
Friday's Child by W. H. Auden
In Memory of Sigmund Freud by W. H. Auden
When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
Lullaby by W. H. Auden
Lay Your Sleeping head, my love,
On Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics by W. H. Auden
On the Circuit by W. H. Auden
Among pelagian travelers,
September 1, 1939 by W. H. Auden
I sit in one of the dives
The More Loving One by W. H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
The Shield of Achilles by W. H. Auden
She looked over his shoulder
The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be


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