As I Walked Out One Evening

W. H. Auden

 
As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.
'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,
'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.
'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'
But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.
'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.
'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.
'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.
'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.
'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.
'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.
'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.
'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'
It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on.
 
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

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 Fall of Rome by W. H. Auden
The piers are pummelled by the waves;
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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