“That gap is the grave where the tall return.”

“O Where Are You Going?” by W. H. Auden

“O where are you going?” said reader to rider,
“That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder’s the midden whose odors will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.”

“O do you imagine,” said fearer to farer,
“That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?”

“O what was that bird,” said horror to hearer,
“Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease?”

“Out of this house” ‚ said rider to reader,
“Yours never will” ‚ said farer to fearer,
“They’re looking for you” ‚ said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.

 

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“Starving through the leafless wood/ Trolls run scolding for their food.”

“Autumn Song,” by W. H. Auden

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last;
Nurses to the graves are gone,
And the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours, left and right,
Pluck us from the real delight;
And the active hands must freeze
Lonely on the separate knees.

Dead in hundreds at the back
Follow wooden in our track,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Starving through the leafless wood
Trolls run scolding for their food;
And the nightingale is dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Cold, impossible, ahead
Lifts the mountain’s lovely head
Whose white waterfall could bless
Travelers in their last distress.

 

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Photo credit: By Wikiprofile (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

“O Uncreated Nothing, set me free …”

“The Second Temptation” (Part VII of “The Quest”), by W. H. Auden

His library annoyed him with its look
Of calm belief in being really there;
He threw away a rival’s boring book,
And clattered panting up the spiral stair.

Swaying upon the parapet he cried:
“O Uncreated Nothing, set me free,
Now let Thy perfect be identified,
Unending passion of the Night, with Thee.”

And his long-suffering flesh, that all the time
Had felt the simple cravings of the stone
And hoped to be rewarded for her climb,

Took it to be a promise when he spoke
That now at last she would be left alone,
And plunged into the college quad, and broke.

 

“The Tower,” by W. H. Auden

“The Tower,” by W. H. Auden

(Part IX of “The Quest”)

This is an architecture for the old;
Thus heaven was attacked by the afraid,
So once, unconsciously, a virgin made
Her maidenhead conspicuous to a god.

Here on dark nights while worlds of triumph sleep
Lost Love in abstract speculation burns,
And exiled Will to politics returns
In epic verse that makes its traitors weep.

Yet many come to wish their tower a well;
For those who dread to drown, of thirst may die,
Those who see all become invisible:

Here great magicians, caught in their own spell,
Long for a natural climate as they sigh
“Beware of Magic” to the passer-by.

 

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