As I Walked Out One Evening

W.H. Auden  (1907-1973)

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.