Thursday, November 15, 2012

In the burrows of the Nightmare


As I Walked Out One Evening


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.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Let's try again. Nice illustrations of Auden's imagery. He was an odd one. Gotta wonder if he discovered mushrooms before we did. I attended a reading by him half a century ago (did I say that out loud?) at the U. of Wisconsin. He was a lousy reader. Seemed to lose his place, as if unfamiliar with his words. Maybe just appreciating them anew. I don't remember what he read. I never appreciated him until this moment. Thank you!

  3. Moments before I read this I posted this little verse on Fictionaut:


    He called it Rosebud, this chocolate starfish orb
    Of jacksy ring
    To rectify the back door thing
    His brown-eyed, elementary cleft did sing
    For Venus, Mars and more
    Considering the sun don't shine
    So much on Jupiter, but for
    The Plutoid bung of Saturn's rung
    To run with Mercury's speed on Earth
    “No!” they cried You never tried
    Your Neptudism's tune's derived
    Uranus, you must call this find.

    Ashamed of myself? Of course!

  4. Maybe this should be "in the Burroughs of the Nightmare".

  5. Was not Auden the wrinkliest man in history? Was he wrinkly when you saw him? But of course he was, he must have been near the end of his craggy old, Goodyear-tire-resembling life.

  6. He looked like a Shar Pei,those Chinese dogs with three times more skin than they need. I think with people it comes from too much smoking. He died in '73, and this would've been after I returned from Germany, most likely, which was in '67. It's possible it happened before I joined the Army, which was in '63. Somewhere in that time frame.