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THE PENGUIN POETS

W. H. AUDEN


Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Thos selection first published 1958 Reprinted 1962, 1964, 1966 Copyright W. H. Auden, 1958 Made and printed in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, London, Fakenham and Reading Set in (Akizdenz Grotesk) This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


Contents The Letter - Poem 1 Taller to-day - Poem 2 The Journey - Poem 3 This Lunar Beauty - Poem 4 This One - Poem 5 The Decoys - Poem 6 Madrigal - Poem 7 Lullaby - Poem 8 The Fall of Rome Poem 9


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The Letter From the very first coming down Into a new valley with a frown Because of the sun and a lost-way, You certainly remain: to-day I, crouching behind a sheep-pen, heard Travel across a sudden bird, Cry out against the storm, and found The year’s are a completed round And love’s worn circuit re-begun, Endless with no dissenting turn. Shall see, shall pass, as we have seen The swallow on the tile, spring’s green Preliminary shiver, passed A solitary truck, the last Of shunting in the Autumn. But now, To interrupt the homely brow, Thought warmed to evening through and through, Your letter comes, speaking as you, Speaking of much but not to come. Nor speech is close nor fingers numb If love not seldom has received An unjust answer, was deceived. I, decent with the seasons, move, Different or with a different love, Nor question overmuch the nod, The stone smile of this country god That never was more reticent, Always afraid to say more than it meant.

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Taller to-day Taller to-day, we remember similar evenings, Walking together in a windless orchard Where the brook runs over the gravel, far from the glacier. Nights come bringing the snow, and the dead howl Under headlands in their windy dwelling Because the Adversary put too easy questions On lonely roads. But happy now, though no nearer each other, We see farms lighted all along the valley; Down at the mill-shed hammering stops And men go home. Noises at dawn will bring Freedom for some, but not this peace No bird can contradict: passing, but is sufficient now For something fulfilled this hour, loved or endured.

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The Journey To throw away the key and walk away. Not abrupt exile , the neighbours asking why, But following a line with left and right, An altered gradient at another rate, Learns more than maps upon the whitewashed wall, The hand put up to ask; and makes us well Without confession of the ill. All pasts Are single old past now, although some posts Are forwarded, held looking on a new view; The future shall fulfil a surer vow. Not smiling at queen over the glass rim Nor making gunpowder in the top room, Not swooping at the surface still like gulls But with prolonged drowning shall develop gills. But there are still to tempt; areas not seen Because of blizzards or an erring sign Whose guessed at wonders would be worth alleging, And lies about the cost of a night’s lodging; Travellers may sleep at inns but not attach; They sleep one night together, not asked to touch, Receive no normal welcome, not the pressed lip, Children to lift, not the assuaging lap, Crossing the pass descend the growing stream Too tired to hear except the pulses’ strum, Reach villages to ask for a bed in, Rock shutting out the sky, the old life done.

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This Lunar Beauty This lunar beauty Has no history, Is complete and early; If beauty later Bear any feature It had a lover And is another. This like a dream Keeps other time, And daytime is The loss of this; For time is inches And the heart’s changes Where ghost has haunted, Lost and wanted. But this was never A ghost’s endeavour Nor, finished this, Was ghost at ease; And till it pass Love shall not near The sweetness here Not sorrow take His endless look.

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This One Before this loved one Was that one and that one A family And history And ghost’s adversity Whose pleasing name Was neighbourly shame. Before this last one Was much to be done, Frontiers to cross As clothes grew worse And coins to pass In a cheaper house Before this last one Before this loved one. Face that the sun Is supple on May stir but here Is no new year; This gratitude for gifts is less Than the old loss; Touching is shaking hands On mortgaged lands; And smiling of This gracious greeting ‘Good day. Good luck’ Is no real meeting But instinctive look A backward love.

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Madrigal O lurcher-loving collier, black as night, Follow your love across the smokeless hill; Your lump is out and all the cages still; Course for her heart and do not miss, Fo Sunday soon is past and, Kate, fly not so fast, For Monday comes when none may kiss: Be marble to his soot, and to his black be white.

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The Decoys There are some birds in these valleys Who flutter round the careless With intimate appeal, By seeming kindness trained to snaring, They feel no falseness. Under the spell completely They circle can serenely, And in the tricky light The masked hill has a purer greenness. Their flight looks fleeter. Alas, the signal given, Fingers on trigger tighten. The real unlucky dove Must smarting fall away from brightness, Its love from living.

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Lullaby Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm; Time and fevers burn away Individual beauty from Thoughtful children, and the grave Proves the child ephemeral: But in my arms till break of day Let the living creature lie, Mortal, guilty, but to me The entirely beautiful. Soul and body have no bounds: To lovers as they lie upon Her tolerant enchanted slope In their ordinary swoon, Grave the vision Venus sends Of supernatural sympathy, Universal love and hope; While an abstract insight wakes Among the glaciers and the rocks The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

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The Fall of Rome 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.

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Penguin Poetry Book  
Penguin Poetry Book  

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