As I Walked 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 the 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 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 today.

Into many a green valley 

     Drifts the appalling snow; 

Time breaks the threaded dances 

     And the diver’s brilliant bow.

 

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 plunge your hands in water, 

     Plunge them in up to the wrist; 

Stare, stare in the basin 

And wonder what you’ve missed.

 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.

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