Selected Poems

Paperback | February 13, 2007

byW. H. AudenEditorEdward Mendelson

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This significantly expanded edition of W. H. Auden’s Selected Poems adds twenty poems to the hundred in the original edition, broadening its focus to better reflect the enormous wealth of form, rhetoric, tone, and content in Auden’s work. Newly included are such favorites as “Funeral Blues” and other works that represent Auden’s lighter, comic side, giving a fuller picture of the range of his genius. Also new are brief notes explaining references that may have become obscure to younger generations of readers and a revised introduction that draws on recent additions to knowledge about Auden.

As in the original edition, the new Selected Poems makes available the preferred original versions of some thirty poems that Auden revised later in life, making it the best source for enjoying the many facets of Auden’s art in one volume.

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From the Publisher

This significantly expanded edition of W. H. Auden’s Selected Poems adds twenty poems to the hundred in the original edition, broadening its focus to better reflect the enormous wealth of form, rhetoric, tone, and content in Auden’s work. Newly included are such favorites as “Funeral Blues” and other works that represent Auden’s lighte...

From the Jacket

This edition presents the original versions of many poems, which Auden revised to conform to his evolving political and literary attitudes later in his career. In this volume, Edward Mendelson has restored the early versions of some thirty poems generally considered to be superior to the later versions, allowing the reader to see the e...

W. H. Auden (1907-73) was born in York, England, and educated at Oxford. During the 1930s he was the leader of a left-wing literary group that included Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender. With Isherwood he wrote three verse plays. He lived in Germany during the early days of Nazism, and was a stretcher-bearer for the Republicans...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 7.95 × 5.12 × 0.82 inPublished:February 13, 2007Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307278085

ISBN - 13:9780307278081

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1Who stands, the crux left of the watershed,On the wet road between the chafing grassBelow him sees dismantled washing-floors,Snatches of tramline running to the wood,An industry already comatose,Yet sparsely living. A ramshackle engineAt Cashwell raises water; for ten yearsIt lay in flooded workings until this,Its latter office, grudgingly performed,And further here and there, though many deadLie under the poor soil, some acts are chosenTaken from recent winters; two there wereCleaned out a damaged shaft by hand, clutchingThe winch the gale would tear them from; one diedDuring a storm, the fells impassable,Not at his village, but in wooden shapeThrough long abandoned levels nosed his wayAnd in his final valley went to ground.Go home, now, stranger, proud of your young stock,Stranger, turn back again, frustrate and vexed:This land, cut off, will not communicate,Be no accessory content to oneAimless for faces rather there than here.Beams from your car may cross a bedroom wall,They wake no sleeper; you may hear the windArriving driven from the ignorant seaTo hurt itself on pane, on bark of elmWhere sap unbaffled rises, being Spring;But seldom this. Near you, taller than grass,Ears poise before decision, scenting danger.August 19272From the very first coming downInto a new valley with a frownBecause of the sun and a lost way,You certainly remain: to-dayI, crouching behind a sheep-pen, heardTravel across a sudden bird,Cry out against the storm, and foundThe year's arc a completed roundAnd love's worn circuit re-begun,Endless with no dissenting turn.Shall see, shall pass, as we have seenThe swallow on the tile, Spring's greenPreliminary shiver, passedA solitary truck, the lastOf shunting in the Autumn. But nowTo interrupt the homely brow,Thought warmed to evening through and throughYour letter comes, speaking as you,Speaking of much but not to come.Nor speech is close nor fingers numb,If love not seldom has receivedAn unjust answer, was deceived.I, decent with the seasons, moveDifferent or with a different love,Nor question overmuch the nod,The stone smile of this country godThat never was more reticent,Always afraid to say more than it meant.December 19273Control of the passes was, he saw, the keyTo this new district, but who would get it?He, the trained spy, had walked into the trapFor a bogus guide, seduced with the old tricks.At Greenhearth was a fine site for a damAnd easy power, had they pushed the railSome stations nearer. They ignored his wires.The bridges were unbuilt and trouble coming.The street music seemed gracious now to oneFor weeks up in the desert. Woken by waterRunning away in the dark, he often hadReproached the night for a companionDreamed of already. They would shoot, of course,Parting easily who were never joined.January 19284Taller to-day, we remember similar evenings,Walking together in the windless orchardWhere the brook runs over the gravel, far from the glacier.Again in the room with the sofa hiding the grate,Look down to the river when the rain is over,See him turn to the window, hearing our lastOf Captain Ferguson.It is seen how excellent hands have turned to commonness.One staring too long, went blind in a tower,One sold all his manors to fight, broke through, and faltered.Nights come bringing the snow, and the dead howlUnder the headlands in their windy dwellingBecause the Adversary put too easy questionsOn lonely roads.But happy now, though no nearer each other,We see the farms lighted all along the valley;Down at the mill-shed the hammering stopsAnd men go home.Noises at dawn will bringFreedom for some, but not this peaceNo bird can contradict: passing, but is sufficient nowFor something fulfilled this hour, loved or endured.March 19285Watch any day his nonchalant pauses, seeHis dextrous handling of a wrap as heSteps after into cars, the beggar's envy."There is a free one," many say, but err.He is not that returning conqueror,Nor ever the poles' circumnavigator.But poised between shocking falls on razor-edgeHas taught himself this balancing subterfugeOf the accosting profile, the erect carriage.The song, the varied action of the bloodWould drown the warning from the iron woodWould cancel the inertia of the buried:Travelling by daylight on from house to houseThe longest way to the intrinsic peace,With love's fidelity and with love's weakness.March 19296Will you turn a deaf earTo what they said on the shore,Interrogate their poisesIn their rich houses;Of stork-legged heaven-reachersOf the compulsory touchersThe sensitive amusersAnd masked amazers?Yet wear no ruffian badgeNor lie behind the hedgeWaiting with bombs of conspiracyIn arm-pit secrecy;Carry no talismanFor germ or the abrupt painNeeding no concrete shelterNor porcelain filter.Will you wheel death anywhereIn his invalid chair,With no affectionate instantBut his attendant?For to be held for friendBy an undeveloped mindTo be joke for children isDeath's happiness:Whose anecdotes betrayHis favourite colour as blueColour of distant bellsAnd boys' overalls.His tales of the bad landsDisturb the sewing hands;Hard to be superiorOn parting nausea;To accept the cushions fromWomen against martyrdom,Yet applauding the circuitsOf racing cyclists.Never to make signsFear neither maelstrom nor zonesSalute with soldiers' wivesWhen the flag waves;Remembering there isNo recognised gift for this;No income, no bounty,No promised country.But to see brave sent homeHermetically sealed with shameAnd cold's victorious wrestleWith molten metal.A neutralising peaceAnd an average disgraceAre honour to discoverFor later other.September 19297Sir, no man's enemy, forgiving allBut will his negative inversion, be prodigal:Send to us power and light, a sovereign touchCuring the intolerable neural itch,The exhaustion of weaning, the liar's quinsy,And the distortions of ingrown virginity.Prohibit sharply the rehearsed responseAnd gradually correct the coward's stance;Cover in time with beams those in retreatThat, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great;Publish each healer that in city livesOr country houses at the end of drives;Harrow the house of the dead; look shining atNew styles of architecture, a change of heart.October 19298IIt was Easter as I walked in the public gardensHearing the frogs exhaling from the pond,Watching traffic of magnificent cloudMoving without anxiety on open sky--Season when lovers and writers findAn altering speech for altering things,An emphasis on new names, on the armA fresh hand with fresh power.But thinking so I came at onceWhere solitary man sat weeping on a bench,Hanging his head down, with his mouth distortedHelpless and ugly as an embryo chicken.So I remember all of those whose deathIs necessary condition of the season's setting forth,Who sorry in this time look only backTo Christmas intimacy, a winter dialogueFading in silence, leaving them in tears.And recent particulars come to mind:The death by cancer of a once hated master,A friend's analysis of his own failure,Listened to at intervals throughout the winterAt different hours and in different rooms.But always with success of others for comparison,The happiness, for instance, of my friend Kurt Groote,Absence of fear in Gerhart MeyerFrom the sea, the truly strong man.A 'bus ran home then, on the public groundLay fallen bicycles like huddled corpses:No chattering valves of laughter emphasisedNor the swept gown ends of a gesture stirredThe sessile hush; until a sudden showerFell willing into grass and closed the day,Making choice seem a necessary error.April 1929IIComing out of me living is always thinking,Thinking changing and changing living,Am feeling as it was seeing--In city leaning on harbour parapetTo watch a colony of duck belowSit, preen, and doze on buttressesOr upright paddle on flickering stream,Casually fishing at a passing straw.Those find sun's luxury enough,Shadow know not of homesick foreignerNor restlessness of intercepted growth.All this time was anxiety at night,Shooting and barricade in street.Walking home late I listened to a friendTalking excitedly of final warOf proletariat against police--That one shot girl of nineteen through the knees,They threw that one down concrete stair--Till I was angry, said I was pleased.Time passes in Hessen, in Gutensberg,With hill-top and evening holds me up,Tiny observer of enormous world.Smoke rises from factory in field,Memory of fire: On all sides heardVanishing music of isolated larks:From village square voices in hymn,Men's voices, an old use.And I above standing, saying in thinking:"Is first baby, warm in mother,Before born and is still mother,Time passes and now is other,Is knowledge in him now of other,Cries in cold air, himself no friend.In grown man also, may see in faceIn his day-thinking and in his night-thinkingIs wareness and is fear of other,Alone in flesh, himself no friend."He say 'We must forgive and forget,'Forgetting saying but is unforgivingAnd unforgiving is in his living;Body reminds in him to loving,Reminds but takes no further part,Perfunctorily affectionate in hired roomBut takes no part and is unlovingBut loving death. May see in dead,In face of dead that loving wish,As one returns from Africa to wifeAnd his ancestral property in Wales."Yet sometimes man look and say goodAt strict beauty of locomotive,Completeness of gesture or unclouded eye;In me so absolute unity of eveningAnd field and distance was in me for peace,Was over me in feeling without forgettingThose ducks' indifference, that friend's hysteria,Without wishing and with forgiving,To love my life, not as other,Not as bird's life, not as child's,"Cannot," I said, "being no child now nor a bird."May 1929IIIOrder to stewards and the study of time,Correct in books, was earlier than thisBut joined this by the wires I watched from train,Slackening of wire and posts' sharp reprimand,In month of August to a cottage coming.Being alone, the frightened soulReturns to this life of sheep and hayNo longer his: he every hourMoves further from this and must so move,As child is weaned from his mother and leaves homeBut taking the first steps falters, is vexed,Happy only to find home, a placeWhere no tax is levied for being there.So, insecure, he loves and loveIs insecure, gives less than he expects.He knows not if it be seed in time to displayLuxuriantly in a wonderful fructificationOr whether it be but a degenerate remnantOf something immense in the past but nowSurviving only as the infectiousness of diseaseOr in the malicious caricature of drunkenness;Its end glossed over by the careless but known longTo finer perception of the mad and ill.Moving along the track which is himself,He loves what he hopes will last, which gone,Begins the difficult work of mourning,And as foreign settlers to strange country come,By mispronunciation of native wordsAnd by intermarriage create a new raceAnd a new language, so may the soulBe weaned at last to independent delight.Startled by the violent laugh of a jayI went from wood, from crunch underfoot,Air between stems as under water;As I shall leave the summer, see autumn comeFocusing stars more sharply in the sky,See frozen buzzard flipped down the weirAnd carried out to sea, leave autumn,See winter, winter for earth and us,A forethought of death that we may find ourselves at deathNot helplessly strange to the new conditions.August 1929IVIt is time for the destruction of error.The chairs are being brought in from the garden,The summer talk stopped on that savage coastBefore the storms, after the guests and birds:In sanatoriums they laugh less and less,Less certain of cure; and the loud madmanSinks now into a more terrible calm.The falling leaves know it, the children,At play on the fuming alkali-tipOr by the flooded football ground, know it--This is the dragon's day, the devourer's:Orders are given to the enemy for a timeWith underground proliferation of mould,With constant whisper and the casual question,To haunt the poisoned in his shunned house,To destroy the efflorescence of the flesh,To censor the play of the mind, to enforceConformity with the orthodox bone,With organised fear, the articulated skeleton.You whom I gladly walk with, touch,Or wait for as one certain of good,We know it, we know that loveNeeds more than the admiring excitement of union,More than the abrupt self-confident farewell,The heel on the finishing blade of grass,The self-confidence of the falling root,Needs death, death of the grain, our death.Death of the old gang; would leave themIn sullen valley where is made no friend,The old gang to be forgotten in the spring,The hard bitch and the riding-master,Stiff underground; deep in clear lakeThe lolling bridegroom, beautiful, there.October 19299Since you are going to begin to-dayLet us consider what it is you do.You are the one whose part it is to lean,For whom it is not good to be alone.Laugh warmly turning shyly in the hallOr climb with bare knees the volcanic hill,Acquire that flick of wrist and after strainRelax in your darling's arms like a stoneRemembering everything you can confess,Making the most of firelight, of hours of fuss;But joy is mine not yours--to have come so far,Whose cleverest invention was lately fur;Lizards my best once who took years to breed,Could not control the temperature of blood.To reach that shape for your face to assume,Pleasure to many and despair to some,I shifted ranges, lived epochs handicappedBy climate, wars, or what the young men kept,Modified theories on the types of dross,Altered desire and history of dress.You in the town now call the exile foolThat writes home once a year as last leaves fall,Think--Romans had a language in their dayAnd ordered roads with it, but it had to die:Your culture can but leave--forgot as sureAs place-name origins in favourite shire--Jottings for stories, some often-mentioned Jack,And references in letters to a private joke,Equipment rusting in unweeded lanes,Virtues still advertised on local lines;And your conviction shall help none to fly,Cause rather a perversion on next floor.

Table of Contents

Note to the Expanded Edition xiii

Introduction xv

1. Who stands, the crux left of the watershed
2. From the very first coming down
3. Control of the passes was, he saw, the key
4. Taller to-day, we remember similar evenings
5. Watch any day his nonchalant pauses, see
6. Will you turn a deaf ear
7. Sir, no man’s enemy, forgiving all
8. It was Easter as I walked in the public gardens
9. Since you are going to begin to-day
10. Consider this and in our time
11. This lunar beauty
12. To ask the hard question is simple
13. Doom is dark and deeper than any sea-dingle
14. What’s in your mind, my dove, my coney
15. “O where are you going?” said reader to rider
16. Though aware of our rank and alert to obey orders
17. O Love, the interest itself in thoughtless Heaven
18. O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
19. Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys
20. Out on the lawn I lie in bed
21. A shilling life will give you all the facts
22. Our hunting fathers told the story
23. Easily, my dear, you move, easily your head
24. The Summer holds: upon its glittering lake
25. Now through night’s caressing grip
26. O for doors to be open and an invite with gilded edges
27. Look, stranger, at this island now
28. Now the leaves are falling fast
29. Underneath the abject willow
30. Dear, though the night is gone
31. Fish in the unruffled lakes
32. Casino
33. Funeral Blues
34. Journey to Iceland
35. “O who can ever gaze his fill”
36. Lay your sleeping head, my love
37. Spain
38. Johnny
39. Orpheus
40. Miss Gee
41. Wrapped in a yielding air, beside
42. Dover
43. As I walked out one evening
44. Oxford
45. O Tell Me the Truth About Love
46. In Time of War
47. The Capital
48. Museé des Beaux Arts
49. Epitaph on a Tyrant
50. In Memory of W. B. Yeats
51. Refugee Blues
52. The Unknown Citizen
53. Calypso
54. September 1, 1939
55. Law, say the gardeners, is the sun
56. In Memory of Sigmund Freud
57. Eyes look into the well
58. Lady, weeping at the crossroads
59. Song for St. Cecilia’s Day
60. The Quest
61. But I Can’t
62. In Sickness and in Health
63. Leap Before You Look
64. Jumbled in the common box
65. Atlantis
66. At the Grave of Henry James
67. Mundus et Infans
68. The Lesson
69. The Sea and the Mirror
70. Noon
71. Lament for a Lawgiver
72. Under Which Lyre
73. The Fall of Rome
74. In Praise of Limestone
75. A Household
76. Song
77. A Walk After Dark
78. Memorial for the City
79. Under Sirius
80. Their Lonely Betters
81. Nocturne I
82. Fleet Visit
83. The Shield of Achilles
84. The Willow-Wren and the Stare
85. Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier
86. Nocturne II
87. Bucolics
88. Horae Canonicae
89. Homage to Clio
90. The Old Man’s Road
91. The Song
92. First Things First
93. The More Loving One
94. Friday’s Child
95. Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno
96. Dame Kind
97. You
98. A Change of Air
99. After Reading a Child’s Guide to Modern Physics
100. On the Circuit
101. Et in Arcadia Ego
102. Thanksgiving for a Habitat
103. Epithalamium
104. Amor Loci
105. Profile
106. Fairground
107. River Profile
108. Prologue at Sixty
109. Forty Years On
110. Ode to Terminus
111. August 1968
112. A New Year Greeting
113. Moon Landing
114. Old People’s Home
115. Talking to Myself
116. A Shock
117. A Lullaby
118. Aubade
119. A Thanksgiving
120. Archaeology 3

A Note on the Text
Explanatory Notes
Index of Titles and First Lines