WH Auden


As We Like It


Certainly our city with its byres of poverty down to
The river's edge, its cathedral, its engines, its dogs;
Here is the cosmopolitan cooking
And the light alloys and the glass.

Built by the conscience-stricken, the weapon-making,
By us. Wild rumours woo and terrify the crowd,
Woo us. Betrayers thunder at, blackmail
Us. But where now are They.

Who without reproaches showed us what our vanity
has chosen,
Who pursued understanding with patience like a sex,
had unlearnt
Our hatred and towaards the really better
World had turned their face?

Who knows? The peaked and violent faces are exalted,
The feverish prejudiced lives do not care, and lost
Their voice in the flutter of bunting, the glittering
Brass of our great retreat,

And the malice of death. For the wicked card is dealt and
The sinister tall-hatted botanist stoops at the spring
With his insignificant phial and looses
The plague on the ignorant town.

Under their shadows the pitiful subalterns are sleeping;
The moon is usual; the necessary lovers touch;
The river is alone and the trampled flower;
And through years of absolute cold

The planets rush towards Lyra in a lion's charge. Can
Hate so securely bind? Are they dead here? Yes.
And the wish to wound has the power. And tomorrow
Comes. It's a world. It's a way.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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