Treasure Island

WH Auden


If I Could Tell You


Time will say nothing but I told you so
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Thursday, March 13, 2014

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Comments about this poem (If I Could Tell You by WH Auden )

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  • Tom Treadwell (6/30/2012 5:07:00 PM)

    An unfortunate misprint in stanza 3 spoils this brilliant villanelle. Should be 'told', not 'sold'. (Report) Reply

  • Daniel Tyler (10/31/2005 10:56:00 AM)

    The greatest poem of them all. Mysterious and beautiful. Time is explored with real intricacy here. Auden is a fine poet. (Report) Reply

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