Sunday, 1 June 2014

Because last month was poetry month.

W. H. Auden, 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 sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but not from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
I would have been in my late teens when I encountered this 
poem, and it shook me to my core.
The song is by a man writing about a man, but that, to me, 
is not important. What resonates, like a peal of bells, 
is the calm, resigned knowledge of the cost of love and 
of its nature. In the still centre of the small hours the 
poet finds acceptance and peace. 


  1. Poems we learn or come across when we are young seem to be deeply etched into our very beings.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  2. I don't know how Auden does it, but he makes every single line so huge, so heavy with import. And he makes his second stanzas so melodic that you almost forget that he is beating you over the head with imagery that no one else in the world could conjure.

    I love Auden and his heavy darkness. I love his Irish melancholy. And I wish--desperately--that Vincent Price were alive to read all of Auden's poems aloud.

    I am off to read "Funeral Blues" again. And to remind myself that if we do not revive the beauty of this English language, it will continue its decline.

  3. This has always been one of my favorite Auden poems. And there are many from which to choose.