Monday, May 20

Poetry III

After a week off, necessitated by an unrelenting law school exam schedule, the Ribstone Pippin Poetry Club is back. For those not familiar with the concept, the standard description follows. Those familiar with the concept should skip ahead to this week's selection.

The Ribstone Pippin Poetry Club

What? Like a book club, but weekly and with poems instead of books.
Why? Because books are long and most poems aren't. Because I spent six years of my life studying poetry before bolting for law school. Because it gives me an excuse to reread my favorite poems and to read some new ones for the first time.
I'm intrigued, tell me more. The concept is simple. I post a new, relatively short poem each Monday morning and you read it and, if you think it is worth sharing, please post a link to my post on your site accompanied by this description of the club.
What's in it for me? A weekly cultural shot in the arm. Also, if you send me your reactions, thoughts, insights or any comments related even tangentially to the poems, I will sort through the responses and post a sample of them.
This isn't just an excuse to make me read your embarrassing high school poetry, is it? I assure you that I will choose a selection of both popular and less well-known poems by major poets. Hopefully, there will be opportunities to reread poems you read in high school or university as well as to make some pleasant discoveries.

This week's selection is one of the best-known and greatest poems by one of the last century's best-known and greatest poets. W[yston] H[ugh] Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening" will, hopefully, be familiar to you from high school English classes, but the poem's unsettling expression of deep melancholy using nursery rhyme metres and phrases never fails to move and disturb, no matter how often it is reread.

As I Walked Out One Evening

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 an 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 the 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 to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'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 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.

Auden wrote this poem in 1940. For more on Auden the man and the poet, click here.
To visit the Auden Society's website, click here.