by W H Auden
You are the town and we are the clock.
We are the guardians of the gate in the rock.
On your left and on your right
In the day and in the night,
We are watching you.
Wiser not to ask just what has occurred
To them who disobeyed our word;
We were the whirlpool, we were the reef,
We were the formal nightmare, grief
And the unlucky rose.
Climb up the crane, learn the sailor's words
When the ships from the islands laden with birds
Tell your stories of fishing and other men's wives:
The expansive moments of constricted lives
In the lighted inn.
But do not imagine we do not know
Nor that what you hide with such care won't show
At a glance.
Nothing is done, nothing is said,
But don't make the mistake of believing us dead:
I shouldn't dance.
We're afraid in that case you'll have a fall.
We've been watching you over the garden wall
The sky is darkening like a stain,
Something is going to fall like rain
And it won't be flowers.
When the green field comes off like a lid
Revealing what was much better hid:
And look, behind you without a sound
The woods have come up and are standing round
In deadly crescent.
The bolt is sliding in its groove,
Outside the window is the black removers' van.
And now with sudden swift emergence
Come the woman in dark glasses and humpbacked surgeons
And the scissors man.
This might happen any day
So be careful what you say
Be clean, be tidy, oil the lock,
Trim the garden, wind the clock,
Remember the Two.
Last updated January 14, 2019