Victor by W.H. Auden

Victor was a little baby,
Into this world he came;
His father took him on his knee and said:
‘Don’t dishonour the family name.’

Victor looked up at his father
Looked up with big round eyes:
His father said; ‘Victor, my only son,
Don’t you ever ever tell lies.’

Victor and his father went riding
Out in a little dog-cart;
His father took a Bible from his pocket and read;
‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’

It was a frosty December
Victor was only eighteen,
But his figures were neat and his margins were straight
And his cuffs were always clean.

He took a room at the Peveril,
A respectable boarding-house;
And Time watched Victor day after day
As a cat will watch a mouse.

The clerks slapped Victor on the shoulder;
‘Have you ever had woman?’ they said,
‘Come down town with us on Saturday night.’
Victor smiled and shook his head.

The manager sat in his office,
Smoked a Corona cigar:
Said; ‘Victor’s a decent fellow but
He’s too mousy to go far.’

Victor went up the his bedroom,
Set the alarum bell;
Climbed into bed, took his Bible and read
Of what happened to Jezebel.

It was the First of April,
Anna to the Peveril came;
Her eyes, her lips, her breasts, her hips
And her smile set men aflame,

She looked as pure as a schoolgirl
On her First Communion day,
But her kisses were like the best champagne
When she gave herself away.

It was the Second of April.
She was wearing a coat of fur;
Victor met her upon the stair
And he fell in love with her.

The first time he made his proposal,
She laughed, said; ‘I’ll never wed;
The second time there was a pause;
Then she smiled and shook her head.

Anna looked into her mirror,
Pouted and gave a frown:
Said ‘Victor’s as dull as a wet afternoon
But I’ve got to settle down.’

The third time he made his proposal,
As they walked by the Reservoir:
She gave him a kiss like a blow on the head,
Said; ‘You are my heart’s desire.’

They were married early in August,
She said; ‘Kiss me, you funny boy’;
Victor took her in his arms and said;
‘O my Helen of Troy.’

It was the middle of September,
Victor came to the office one day;
He was wearing a flower in his buttonhole,
He was late but he was gay.

The clerks were talking of Anna,
The door was just ajar:
One said, ‘Poor old Victor, but where ignorance
Is bliss, et cetera.’

Victor stood still as a statue,
The door was just ajar:
One said, ‘God, what fun I had with her
In that Baby Austin car.’

Victor walked out into the High Street,
He walked to the edge of town:
He came to the allotments and the rubbish heap
And his tears came tumbling down.

Victor looked up at the sunset
As he stood there all alone;
Cried; ‘Are you in Heaven, Father?’
But the sky said ‘Address not known’.

Victor looked at the mountains,
The mountains all covered in snow
Cried; ‘Are you pleased with me, Father?’
And the answer came back, No.

Victor came to the forest,
Cried: ‘Father, will she ever be true?’
And the oaks and the beeches shook their heads
And they answered: ‘Not to you.’

Victor came to the meadow
Where the wind went sweeping by:
Cried; ‘O Father, I love her so’,
But the wind said, ‘She must die’.

Victor came to the river
Running so deep and so still:
Crying; ‘O Father, what shall I do?’
And the river answered, ‘Kill’.

Anna was sitting at table,
Drawing cards from a pack;
Anna was sitting at table
Waiting for her husband to come back.

It wasn’t the Jack of Diamonds
Nor the Joker she drew first;
It wasn’t the King or the Queen of Hearts
But the Ace of Spades reversed.

Victor stood in the doorway,
He didn’t utter a word:
She said; ‘What’s the matter, darling?’
He behaved as if he hadn’t heard.

There was a voice in his left ear,
There was a voice in his right,
There was a voice at the base of his skull
Saying, ‘She must die tonight.’

Victor picked up a carving-knife,
His features were set and drawn,
Said; ‘Anna it would have been better for you
If you had not been born.’

Anna jumped up from the table,
Anna started to scream,
But Victor came slowly after her
Like a horror in a dream.

She dodged behind the sofa,
She tore down a curtain rod,
But Victor came slowly after her:
Said; ‘Prepare to meet thy God.’

She managed to wrench the door open,
She ran and she didn’t stop.
But Victor followed her up the stairs
And he caught her at the top.

He stood there above the body,
He stood there holding the knife;
And the blood ran down the stairs and sang,
‘I’m the Resurrection and the Life’.

They tapped Victor on the shoulder,
They took him away in a van;
He sat as quiet as a lump of moss
Saying, ‘I am the Son of Man’.

Victor sat in a corner
Making a woman of clay:
Saying; ‘I am Alpha and Omega, I shall come
To judge the earth some day.’

The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

As I Walked Out One Evening by W. H. Auden

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.

Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.