poems to remember, poetry

The Proof, by W.H. Auden


‘When rites and melodies begin
to alter modes and times,
And timid bar-flies boast aloud
of uncommitted crimes,
And leading families are proud
To dine with their black sheep,
What promises, what discipline,
If any, will Love keep?’
So roared Fire on their right:
But Tamino and Pamina
Walked past its rage,
Sighing O, sighing O,
In timeless fermatas of awe and delight
(Innocent? Yes. Ignorant? No.)
Down the grim passage.

‘When stinking Chaos lifts the latch,
And Grotte backward spins,
And Helen’s nose becomes a beak
And cats and dogs grow chins,
And daisies claw and pebbles shriek,
And Form and Colour part,
What swarming hatreds then will hatch
Out of Love’s riven heart.’
So hissed Water on their left:
But Pamina and Tamino
Opposed its spite,
With his worship, with her sweetness –
O look now! See how they emerge from the cleft
(Frightened? No. Happy? Yes.)
Out into sunlight.

– W.H. Auden

So there. If you don’t love “timeless fermatas of awe and delight” with all the bones in your body, you are no son of mine. I warned you. Also, It occurs to me that “Helen’s nose becomes a beak” is a variation on the whole “Jill goes down on her back” thing.