A very Audenesque Auden poem from 1933 that undercuts the dreamy, chummy pastoral of the first few stanzas with an unsettling meditation on the cost of all that luxurious summertime ease. "The crumpling flood" of history bursts the "dykes of our content" in a typically 1930s bit of social awareness.
Interestingly, this full-length 16-stanza version from June 1933 is often anthologised as "A Summer's Night" with only the first few jaunty stanzas included.
Auden was harsh on his early poems and hacked this early one about (the moon becomes a butcher not an orphan in later versions), though his friend Benjamin Britten sets it beautifully in his Spring Symphony towards the end of his life.
Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
Vega conspicuous overhead
In the windless nights of June;
Forests of green have done complete
The day's activity; my feet
Point to the rising moon.
Lucky, this point in time and space
Is chosen as my working place;
Where the sexy airs of summer,
The bathing hours and the bare arms,
The leisured drives through a land of farms,
Are good to the newcomer.
That later we, though parted then
May still recall these evenings when
Fear gave his watch no look;
The lion griefs loped from the shade
And on our knees their muzzles laid,
And Death put down his book.
Now North and South and East and West
Those I love lie down to rest;
The moon looks on them all:
The healers and the brilliant talkers.
The eccentrics and the silent walkers,
The dumpy and the tall.
She climbs the European sky;
Churches and power stations lie
Alike among earth's fixtures:
Into galleries she peers,
And blankly as an orphan stares
Upon the marvellous pictures.
The creepered wall stands up to hide
The gathering multitudes outside
Whose glances hunger worsens;
Concealing from their wretchedness
Our metaphysical distress,
Our kindness to ten persons.
Soon through the dykes of our content
The crumpling flood will force a rent,
And, taller than a tree,
Hold sudden death before our eyes
Whose river-dreams long hide the size
And vigours of the sea.