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Evening

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”.

Wystan Hugh Auden (February 1907- September 1973) was an Anglo-American poet, who was born in England and was later an American citizen. He is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century and his work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, the way he tackles moral and political issues and the way it is varied in tone, content and form. The central themes to his poems are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals and the relationship between individual human beings and the impersonal world of nature, just as Denny Bradbury does in her poem ‘Summer Cold’ from her new collection ‘De:versify’:

“Summer cold reflects your thoughts:
Dark and dank and all of nought-
Save that the sun will never shine
While he refuses to be thine.
Dreary days and colder nights,
Clouds hiding all the glorious light
That you know is there above….”

In Auden’s poem, he relates the nature of time to the human condition, with there being three different speakers throughout the poem: the lovers, the clocks of time and the narrator himself. Each speaker has a different attitude towards time – the voice of the lovers sees time as something that can be conquered and ignored when necessary; the clocks show time to be a ruling force that exists to keep people in line and the narrator talks of how time – and love – is a constant flow that brings about both change and opportunity and that it is something that nobody can control:

…’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.’….
Denny Bradbury refers to this theme of an everlasting love in her eight line poem, ‘Forever and More’:
“Say love is forever,
And we shall not part.
Say love is our destiny,
Our meeting of hearts.
When trouble leaps in,
We shall be like glue-
You joined to me, and me
Bound to you.”

And also draws on the theme of time combined with love in her poem ‘My Gift to You’:

“…Oh! Love is summer, it is spring –
But love is winter too.
Be happy in the tide of life:
My love, my gift to you.”

Like Auden, Denny looks at the way love relates to the passing of time and in Auden’s poem he is ultimately showing that despite the three different views of time and the nature of time, it is not something that one can escape from – as the lovers hoped – or as controlling as the clocks would show it to be but rather it is a constant and consistent force, full of possibilities, that shows that everything is always in transition.

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