Paysage Moralisé byWysten Hugh Auden

Author: Wysten Hugh Auden
Title: Paysage Moralisé
Source: The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden. New York: Random House, 1945. Pp. 47-48.

1  Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
2  Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
3  Round corners coming suddenly on water,
4  Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
5  We honour founders of these starving cities
6  Whose honour is the image of our sorrow,

7  Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
8  That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
9  Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
10 They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
11 Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
12 Visions of green to them who craved for water.

13 They built by rivers and at night the water
14 Running past windows comforted their sorrow;
15 Each in his little bed conceived of islands
16 Where every day was dancing in the valleys
17 And all the green trees blossomed on the mountains
18 Where love was innocent, being far from cities.

19 But dawn came back and they were still in cities;
20 No marvellous creature rose up from the water;
21 There was still gold and silver in the mountains
22 But hunger was a more immediate sorrow,
23 Although to moping villagers in valleys
24 Some waving pilgrims were describing islands …

25 “The gods,” they promised, “visit us from islands,
26 Are stalking, head-up, lovely, through our cities;
27 Now is the time to leave your wretched valleys
28 And sail with them across the lime-green water,
29 Sitting at their white sides, forget your sorrow,
30 The shadow cast across your lives by mountains.”

31 So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains,
32 Climbing up crags to get a view of islands,
33 So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
34 Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
35 So many, careless, dived and drowned in water,
36 So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys.

37 It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Ah, water
38 Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
39 And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

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