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.
“In reality (spiritual reality) it is much too simple to think that God offers his grace to man and man accepts or refuses. When God has graciously chosen a man his grace continues even though the man does not do what God has decided. On the other hand, this persistence of election… does not entail a negation of man’s will. God pursues this man, conducts him through his whole life, in order to bring about the consent of this man’s will to what God has decided.”
… Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), The Judgment of Jonah, tr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1971, p. 24
Inspired by our time in Jonah yesterday…
“I can tell you for an eternal truth that troubled souls are always safe. It is the untroubled that are in danger. Trouble in itself is always a claim on love, and God is love. He must deny Himself if He does not come to help the helpless. It is the prisoners, and the blind, and the leper, and the possessed, and the hungry, and the tempest-tossed, who are His special care. Therefore, if you are lost and sick and bound, you are just in the place where He can meet you. Blessed are the mourners. They shall be comforted.”
… Andrew Jukes (1815-1901), , Letters of Andrew Jukes, London: Longman, Green, and Company, 1903, , p. 155
“Count not thyself to have found true peace, if thou hast felt no grief; nor that then all is well if thou hast no adversary; nor that this is perfect if all things fall out according to thy desire….”
Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), Of the Imitation of Christ , Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1877, III.xxv.3, p. 163
“[God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [He] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things… When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours….”
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Screwtape Letters, Macmillan, 1944, p. 73