Revised 22 May 1999

W.H. Auden - Their Lonely Betters

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

Copyright 1976

Wystan Hugh Auden

In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise

On Auden's grave marker, in Kirchstetten, lower Austria

go to "The Watershed" go to "The Secret Agent"
go to "Lullaby" go to "The More Loving One"