If I Could Tell You

I love this poem by Auden, written in 1940 when Britain was involved in the Second World War. It is a villanelle: nineteen lines, five stanzas of three lines each (or tercets) and a four line stanza (quatrain) to end; the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated at the end of the other stanzas; each stanza’s second line shares the same rhyme scheme.

If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

W H Auden

The poetry of W H Auden is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

BlogAuden

 

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