• Ann

"Friday's Child," A Poem By W. H. Auden

Updated: Apr 14, 2020


Friday's Child

(In memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred at Flossenbürg, April 9, 1945)

He told us we were free to choose

But, children as we were, we thought---

"Paternal Love will only use

Force in the last resort

On those too bumptious to repent."

Accustomed to religious dread,

It never crossed our minds He meant

Exactly what He said.

Perhaps He frowns, perhaps He grieves,

But it seems idle to discuss

If anger or compassion leaves

The bigger bangs to us.

What reverence is rightly paid

To a Divinity so odd

He lets the Adam whom He made

Perform the Acts of God?

It might be jolly if we felt

Awe at this Universal Man

(When kings were local, people knelt);

Some try to, but who can?

The self-observed observing Mind

We meet when we observe at all

Is not alarming or unkind

But utterly banal.

Though instruments at Its command

Make wish and counterwish come true,

It clearly cannot understand

What It can clearly do.

Since the analogies are rot

Our senses based belief upon,

We have no means of learning what

Is really going on,

And must put up with having learned

All proofs or disproofs that we tender

Of His existence are returned

Unopened to the sender.

Now, did He really break the seal

And rise again? We dare not say;

But conscious unbelievers feel

Quite sure of Judgement Day.

Meanwhile, a silence on the cross,

As dead as we shall ever be,

Speaks of some total gain or loss,

And you and I are free

To guess from the insulted face

Just what Appearances He saves

By suffering in a public place

A death reserved for slaves.

1958


April 9, 2020

210 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All