W. H. Auden:
"The Two" (or "The Witnesses")


THE TWO

You are the town and we are the clock.
We are the guardians of the gate in the rock.
            The Two.
On your left and on your right
In the day and in the night,
        We are watching you.

Wiser not to ask just what has occurred
To them who disobeyed our word;
        To those
We were the whirlpool, we were the reef,
We were the formal nightmare, grief
        And the unlucky rose.

Climb up the crane , learn the sailor's words
When the ships from the islands laden with birds
        Come in.
Tell your stories of fishing and other men's wives:
The expansive moments of constricted lives
        In the lighted inn.

But do not imagine we do not know
Nor that what you hide with such care won't show
        At a glance.
Nothing is done, nothing is said,
But don't make the mistake of believing us dead:
        I shouldn't dance.

We're afraid in that case you'll have a fall.
We've been watching you over the garden wall
        For hours.
The sky is darkening like a stain,
Something is going to fall like rain
        And it won't be flowers.

When the green field comes off like a lid
Revealing what was much better hid:
        Unpleasant.
And look, behind you without a sound
The woods have come up and are standing round
        In deadly crescent.

The bolt is sliding in its groove,
Outside the window is the black remov-
        ers' van.
And now with sudden swift emergence
Come the woman in dark glasses and humpbacked surgeons
        And the scissors man.

This might happen any day
So be careful what you say
        Or do.
Be clean, be tidy, oil the lock,
Trim the garden, wind the clock,
        Remember the Two.


["I shouldn't dance" -- i.e., if I were you. Americans would say "I wouldn't" here. This poem is very English in some ways -- the tone is sort of like that of a severe nanny. Hope you enjoy it!]