Easy Knowledge

Between attention and attention,

The first and last decision,

Is mortal distraction

Of earth and air,

Further and nearer,

The vague wants

Of days and nights,

And personal error;

And the fatigued face,

Taking the strain

Of the horizontal force

And the vertical thrust,

Makes random answer

To the crucial test;

The uncertain flesh,

Scraping back chair

For the wrong train,

Falling in slush

Before a friend’s friends

Or shaking hands

With a snub-nosed winner.


The opening window, closing door,

Open, close, but not

To finish or restore;

These whishes get

No further than

The edges of the town,

And leaning asking from the car

Cannot tell us where we are;

While the divided face

Has no grace

No discretion,

No occupation

But registering

Acreage, mileage,

The easy knowledge

Of the virtuous thing.

May 1930

W.H. Auden


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