Time and tide or whatever

I’ve been thinking how sometimes we write in response, quite direct response, to something we’ve read, something we’ve heard, or perhaps even to some old phrase or saying that is used frequently and unthinkingly.

I’ve always assumed that the following poem by Auden, my favourite poet, was written in response to the common phrase ‘Time will tell.’

Younger Auden

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 reasons 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

Tomorrow I’ll share with you a poem I wrote against the similarly heedless statement ‘Time is a great healer.’

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4 thoughts on “Time and tide or whatever

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