April 8th, 2011

white dress back


IX. The Tower

This is an architecture for the odd;
Thus heaven was attacked by the afraid,
So once, unconsciously, a virgin made
Her maidenhead conspicuous to a god.

Here on dark nights while worlds of triumph sleep
Lost Love in abstract speculation burns,
And exiled Will to politics returns
In epic verse that makes its traitors weep.

Yet many come to wish their tower a well;
For those who dread to drown, of thirst may die,
Those who see all become invisible:

Here great magicians, caught in their own spell,
Long for a natural climate as they sigh
"Beware of Magic" to the passer-by.
--W. H. Auden

This poem is an old, old favorite. I particularly love the tower/well image; it's apt on so many levels, vivid and exact.

It's part of a much longer poem sequence, "The Quest."