Friday's Child

Friday's Child

Poem by W. H. Auden

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 alariming 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.