The Vale: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1855-60, oil on wood, 35 x 53 cm (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Taller to-day, we remember similar evenings, Walking together in the windless orchard Where the brook runs over the gravel, far from the glacier. Again in the room with the sofa hiding the grate, Look down to the river when the rain is over, See him turn to the window, hearing our last Of Captain Ferguson. It is seen how excellent hands have turned to commonness. One staring too long, went blind in a tower, One sold all his manors to fight, broke through, and faltered. Nights come bringing the snow, and the dead howl Under the headlands in their windy dwelling Because the Adversary put too easy questions On lonely roads. But happy now, though no nearer each other, We see the farms lighted all along the valley; Down at the mill-shed the hammering stops And men go home. Noises at dawn will bring Freedom for some, but not this peace No bird can contradict: passing, but is sufficient now For something fulfilled this hour, loved or endured.
W. H. Auden: Taller To-day, 1929, from Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957