O What Is That Sound


O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
      Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
      The soldiers are coming.

O what is that light I see flashing so clear
      Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
      As they step lightly.

O what are they doing with all that gear,
      What are they doing this morning, this morning?
Only their ususal manoeuvres, dear,
      Or perhaps a warning.

O why have they left the road down there,
      Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in their orders, dear,
      Why are you kneeling?

O haven't they stopped for the doctor's care,
      Haven't they reined their horses, their horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
      None of these forces.

O is it the parson they want, with white hair,
      Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
      Without a visit.

O it must be the farmer who lives so near.
      It must be the farmer, so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
      And now they are running.

O where are you going? Stay with me here!
      Were the vows you swore deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear,
      But I must be leaving.

O it's broken the lock and splintered the door,
      O it's the gate where they're turning, turning;
Their boots are heavy on the floor
      And their eyes are burning.


W.H. Auden, Collected Poems, Random House, 2007.