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The Temptation of St. Joseph [By W.H. Auden]

[From For the Time Being by W.H. Auden, about the experience of Joseph after hearing that Mary is pregnant.]

My shoes were shined, my pants were cleaned and pressed,
And I was hurrying to meet
          My own true Love:
But a great crowd grew and grew
Till I could not push my way through
A star had fallen down in the street;
          When they saw who I was,
The police tried to do their best.

Joseph, you have heard
What Mary said occurred;
Yes, it may be so.
Is it likely? No.

The bar was gay, the lighting well-designed,
And I was sitting down to wait
          My own true Love:
A voice I'd hear before, I think,
Cried: "This is on the house. I drink
          To him
Who does not know it is too late;"
          When I asked for the time,
Everyone was very kind.

Mary may be pure,
But, Joseph, are you sure?
How is one to tell?
Suppose, for instance... Well...

Through cracks, up ladders, into waters deep,
I squeezed, I climbed, I swam to save
          My own true Love:
Under a dead apple tree
I saw an ass; when it saw me
          It brayed;
A hermit sat in the mouth of a cave: 
          When I asked him the way,
He pretended to be asleep.

Maybe, maybe not.
But, Joseph, you know what
Your world, of course, will say
About you anyway.

Where are you, father, where?
Caught in the jealous trap Of an empty house I hear As I sit alone in the dark Everything, everything, The drip of the bathroom tap, The creak of the sofa spring, The wind in the air shaft, all Making the same remark Stupidly, stupidly, Over and over again. Father, what have I done? Answer me, father, how Can I answer the tactless wall Or the pompous furniture now? Answer them...

No, you must.

How then am I to know
Father, that you are just?
Give me one reason.


All I ask is one
Important and elegant proof
That what my love has done
Was really at your will
And that your will is love.

No, you must believe;
Be silent, and be still.


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