The chimney-sweepers

WH Auden, a modern poetic Mr. WH, happily combined lofty sentiments with everyday words and down to earth experiences. In this poem, ” Song”, he brings out the wonder and urgency of falling in love by telling the stories in one or two lines of verse of ordinary people, who have jobs and professions, but in all cases, love has the final word and makes them act.

A poem then about the impulsiveness and irresistable force of love when it comes into anyone’s life…


The chimney sweepers
Wash their faces and forget to wash the neck;
The lighthouse keepers
Let the lamps go out and leave the ships to wreck;
The prosperous baker
Leaves the rolls in hundreds in the oven to burn;
The undertaker
Pins a small note on the coffin saying, “Wait till I return,
I’ve got a date with Love.”

And deep-sea divers
Cut their boots off and come bubbling to the top,
And engine-drivers
Bring expresses in the tunnel to a stop;
The village rector
Dashes down the side-aisle half-way through a psalm;
The sanitary inspector
Runs off with the cover of the cesspool on his arm-
To keep his date with Love.

From <;

In all cases, the power of love sweeps aside the ordinary actions and everyday responsibilities of the people in this poem – the chimney-sweep, the lighthouse keeper, the baker, the undertaker, the deep-sea diver, the engine-driver, the village rector and the sanitary inspector. Whatever they were doing, or needed to do, is set aside to go off and fulfil their date with love. The choice of professions is whimsical and unusual and thus holds our interest to the end.
Their abandonment of their duties has an almost comic element, you can almost imagine a cartoon with Cupid shooting his arrow into the chimney sweep so that he forgets to wash his neck.

There are many types of love poem, this one emphasizes the universality of the experience of falling in love by accumulating specific examples from all walks of life.

There is great potential for a follow up poem as the lighthouse keeper, the undertaker and the sanitary inspector return crestfallen to their posts, trying to pick up the pieces of their former occupations as they become disillusioned by love. The world stops in this poem, and would start up again in the next.

The Poetry Dude


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