'Precious Five'

W.H. Auden's recipe for happiness

The poet speaks to his five senses and bids them "be happy" in the face of cause for anger and despair – feelings we "find reasons fast enough" to experience.


"Bless what there is for being," because to feel – to be – at all is a gift.

Be happy, precious five,
So long as I'm alive
Nor try to ask me what
You should be happy for;
Think, if it helps, of love
Or alcohol or gold,
But do as you are told.
I could (which you cannot)
Find reasons fast enough
To face the sky and roar
In anger and despair
At what is going on,
Demanding that it name
Whoever is to blame:
The sky would only wait
Till all my breath was gone
And then reiterate
As if I wasn't there
That singular command
I do not understand,
Bless what there is for being,
Which has to be obeyed, for
What else am I made for,
Agreeing or disagreeing?

– W. H. Auden, 1950 (Originally published in Harper's)

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