The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.
Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.
The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.
The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.
Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.
A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.
Søren Kierkegaards "Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments"
"Without risk, no faith. Faith is just this, the contradiction between the infinite passion of inwardness and objective uncertainty. If I can grasp God objectively, then I do not have faith, but just because I cannot do this, I must have faith. If I wish to stay in my faith, I must take constant care to keep hold of the objective uncertainty, to be ‘on the 70,000 fathoms deep’ but still have faith." (русский перевод С. Исаева).
J. Fuller "A Reader's Guide to Auden"
'Leap Before You Look' similarly uses alternate key words at the end of each stanza, and manages ingeniously to ring all possible changes on the quatrain arrangement of two rhymes (nine of each in the whole poem). Such technical shadow-boxing seems neither as bland nor as menacing as a poet like William Empson could make it, but the sense of circumspection nicely underlines the 'danger' which is the subject of the poem, i.e. the risk involved in making the existential choice of life. (The Kierkegaardian 'ten thousand fathoms' was to crop up again at the end of Prospero's speech in The Sea and the Mirror.) An Empsonian flatness also haunts the villanelle 'If I Could Tell You' . It does, however, lean towards the lyrical (fully expressed in Miranda's villanelle in The Sea and the Mirror) and is not, in places, far removed from the kind of sentiment found in the popular commercial song.