2About the PoetAuden was an Anglo-American poet and one of the leading literary figures of the 20th century.Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York on 21 February 1907 and he died in Austria on 29 September 1973.Auden won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for The Age of Anxiety. Much of his poetry is concerned with moral issues and evidences a strong political, social, and psychological context.His poetry is versatile and inventive; his linguistic innovations earned him the adjective “Audenesque”.
3About the poetHis poems are fragmentary and terse, relying on concrete images and colloquial language to convey Auden’s political and psychological concerns.Robert Bloom, writing in PMLA, commented about Auden’s writing in 1930, that “the omission of articles, demonstrative adjectives, subjects, conjunctions, relative pronouns, auxiliary verbs—form a language of extremity and urgency. Like telegraphese it has time and patience only for the most important words.”
4The more loving oneLooking up at the stars, I know quite well That, for all they care, I can go to hell, But on earth indifference is the least We have to dread from man or beast. Theme of indifference; stars cannot feel so are lucky but man is not so lucky.
5Stanza 2How should we like it were stars to burn With a passion for us we could not return? If equal affection cannot be, Let the more loving one be me. He puts himself in others shoes and describes the pain of unrequited love and the desire not to inflict that pain upon anyone.
6Stanza 3Admirer as I think I am Of stars that do not give a damn, I cannot, now I see them, say I missed one terribly all day. The stanza is contradictory. Stars are invisible during day; the poet says that he was hardly aware of their absence.
7Stanza 4Were all stars to disappear or die, I should learn to look at an empty sky And feel its total dark sublime, Though this might take me a little time. Human nature is adaptable; if the night sky is to become devoid of stars and turn dark, the poet feels that he will get used to that too. Time is thus a great influence and healer.
8Analysis of the poemAuden effectively uses symbolism and representation to build his theme on indifference and how it became a common phenomenon of modern society.Auden uses the “stars” throughout the poem to represent the general population or the loved ones, and how people show a lack of concern for others.The poet used the skies, containing millions of “stars”, to represent people, and the earth to represent detachment between people.
9AnalysisThe message of the poem appears to be that we should be “more loving,” to divorce ourselves from the darkness of indifference.The poet wants to be the ‘more loving one’ than the one to show indifference to those that love.The symbolism and contradictions lend beauty to the otherwise simple poem.
11About the poemThe poem is an allegorical conversation between Love and Time as they discuss the power of love to conquer eternity.Auden wrote the poem in 1937 and first published it in his 1940 volume, Another Time.
12Stanza 1As I walked out one evening, Walking down Bristol Street, The crowds upon the pavement Were fields of harvest wheat. Fall, or the harvest season, is metaphor for old age. The speaker is reminded of our journey to winter years.
13Stanza 2And down by the brimming river I heard a lover sing Under an arch of the railway: 'Love has no ending. The speaker hears two lovers pledging love to each other.
14Stanza 3'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you Till China and Africa meet, And the river jumps over the mountain And the salmon sing in the street, The lovers exchange promises of utter devotion.
15Stanza 4'I'll love you till the ocean Is folded and hung up to dry And the seven stars go squawking Like geese about the sky.
16Stanza 5'The years shall run like rabbits, For in my arms I hold The Flower of the Ages, And the first love of the world.' The years shall pass as fast as rabbits but the love will remain fresh – Love will beat Time.
17Stanza 6But all the clocks in the city Began to whirr and chime: 'O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time. The promises are interrupted by the chiming of the clocks around the city. Time reminds lovers that mortals can never transcend time.
18Stanza 7'In the burrows of the Nightmare Where Justice naked is, Time watches from the shadow And coughs when you would kiss. Time is compared to something that hides in burrows, watching the lovers and waiting to interrupt them when they kiss. Justice naked is: justice is stripped of its dignity
19Stanza 8'In headaches and in worry Vaguely life leaks away, And Time will have his fancy To-morrow or to-day. Time will have his fancy: will have his way or death Life passes in distress and worry and soon it is time to die.
20Stanza 9'Into many a green valley Drifts the appalling snow; Time breaks the threaded dances And the diver's brilliant bow. The green valley of youth giving way to winter of old age – contrasts beautiful green valley with appalling snow. Time has power over men’s lives.
21Stanza 10'O plunge your hands in water, Plunge them in up to the wrist; Stare, stare in the basin And wonder what you've missed. Reminds lovers of the numerous acts of suicide.
22Stanza 11'The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the tea-cup opens A lane to the land of the dead. Time reminds Love that nothing is lasting in the world of these lovers. Images of life, productivity and fertility contrasted with images of desolation, separation, and death.
23Stanza 12'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes And the Giant is enchanting to Jack, And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer, And Jill goes down on her back. Raffle: to dispose Everything is unexpected here – unimaginable paradoxes are used – the nursery rhymes are inverted.
24Stanza 13'O look, look in the mirror, O look in your distress: Life remains a blessing Although you cannot bless. Paradox in life: when you are distressed, you cannot bless.
25Stanza 14'O stand, stand at the window As the tears scald and start; You shall love your crooked neighbour With your crooked heart.' When your love has deceived you, your heart will burn and will turn crooked. Crooked: dishonest.
26Stanza 15It was late, late in the evening, The lovers they were gone; The clocks had ceased their chiming, And the deep river ran on. Reader is recalled back to the setting.
27Analysis of the PoemThe poem is a variant of the ballad form, made up of 15 rhymed quatrains.It’s a meditation on love and the remorselessness of time, told in three voices: the narrator, a rapturous lover, and the reproachful clocks that speak back to the lover.The first five stanzas of the poem are apparently positive; yet despite the ambience the opening lines hide a sense of foreboding – life does not remain the same always.
28AnalysisThere is a clear element of foreshadowing in the first stanza through the following comparison:“The crowds upon the pavement” “Were fields of harvest wheat.”This comparison is often overlooked or omitted, thought to be a mere contradicting use of rural imagery in an urban setting, though when considering the fact that wheat about to be harvested is at the end of its life cycle, the comparison is really quite apt.
29AnalysisTime mocks the couple by reminding them that their lives are withering away, regardless of how their time is spent, a point driven home through the following statement:“And time will have his fancy” “Tomorrow or today.”Through altering the meaning of known nursery rhymes, Auden attempts to make a statement of how the things we perceive as youths, might be
30Analysiscompletely different from our perception of the same things as adults. The ephemeral joys of childhood are dissipated by age and experience.In every aspect of life, we are continuously reminded of our mortality, watching our surroundings grow older, our habits and hobbies become obsolete and witnessing the death of friends and family, a death often accompanied by complications.The poem may also suggest Auden’s lack of faith in humanity.
31AnalysisThe last lines are significant as they show that even after the lovers have left, and the clocks have ceased their chiming, the river inexorably runs on: a clear indication that time continues to pass despite the absence of time personified.