Saturday, January 29, 2011

W.H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening"

Please use this post to discuss Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening". Some potential questions to consider:

What images stand out to you? Why?
What is the overall tone of the poem, and what effect does it have on your reading?
How do Kowit's chapters illuminate the devices the author uses here?

Please also feel free to relay any other impressions, questions, reactions to the poem.


  1. For once, I actually liked the rhythym for this poem. The meter was very appealling and made everything flow together. But the one thing I didn't like was that, about halfway through the poem, I lost track of what the poem was about. I had to look back to remember that the author was talking to his beloved. -Nikhil

  2. I really enjoyed this poem also. I like that the pov changes, from an unidentified narrator (the person walking) to a lover under the railway, to the clocks (or time), back to the narrator. The tone of the poem also seems to change each time the pov changes. When the lover speaks, he uses really great imagery (I especially like the idea of the oceans being fold up and hung to dry)but nothing seems realistic. He has all of these grand ideas, but he's singing to the person he adores from under a railway, which is usually not the best place to hang out (When I think of arches under railways I think of graffiti, mud and trash).
    I also really like the lines "the crowds upon the pavement/were fields of harvest wheat" which gives me the impression that no one stood out, everyone was uniform.
    ~Stephanie B.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this poem. I loved the imagery that's used and the shifts and points of view as well. I don't think that's an easy thing to do. To shift point of view and then have it still be conveyed a specific way and to make sense to the reader. It's not styled in a scatterbrained, hard to comprehend format which I felt "Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror" was. My favorite part of this poem was that personifications were used. Auden speaks of time as if it were an actual person and makes it more active. So instead of just saying that "time is passing" (which is sort of a cliche, anyway), he uses the line "Time watches from the shadows, and coughs when you would kiss"

    Meghan Archer

  4. Auden starts the poem with a image we see in our everyday life, a couple in love. The lover's song also talks about time like the Sonnet 19 by Shakespeare. Here the images show how lovers can ignore things that are happening around them when they are deeply in love. The overall image is that the time can pass by so fast with love and you can miss out on things, but it leaves a blessing. I liked this poem, it is about what happens in life when people are in love. I like how he shows what he is trying to say. - Young Won

  5. I liked the way the poem made the love between the two people cute and not cheesy. Well, not that cheesy. They rhyming improved the way the poems is read; unlike the example from Kowit where he shows us how it hurts a poem. I also liked the repetition of some of the words near the end of the poem which gave it a new voice altogether. Even though the poem ends on a sad note, the way it reads isn't dragged on or incredibly dramatic and unnatural. It ends gracefully i think. - Alejandro Suarez

  6. I'm not sure it ends on a sad note! It seems kind of funny to me really. I took "The lovers they were gone" to mean that they were gone long before Time was done speaking. The lover's plea was not a serious entreaty but really just an idle declaration of love to the night, the sort of which young people everywhere participate in. They are simply not interested in the deep philosophical ramifications of what they just said. Time's attempt to instill in those people the idea that their life is brief, precious, and to be appreciated was completely unnecessary as they were already appreciating their lives well. Knowledge of the duration of one's existence is not a prerequisite to understanding its value.

    Or maybe the whole thing is really as it appears, a lament that time marches ever onward. After all, a lot of work went in to all those brief yet compelling images representing the passage of time, and it would be silly to undermine their meaning with the interpretation I prefer. But the whole poem begins on a silly note, with the anonymous lover singing of impossible things in a truly ridiculous fashion. So never mind, I like my way better.

  7. This poem was fun to read. The poet made love seem so exhilarating by connecting love to such impossible images. The poem then changed in the middle, where the poet shift the theme to that of time and the ever changing moment in time as one lives. There seems to be another shift in theme toward the end of the poem to that of life. My view is that the poet laments on the beauty of life. Time will always pass and any trouble will pass. Time is short and just living and experiencing the emotion of life is a blessing. I like Mark's interpretation about the lovers and the appreciation of life. This is probably why the poem seems to be shifting themes, kind of like a traveler reliving his experiences at the end of a long journey. -Khang L.

  8. In this poem we can see metaphors and imagery. I really like the third stanza, as I read I could visualize the imagery the Auden is giving us. The poem tone seems sad and lonely; it remains me of the poem we read last week Acquainted with the Night by Frost. The two poems are somewhat similar, the tone of the poem and the role of characters in the poems. Like the two characters are observing and listening as they walk through the night.

    Faviola Bonilla

  9. A love that would last til China and Africa meet...A Supercontinent Cycle (or Wilson's Cycle), a coming together of the earth's continents to form one 'supercontinent.' Said to occur every 300 to 500 million years. This is truly and everlasting love and what an interesting way to convey this profession of everlasting love! But with 300 to 500 million years, comes the concept of time. Time: the robber of a man and a woman's love. If not deteriorated by the very act of enduring one another, then time ages and the end of this life separates- if only for a time.

    The happiness of a life together in love- "In headaches and in worry/ Vaugely life leaks away." The trials of life robbing a happy of couple of that happiness? Love is work and I feel that this concept is sometimes poorly represented in drippy, nauseating love poetry. Auden; however, gives the somewhat idealistic view of everlasting love and then counterpoints this nonexistent ideal with the passing of time and the likely hood of the ravages of time on love. I especially love the phrase "And the lily-white boy is a Roarer/ And Jill goes down on her back." Here Auden has stripped a perfectly pleasant nursery rhyme and made it raw, carnal- and we begin to wonder why Jack and Jill actually tumbled down the hill. I doubt it was emotional love!

    In the end, Auden encourage the lover's to accept time, and " thy crooked neighbor/ with thy crooked heart." As Auden closes the poem, he leaves us with "And the deep river ran on." This speaks to me in many ways, but mainly in the idea that the fate of two lovers does not crash the progression towards tomorrow. The river of life rushes on whether individuals fall off the barge and get sucked into the raging undercurrent of a sad-existence.

    On page 38, Kowit helps us reflect on "Awful Poems" where the imagery and story are told ineffectively and the reader is lost in cliche prose and drippey sentiments. Auden is my kind of guy when it comes to expressing the role of time on love. I am a happily married woman with children and I am proof that love is hard work and time changes everything. Love is not ideal or easy. Love is not blind and without judgement. Love is judgement without punishment is all. Eventually a crack in a tea cup can lead to the end of a love story.

  10. This poem was definitely fun to read. I really liked that Auden created a simple story (The man listening to the person sing), with a more complex story being told through the song itself,(The man under the railway) . This poem creates an interesting picture in my mind. The references to impossible things such as "And the river jumps over the mountain And the salmon sing in the street,"and "I'll love you till the ocean Is folded and hung up to dry" are so creative and interesting to think about. I also really enjoy how he is using personification in all the lines associated with time. Making time a character is effective in communicating that there is sort of power struggle between time and the couples love for one another.

    Carleigh Schumacher

  11. I thought this poem was cute and very amusing. For some reason, in my head, I was able to personify everything that had a verb following it. I especially like the line "I'll love you till the ocean/Is folded and hung up to dry." I literally thought of the world doing its laundry and hanging up the ocean along a clothes line. However, about two stanzas after that, I started to lose track of what was being referenced and what the subject was. Still, I agree with Carleigh, in the fact that the poem was fun to read and the impossible references made the poem much more interesting. I also like how Auden wraps everything up in the end by saying "The clocks had ceased their chiming,/And the deep river ran on." It was as if he was walking away as if he did not just hear a exaggerated love song and instead continued on his way saying, 'people love and sing,then life goes on.'

    -Jennie Hwangpo

  12. I agree that the poem ends gracefully sort of reiterating the beginning except it says "late, late" in the evening and it undercuts the cheesy disingenuous proclamation of love in the beginning in suggesting time was moving on beyond that point when the first speaker proclaimed his love. I think it's humbling and graceful in that we're all fallible and time wears us all down. Some images that stands out are the fields of wheat like people and the crack in the tea cup opening to the "lane in the land of the dead." The poem uses dream like imagery and although doesn't reanimate dead metaphors like what Kowit talks about in Ch. 9 he gave hints to Jack and Jill with Jack and the Bean stalk in giving both nursery stories disturbing images going along with that loss of innocence and fallibility that time brings.

  13. The poem begins lighthearted with a great flow and rhyme. It talks about love and how that never ends. But what I think happens, when the speaker begins discussing time, is that its too late and the love is lost and no where to be found. I am probably wrong but that is what I got from the second half. Especially with the line that you cannot conquer time, almost as if time has gone by and love has failed or the two lovers do not love each other anymore. The imagery is good, but I think the thing that I liked most about this poem is the rhyme scheme.

  14. This poem was fun to read. It had a very easy rhythm and in the end it felt wrapped up. I liked how simple it was. It felt like the author was just sitting there telling you about listening to someone sing. I especially liked how the author kept talking about time:

    'O let not Time deceive you,
    You cannot conquer Time.

    'In the burrows of the nightmare
    Where Justice naked i,
    Time watches from the shadow
    And Coughs when you would kiss.

    Mentioning time as a character in the poem made the poem seem more encased. I also liked how near the end Auden talks about different things that could be around the world and yet are in the simple scene:

    'The glacier knocks int he cupboard,
    The desert sighs in the bed,
    And the crack int he tea-cup opens
    A lane to the land of the dead.'

    What I liked most about it was the simple rhythm that the poem had and the rhyme scheme that helped the poem.