English Literature
As I Walked Out One Evening

As I Walked Out One Evening

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Intersecting the themes of love and mortality, W.H. Auden's 1938 poem "As I Walked Out One Evening" delves into the complexities of human emotions and how they are influenced by the ever-present force of time.Originally titled "Song," the haunting piece was first published in the New Statesman and Nation magazine in 1937 and later included in Auden's poetry collection, Another Time, in 1940. Born in England in 1907, Auden traveled extensively throughout the 1930s, experiencing various political climates and events, including the Spanish Civil War, which greatly impacted his views on war and politics and inspired his well-known poem "Spain."Set in the industrial city of Birmingham, where Auden spent much of his childhood, "As I Walked Out One Evening" presents a stark contrast between the industrialized world and the natural world, symbolizing the boundless yet ruthless nature of time.The poem's central section reveals the main conflict between the lovers' belief in eternal love and the clocks' reminder of time's inevitable and indiscriminate nature. The speaker declares their love will endure until the end of time, but the clocks refuse to stay silent and remind them that time will always prevail.With its strict ABCB rhyme scheme, the poem mirrors the unwavering control that time has over everything and everyone. This rhyme scheme also creates a rhythmic flow, reflecting the steady river that runs throughout the poem.In addition to the rhyme scheme, the river serves as a constant and powerful force in the poem. It is mentioned in the first and last stanza, representing the never-ending passage of time.Through the use of literary devices such as personification, hyperbole, metaphor, and allusion, Auden brings to life the contrast between the lovers' belief in eternal love and the clocks' harsh reminder that time will always win.Personifying the clocks as physical antagonists and other abstract concepts such as Time, Justice, and Nightmare, Auden creates a dialogue between the lovers and these elements, ultimately highlighting the fragility of human existence in the face of time.In conclusion, "As I Walked Out One Evening" is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that delves into the intertwined themes of love and mortality. It serves as a reminder that while love may feel eternal, time will always have the final say.

The Power of Personification and Metaphors in W.H. Auden's Poem "As I Walked Out One Evening"

In W.H. Auden's poem "As I Walked Out One Evening," he uses personification and metaphors to create a powerful juxtaposition between two opposing forces. On one hand, the lover believes in the eternal strength of love, while on the other, the personified clocks argue that time will always prevail. Through these literary devices, the poem delves into themes of life, death, and the effects of time on love.

Personification is used throughout the poem, giving life to otherwise inanimate objects. For instance, the lover personifies sea-bound salmon, depicting them as capable of walking and singing in the streets. This emphasizes the fantastical powers of love, which can even transform animals and objects. Juxtaposition is also present, highlighting the contrast between two opposing ideas or things in close proximity.

The poem is rich in metaphors, symbolizing life and death. The threat of death is subtly implied from the beginning, as the speaker compares the crowded streets to fields of harvested wheat. This highlights the vibrancy of the people in the present moment, but also foreshadows the looming threat of death. Just as harvested wheat is nearing the end of its life, so too are humans. The image of a scythe also evokes the idea of the grim reaper, connecting death to the passage of time.

The clocks, personified objects themselves, also use metaphor to predict the lovers' inevitable death. They describe a glacier knocking in the cupboard, a desert sighing in the bed, and a crack in a teacup opening a lane to the land of the dead. These comparisons to lifeless and inhospitable places further emphasize the clocks' belief that time will ultimately outlast love.

The power of imagery is evident in its ability to convey emotions and ideas. The clocks are portrayed as feeling sorrow and emptiness, while the lovers are depicted with a sense of wonder. The image of scalding tears and hopelessness effectively captures the emotional toll of aging and death.

Hyperbole is used to emphasize the all-encompassing power of love in the lover's words. Despite their impossibility, the exaggerations highlight the boundless nature of love in the eyes of the lover.

In "As I Walked Out One Evening," Auden masterfully uses literary devices to explore the themes of life, death, and the effects of time on love. Through personification, metaphors, imagery, and hyperbole, he creates a thought-provoking and poignant reflection on the power and limitations of love.

The Timeless Battle of Love and Time in W.H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening"

In "As I Walked Out One Evening", W.H. Auden delves into the enduring power of love and the inevitability of time and death. Through vivid imagery and literary devices, he presents the themes of love's endurance, the passage of time, and the interconnectedness of man and nature.The first stanza sets the stage for the poem, with the lover declaring his eternal love for his beloved. The imagery of stars being silenced emphasizes the timeless nature of love. In contrast, the swift movement of rabbits symbolizes the fleeting nature of time, highlighting the lasting impact of love compared to time's promises of death.Auden employs alliteration to enhance the poem's singsong quality, creating a sense of childlike innocence. This contrasts with the somber content of the later stanzas, where the clocks personify the passage of time and its inevitable consequences. The repetition of sounds like "L," "B," and "R" adds to the whimsical and fantastical tone of the lover's declarations.The major themes of love, time, and death are further emphasized through the dialogue between the lover's song and the clocks' response. As the clocks prophesize death and decay through metaphor and allusion, the lover's descriptions of love become increasingly hyperbolic and personified. This elevates love to a supernatural and unyielding force that may be the only thing capable of overcoming time's limitations.Additionally, the poem highlights the interconnectedness of man and nature. The use of natural imagery, such as fields of wheat, snow, and desert and glacier, serves as a reminder that death is a natural part of life and that time has the power to transform everything. Auden subtly suggests that, despite humanity's attempts to control nature, we are all subject to the same laws and limitations.In conclusion, "As I Walked Out One Evening" is a poignant exploration of the eternal battle between love and time. Through vivid imagery and literary devices, Auden creates a lasting reflection on the enduring power of love, the inevitability of time and death, and the interconnectedness of humanity and the natural world.

The Influence of Time on Love in W.H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening"

First published in 1938 amidst a time of great change, "As I Walked Out One Evening" by W.H. Auden is a masterful exploration of the enduring power of love in the face of time's unstoppable march. Through the use of personification, hyperbole, metaphor, and allusion, Auden creates a thought-provoking juxtaposition between these two powerful forces.

The poem is narrated by three distinct voices: the main speaker who sets the scene, the lover who fervently extols the unrelenting nature of love, and the city clocks who serve as a constant reminder of mortality. The lover argues that love can withstand the test of time, but the clocks counter with the sobering truth that all living things are subject to its effects.

Auden skillfully gives the clocks three times as many stanzas as the lover, symbolizing the overwhelming presence and dominance of time. In the end, the lover never gets a chance to respond, disappearing into the night along with the physical manifestation of love.

However, the poem leaves the ultimate victor of this argument open to interpretation, with the final line stating, "And the deep river ran on." This could represent the relentless flow of time, or the enduring power of love. Whichever it aligns with, the ambiguity only heightens the poem's central theme that one of these forces will ultimately prevail.

Key Themes Explored in "As I Walked Out One Evening"

Beyond the contrast between love and time, the poem also delves into the themes of death, the inseparability of man and nature, and humanity's struggle to confront mortality. It illustrates the inescapable passing of time and the inevitability of death, while simultaneously celebrating the enduring power of love.

The Structure and Message of the Poem

"As I Walked Out One Evening" follows a structured rhyme scheme (ABCB), with the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyming. This accentuates the mellifluous rhythm of the poem, emphasizing the stark distinction between the lovers' ardent declarations and time's unrelenting march.

The poem's overarching message is that while love may be passionate and unyielding, it is not immune to the effects of time and will eventually succumb to death. In a time of immense social and political turmoil, Auden paints a vivid portrait of the universal truths of life and death through the imagery of nature, love, and time.

In Conclusion

Through "As I Walked Out One Evening", W.H. Auden offers a poignant reflection on the human experience, using the unwavering force of love to confront the inevitability of time's passage. As a reminder to savor the present moment and cherish the enduring power of love, the poem serves as a timeless piece of literature.

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