Auden Poetry As English Literature Bitesize Notes

These are some notes I have made in preperation for my upcoming exam. 

  • Created by: Wasik
  • Created on: 08-05-12 17:18

As I Walked Out One Evening


As I walked out one evening at first glance is a love poem by Auden, however when more closely looked at it is an exploration of different views of love. These views are told by three different narrators within the poem. 

First Narrator: 

  • The first narrator(s) are the lovers. 
  • The lovers explanation of love is glamorised and presented as timeless. 
  • They believe that nothing can combat this emotion and that it can be only be thwarted when "China and Africa meet", which is unrealistic. 
  • This therefore shows their confidence in their love. 
  • They mention they hold "the flower of ages, And the first love of the world" meaning that this emotion they hold is eternal and cannot be separated. 
  • When this is said the clocks ring hinting that their love is false and can be intervened upon.   
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As I Walked Out One Evening Continued

Second Narrator 

  • The second narrator(s) are the clocks, however they speak for time itself. 
  • The clocks believe that the lovers views are false and that time is unconquerable, it will spare nobody. 
  • The love that the lovers share will not last as time will take it's toll on this. 
  • The "T" in Time  is capitalised in the poem  also time itself is personified, Auden does this so that this signifies times place within society. 
  • "Time watches from the shadow, And coughs when you would kiss", lines such as these show the personification given to time. 
  • The word "coughs" is used to perhaps suggest a disease that time will spread upon the lovers, as time will cough when they would kiss. 
  • The lovers "flower of the ages" will not be eternal as the lovers believe as time says "Into many a green valley drifts the appalling snow; Time breaks the threaded dances and the diver's brilliant bow". 
  • "the appalling snow", snows colour is white and white is a colour often linked with heaven and the idea of 'purification'. This could suggest time will purify the lovers and they will understand this emotion is not eternal.  
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As I Walked Out One Evening Last Part

Third Narrator 

  • The last narrator of the poem is the voice of Auden himself. 
  • He believed that neither time or love could be conquered. 
  • Time is constant and cannot be changed, however it is not as cruel or viscous as described by the clocks.
  • His perception of love would perhaps have been more lenient than others as Auden was homosexual. 
  • "You will love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart"
  • Auden may be suggesting that both voices within the poem are correct as you cannot choose who you will love, neither can you choose times effect on life and your love. 
  • The word "crooked" may suggest the insignificance we hold in this situation we are not perfect and therefore should not be able to input on this. 
  • This could be a message to the lovers as they claim to have "the flower of ages" Auden is reassuring us that this is incorrect and it is a natural process.  
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Scenes & Places 

  • The scenes and places change within the poem. 
  • Changes from the military manoeuvres in stanza 1, "Though aware of our rank and alert to obey orders" it is clear this is with reference to the military. 
  •  The next scene/place being in the camps in stanza 4 "Lying awake after lights out" 
  • These scenes eventually move through to the mythical world of the past, 'Our' "Cathedral" and 'their' "great rift in the limestone". 
  • This scene then moves to the train station for the journey as the "headlines were doomed to attack"
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Ode Continued

Time & Sequence

  • We are taken through current military operations and current fears to visions of an idyllic past.
  • We are also shown dreams and memories of the younger soldier "Who told you all this?, Go to sleep, Sonny". Younger soldier(s) appear to be treated with disrespect or as if they have a lack of intellect. 
  • This however is to be expected as those who have earned power and authority are likely to enforce it.   
  • The sequencing of the stanzas within the poem leave the reader with the images of 'us' and 'them'. 
  • We have this contrast until we are left with a feeling of an inevitable doom at the end,"All leave is cancelled to-night;we must say good-bye". 
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Ode Continued


The Young Soldier: 

  • Interesting as the younger soldier contains qualities of a 'veteran', perhaps not in terms of his skill however more in terms of the knowledge he possesses from such little experience. 
  • We know of these stories from certain lines within the poem, "The youngest drummer knows all of the peace time stories like the oldest soldier"
  • Auden could be suggesting that within the military it takes little time to experience horror and tragedy and that even the younger soldier will HAVE to adapt.  
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Ode- The Older Soldier

The Old Soldier

  • Seems to be omniscient, or presented by Auden to be so much wiser of course this is to be expected due to his age. 
  • "Boy, the quarrel was before your time, the aggressor No one you know"
  • This may suggest firstly the horror that has been seen by this soldier, this is obvious. 
  • However it may also show some disrespect, the term 'boy' may undermine the younger soldier as we have seen he has already seen so much. 
  • May take this and convert it into anger, "Though aware of our rank and alert to obey orders" however it appears they are more than aware of their own 'rank'. 
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A useful resource that looks at the narrative of the poem and provides some relevant and interesting observations that would be helpful when revising this poem. Could also be used to begin to look at other poems in the collection.

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