What is the relationship between truth-telling and the "Romantic lie" in the early poetry of W. H. Auden, like "As I Walked Out One Evening"?W. H. Auden As I Walked Out One Evening As I walked out...

What is the relationship between truth-telling and the "Romantic lie" in the early poetry of W. H. Auden, like "As I Walked Out One Evening"?

W. H. Auden

As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.

'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,

'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.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
/.../
'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In W. H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening," there is truth-telling and the Romantic lie.

There is a great deal of the Romantic lie at the start of the poem, when the lover sings that love will go on forever. The idealistic tone is that love will never end.

'Love has no ending.

'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 pivot change of the poem begins with the mention of Time. With this, reality steps in and Time rolls ever forward, spelling out doom to those who are not paying attention.

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
/.../
'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

The sense of the poem is that Time, literally, stops for no one. Minute by minute, Time marches on. The Romantic lie at the beginning showed how wonderful life is and will be—always. With wave after wave of impossible feats, the speaker describes how long he will love this woman, until the screeching halt of Time stops us in our tracks. The Romantic lie is that all will be wonderful, but the reality is that one need only look to one's watch to see the truth of the moment.

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