As I Walked Out One Evening: An Analysis of the Nature of Time within the Poem
W.H. Auden’s, As I Walked Out One Evening, speaks to nature of time as it relates to the human condition. The poem consists of three separate speakers: the lovers, the clocks and the narrator. Each speaker represents a different measure and attitude towards time. The lover’s song paints time to be conquerable and ignorable and no more than a passing annoyance that they are outside of. The soliloquy of the clocks demonstrates time as a product of society, there to keep its subjects in line, and ultimately a ruling force. Finally, the narrator speaks of love as being outside of both of these things. Time is a constant flow that brings change and opportunity, and any claim to deny or control it is an illusion.
The song of the lover demonstrates romanticism. The lover insists that their love exists outside of time, or rather in defiance of it,
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. (9-12)
This song declares the somewhat common and highly romanticized notion that “love conquers all.” It is a force unaffected by and stronger than the traditional rules of the world like time or physical laws. Just as the lover’s song reaches the peak of its impossible claims, “all the clocks in the city/ Began to whir and chime” (21-22). They refute the lover’s heartfelt declarations, treating love as a false consciousness that cheats you out of life and allows you to be distracted from the passage of time until you “stare into the basin / and wonder what you’ve missed” (39-40). In fact, they seem to suggest that love, as described by the lovers by the river, does not exist. The purity and levity of it is a façade, and that the brokenness of the human condition allows you to only “love your crooked neighbor / with your crooked heart” (55-56). From this...
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