Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.
Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
I see those lost faces, I assure you, when I first stumbled upon this poem I had a blonde moment to, but let’s delve deeper, to the core meaning to understand where his head was at.
Lullaby is an unconventional love poem which with intense mystery and power, Auden evokes the preciousness of a single night of passion. The title ‘Lullaby’ might be considered a symbol of serenity that characterizes this poem. The poem is not about romantic love but about love as interpreter of the world, love is an individual need, love as a redeeming power in the life of society and the individual.
Lullaby, is a structured by four ten-line stanzas, each stanza reflecting upon the value and necessity of both passionate love and beauty and their brevity.
In the first stanza Auden emphasises the condition of the human individual in the world. The ‘thoughtful children’ might symbolise the purity which is in contrast with ‘guilty’. The idea of death is suggested by ‘grave’ and ‘mortal’ is contrast with ‘living creature’. We meet a faithless individual, aware of his mortal condition which ignores with the help of passion and of love.
Love breaks the bounds between ‘soul’ and ‘body’. This fact gives birth to a serious of powerful emotions: on the one hand the idea of ‘universal sympathy’, ‘universal love and hope’ and on the other ‘the hermit’s sensual ecstasy among the glaciers and the rocks’.
Certainty and fidelity are seen like passing strokes of a bell but this night of love has a great importance for the poet so, everything will remain intact ‘but not from this night, not a whisper, not a thought, not a kiss, nor look be lost’.
The idea of every human love is met in the last stanza, too. Love turns out to be a powerful physical and spiritual force which binds the body to the soul and the external world to the inner one.
In order to illustrate convincingly his ideas, Auden uses a specific poetic language.
Now retracing my steps to when I first introduced poetry as a whole, I compared poetry to a song and its lyrics, well just like a song has a beat and a pattern, surprisingly, so does a poem. In the case of ‘Lullaby’, it follows the rhythmic pattern of trochaic tetrameter – this refers to a line of four trochaic feet. The word ‘tetrameter’ simply means that the poem has four trochees. A trochee is a long syllable, or stressed syllable, followed by a short or unstressed one.
Who would have thought hey, boring old poetry VS music?
I hope this presentation has given you a deeper understanding of the poem, and has possibly given you a greater appreciation of poems and poets of all sorts.