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Sunday, June 3, 2012

As i walked out one evening by W.H. Auden summary and analysis

Section 4.1.1 Introduction
I will now analyse the poem based on the order that the stanzas come in because this will allow for a better insight into how the metaphors used within the poem are created and built upon throughout the poem. It will also allow me to show how the different metaphors relate and link to each other in what I consider to be the most successful manner. The poem itself is located in Appendix I

Section 4.1.2 The first stanza
“As I walked out one evening,
 Walking down Bristol Street,
 The crowds upon the pavement 
 Were fields of harvest wheat.” (Lines 1-4)
Auden’s poem invokes the use of the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor as well as the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor in the first line. The author makes reference to his (the narrator’s,) own age with the use of the noun metaphor “evening” within the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor indicating how the author is old in age based on the lateness of evening within a day. The A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor is invoked by the verb metaphor “walked” being mapped onto the target domain by showing the vehicle used by the traveller, in this case the use of the feet, to travel.  The verb metaphor “walked” also indicates the speed at which the poet is travelling within the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor, showing how slowly he is going leading to the effect that old age causes slower movement because of the effect of time upon the individual. 
The A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor is then invoked in the third line in the noun “pavement” with the source domain being the path that’s travelled upon during the journey. Here Auden is also involving other people: “The crowds upon the pavement”. This means the poet is showing how not only he is involved in the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor but other people as well. Auden is also implying about their age when the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor used in the first line is considered here as well as the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor that follows in the fourth line. One other thing to note here as well is the use of the plural “crowds”. This creates the impression of a large number of people because of the plural. This in turn shows how the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor affects a large number of people within the textual world and shows how they are all on the journey because they are on the pavement.
The fourth line of the poem then goes on to invoke at least two cognitive metaphors: PEOPLE ARE PLANTS and subsequently DEATH IS A REAPER. The noun phrase “harvest wheat” in reference to the crowds invokes the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor. Here the use of “harvest wheat” implies how all the people have reached maturity because wheat reaches maturity at harvest time, and more importantly it is reaped at harvest time. This therefore gives rise to the DEATH IS A REAPER metaphor. When considering the cognitive metaphors used in the three lines previously, the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor can be considered to use the poetic tool of combining with the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor and the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor to show how whatever state or form people take, literally or metaphorically, then death will still come to them and more importantly, when considering the metaphor markers of “evening” and “harvest wheat”, death is shown to be very close. Once more there is a plural marker, this time in the noun “fields” showing how many people there are because of the plural. 

Section 4.1.3 The second stanza
“And down by the brimming river
 I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.” (Lines 5-8) 
The first line of the second stanza uses TIME IS FLUID as a metaphor with the phrase “brimming river” being the link between the target and source domain. The use of the noun “river” indicates the depth and the level that time is at, once more indicating how close to death people are. The use of the adjective “brimming” also indicates the level of depth of the river – almost overflowing – leading to a further indication of how old age and impending death is shown in the poem because the more time there is can mean in a by proxy way the older people are. The phrase “brimming river” could also be seen as a mapping of the A LIFETIME IS FLUID metaphor. Here the mapping occurs because the older a person gets then the more fluid they lose. This is shown in later stanzas, but one thing to notice here is that while the people lose their fluid, time seems to be full of fluid, showing the strength of time compared to people. It may also show that the loss of life gives time its power; life’s fluid spills in to time’s fluid, making it deeper and more powerful. 
The final line of the second stanza, “Love has no ending”, uses the generic level metaphors of STATES ARE LOCATIONS and STATES ARE CONTAINERS using the specific level metaphor of LOVE IS A JOURNEY. The lover is questioning the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor in a way, because if love is infinite then it goes on forever, but when placed in the context of a journey, that means that the journey never ends, questioning the mapping of the metaphor in terms of destination – if love has no ending, then the lovers can’t actually be going anywhere purposeful – and the distance covered – if love has no ending, then the lovers will be travelling an infinite distance, something not covered by the conventional mapping of the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor. This then shows how Auden can therefore be using the poetic tool of elaborating upon the two mappings. The statement of the lover is juxtaposed by the “brimming river”, an indication of time. This is made more noticeable, not just because of how the river is “brimming” as has been previously mentioned but how the lover is “by the brimming river”, showing how close he is to time. This is further emphasised when the composite metaphors in the first stanza are taken into consideration to show how far along in life most of the people are, implying the lovers will be too. 

Section 4.1.4 The third stanza
“‘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,” (Lines 9-12)
In the third line of the third stanza, the river is personified by the verb metaphor “jumps”. Here there is a potential mapping of the cognitive metaphor FLUID MOVES with “jumps” acting as an extension: it is adding a new mapping on to the metaphor. The use of “jumps” also acts as personification with the river being ascribed the ability to perform the human action of jumping. The noun “river” may also be a metaphor for time when it is taken into consideration that TIME IS FLUID was used at an earlier point. This would therefore show how the “river jumps over the mountain” because the river erodes the mountain down over time, showing the power that time has within the poem. 
Personification also occurs in the final line of the third stanza with the verb “sing”. Here voices are being ascribed to fish. Apart from the generic level metaphor of personification via the EVENTS ARE ACTIONS metaphor, there is no specific level metaphor within the cognitive linguistic view of metaphor that would allow for fishes to sing. This shows how the metaphor is a novel metaphor on the specific level. 

Section 4.1.5 The fourth stanza
“‘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.” (Lines 13-16)
In relation to this, in the fourth stanza the non-living entities of stars are given qualities that belong to living entities – specifically geese. The metaphor occurs here in the phrase “go squawking”, while “like geese” is a simile. Because of how short geese live compared to how long stars last, the lover’s statement here is showing how quickly time will impact on other things through the use of the metaphor and simile in these lines. This in turn shows how the megametaphor of TIME CONQUERS (see section 4.2) can be seen very effectively here. 
The third and fourth stanzas use throughout them the megametaphor of NON-LIVING ENTITIES ARE LIVING ENTITIES based on how each non-living entity is given qualities that only a living entity would be able to do: “meet”, “jumps” and “go squawking”. On top of this there is the generic level metaphor of EVENTS ARE ACTIONS in terms of personification with “meet”, “jumps” and “sing”. 

Section 4.1.6 The fifth stanza
“‘The years shall run like rabbits,
  For in my arms I hold
 The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’” (Lines 17-20)
The first line of the fifth stanza uses the cognitive metaphor of TIME IS SOMETHING MOVING because of the metaphorical marker of “run”. This is then further emphasised with the simile to the rabbits. When breaking the evaluation down, the first thing I’ll comment on is the temporal marker “years”. Considering how long a year can last, the impression Auden is creating is just how quick time can actually pass. This is then further emphasised with the marker of speed, the verb metaphor “run” and the simile of “like rabbits”. The verb “run” is indicative of high speed and the use of “like rabbits” acts as a reference point in terms of the speed by comparing it to an animal that is associated with speed and constant quick movement. Therefore, in terms of the TIME IS SOMETHING MOVING metaphor, Auden is saying how quickly time can actually move, especially when in love. There is also an implied metaphor of TIME CONQUERS because if the years do go by quickly, this in turn means how quickly someone’s life is going towards death, in turn meaning how quickly they will be conquered by time. This is further inferred throughout the rest of the stanza in terms of Auden’s choice and use of cognitive metaphor. 
The third line of the fifth stanza involves a novel approach to the metaphor PEOPLE ARE PLANTS, while an implied cognitive metaphor is DEATH IS A REAPER based on the use of the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS cognitive metaphor. The line “The flower of the Ages” is an obvious reference to PEOPLE ARE PLANTS, but Auden elaborates the traditional mappings of the metaphor to show how unique the loved one is and how their beauty and personality – although most probably beauty if the noun metaphor “flower” is to be considered because flowers are normally admired for their scent and beauty. On top of this, Auden is also saying how long the loved will last because of the noun “Ages” implying once more how long love itself will last, relating to previously used metaphorical statements like “Love has no ending” that Auden has used. Another thing to notice about the line is how when the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor is used, the reference of “flower” is noticeably different to “harvest wheat” in the first stanza. This is because while in the end wheat is only grown for consumption, flowers are grown to be decorative and admired so this in turn relates to the difference between the “crowds” (line 3, stanza 1) and the admired (c.f. line 4, stanza 2 – line 4, stanza 5) One thing to notice in relation to this is how the DEATH IS A REAPER is less applicable here compared to the “harvest wheat” because “harvest wheat” indicates something that is ready to be reaped, while the flower doesn’t necessarily indicate this. This also shows how the loved is not as close to death as the crowds, emphasised by the “Ages” in the third line of the fifth stanza. The capital letter in “Ages” also focuses just how long the loved should live. 
The fourth line of the fifth stanza uses metonymy with the global population being represented by the noun “world”. This is in general a rather rarely used metonymical device because of how rare the world as a whole or as a majority takes a unified stance, e.g. “the world is against the use of nuclear weapons”. The metonymy is being used here to show just how special the loved is because the whole world loves them. The phrase “first love” is also noticeable in terms of its stylistic value. Someone’s first love is always remembered and considered special and unique, so Auden is showing how special the loved is in general and how special to the world. 

Section 4.1.7 The sixth stanza
“But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you:
You cannot conquer Time.” (21-24)
The first line of the sixth stanza uses a metonymical representation of time in the noun “clocks”. Clocks are usually seen as agents or representations of time because they show what time it is. Here there is also partial personification when the verb metaphors “whirr” and “chime” are analysed. While personification would normally use a metaphor like “spoke” for an attribute of humanism on to a non-human entity, Auden still creates the impression that the clocks are speaking because he quotes the dialogue afterwards. The use of the phrases “whirr” and “chime” as speech acts also underline the megametaphor of TIME CONQUERS because clocks normally only chime every hour, half hour or quarter of an hour. Therefore Auden is making a subtle message of how quickly time is passing which links to the metaphors used in the first stanza. It also correlates with the lover’s statement of “The years shall run like rabbits” because time is shown to be moving quickly through the use of “whirr” and “chime”. 
The next two lines of the stanza then use personification of time by ascribing to it negative, powerful attributes – negative in terms of deceiving and powerful in terms of its ability to conquer. The third line’s metaphor is a traditional cognitive metaphor in terms of the use of the generic level metaphor EVENTS ARE ACTIONS in terms of personification of time but uses a novel metaphor on the specific level when portraying time as a deceiver. Therefore this shows how Auden is foregrounding this attribute of time. This creates the impression that people live the majority of their lives unaware of the passing of time and, when linked to the fourth line, either think that they won’t die or for the majority of the time they don’t remember that they will. The clocks are referring to the lover’s statement so one further thing to notice here is how it seems to be time that is deceiving the lover and not the lover deceiving himself. When phrased like this, time is given more power because it is a more active participant in the deceiving. The last line’s use of the TIME CONQUERS metaphor is straightforward, although it is noticeable how it is stated so that the lover is shown as committing the action: “You cannot”. This therefore shows how time almost doesn’t play a role, instead just waits for the lovers to end themselves. 
One overall unusual thing is how the clocks – agents and metonymical representations of time – are warning about the effect of time to the lovers. This makes the passing of time more noticeable since it is an agent of time that is pointing it out. Another thing to notice is how the clocks are whirring and chiming, so even as they are warning the lovers about the effects of time, there is a symbolic continual passing of time occurring as the clocks speak. 

Section 4.1.8 The seventh stanza
“‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
 Where Justice naked is,
 Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.” (Lines 25-28)
Time is further personified in the third and fourth lines of the seventh stanza with the metaphorical verbs “watches” and “coughs”. The use of personification is the only use of cognitive metaphor; the verbs themselves don’t fall into any specific level metaphor within the cognitive linguistic view of metaphor, only the generic level metaphor of EVENTS ARE ACTIONS. “Time watches” indicates how time is always present within every action that a person takes. The noun “shadow” can be interpreted as part of the A LIFE IS A LIGHT metaphor. Using the A LIFE IS A LIGHT metaphor, death can be conceived as darkness so shadow in turn implies the passing of life because a shadow is created by light being blocked out. Therefore time is shown as not necessarily causing the end of life directly in this situation, but always there ready to end it; in other words, the two lovers’ ignorance of time will be their downfall. 
Another specific level metaphor that “shadows” invokes is the metaphor LOVE IS A FLAME such as in “She is my old flame”. Here the metaphor works because the shadow cast by the flame of love is what time is stood in. It is also noticeable how flames burn out eventually so the shadow grows stronger. This shows the passing of time as a consequence with the longer the shadow then the stronger time is and the weaker the flame of love. 
The use of personification in the fourth line of the stanza is used to show how time will defeat love. This can be arrived at when “kiss” is taken as a symbol of the lovers’ acts and love overall. Because time interrupts this act, love doesn’t get a chance to express itself showing how time defeats it in the end. 

Section 4.1.9 The eighth stanza
“‘In headaches and in worry
 Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.” (Lines 29-32)
The second line of the eighth stanza uses the A LIFE IS A FLUID cognitive metaphor with a straightforward mapping into the conceptual domain. Stylistically, the powerful use of this metaphor is not the fact that “life leaks away” but how it leaks away: “In headaches and worry/ Vaguely”. Auden is showing here the difference between the opinion of the clocks in how time passes – the despairing state of emotions and illness - compared to the lover’s opinion – the joyous state of love with a key example being “The years shall run like rabbits”. The use of the word “vaguely” also shows how people have no real concrete perception of time or the passing of time. 
The third line of the eighth stanza uses the generic level metaphor of TIME CONQUERS by showing how time has the ability to get what it wants based on “will have” showing the definiteness of time conquering. It is also noticeable what time period is actually given. While there are no easily distinguishable generic level or specific level cognitive metaphors for the phrase “tomorrow or today” such as A LIFETIME IS A DAY, it is an important point being conveyed about just how soon time will in fact have his fancy, showing how close death is. There is also personification in use again with time arguably being ascribed human characteristics, in this case demonstrated by the pronoun marker “his”. 

Section 4.1.10 The ninth stanza
“‘Into many a green valley
  Drifts the appalling snow;
  Time breaks the threaded dances
 And the diver’s brilliant bow.” (Lines 33-36)
The first and second lines of the ninth stanza use the A LIFETIME IS A YEAR metaphor schema via indirect references to seasons which in turn leads to indirect references of the A LIFETIME IS A YEAR metaphor. The first line infers spring or summer because of the adjective “green” which in turn means that at this point a person will be in their youth. The second line of the stanza makes reference to old age: “appalling snow” creates the impression of winter because snow normally falls only in winter so this in turn shows how time will age all people and bring them closer to death. This has already being pointed out by Auden in the first stanza with the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor. This shows how throughout the poem there is an underlying theme of the effect time has on love and individuals, most noticeably in terms of old age and impending death. 

Section 4.1.11 The tenth stanza
“‘O plunge your hands in water,
 Plunge them in up to the wrist;
 Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you have missed.” (Lines 37-40)
The A LIFE IS FLUID metaphor is then used throughout the tenth stanza. The first line, when taken into context with the rest of the stanza, can be seen as an attempt to reclaim life if “water” is the fluid in the conceptual mapping of the metaphor. The attempt to reclaim fluid / life is taken if placing the hands in the basin and thus surrounding them with lost life / fluid is an attempt to get youth back. When linked with the second two lines of the stanza, it is also used to show just how much of life has been spent or has gone by. “Stare, stare in the basin” is directing the lovers to see just how much fluid is in there and, because of the A LIFE IS FLUID cognitive metaphor, also to see how in turn how much of their life is in the basin and how much has passed. The final line of the stanza, “And wonder what you’ve missed.”, also implies how time has been wasted by the lovers. 
The DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor can also be applied here. If the individual’s life is in the sink, then when it goes down the plughole, it departs from the sink and thus creates the mapping. This is because the sink is the container for the life fluid and if the life fluid leaves the sink, then it is crossing over into the mapping for the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor.

Section 4.1.12 The eleventh stanza
“‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard, 
  The desert sighs in the bed,
  And the crack in the tea-cup opens
  A lane to the land of the dead.” (Lines 41-44)
The A LIFE IS A FLUID metaphor is used again in the eleventh stanza in the third line and partly in the fourth line. The A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY cognitive metaphor is also used within the final line as well as the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor. In the third line of the stanza, the A LIFE IS A FLUID metaphor is represented by the tea within the tea-cup. Because of the crack, the fluid is leaking out, which in turn means that life is being lost. The fluid leaking out also creates a path which acts as the conceptual mapping for the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor with the path being the thing travelled along during the journey of life. This lane in turn leads to the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor because there is a separate land for the dead. This shows how the land of the living needs to be departed from for someone to die. This means the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor is ultimately a journey to death and the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor shows that when we do die, we go to a separate land. 
One noticeable thing about these two lines is how the three different cognitive metaphors of A LIFE IS A FLUID, A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY and DEATH IS DEPARTURE are combined together through the leaking of tea from the tea-cup. This in turn shows two things. The first is a novel metaphor of the A LIFE IS A FLUID cognitive metaphor by elaborating on just what type of fluid life is in this case. The second is how just how mundane life can be lost because the tea-cup is a mundane thing. 

Section 4.1.13 The fifteenth stanza
“It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.” (Lines 57-60)
The final stanza, stanza fifteen, reiterates the temporal aspect within the poem once more by using the A LIFETIME IS A DAY cognitive metaphor with the repetition of the adjectival metaphor “late” emphasising how close death actually is because of how late it actually is. When the next line in the stanza is reviewed and taken into consideration, Auden is saying how because it is evening, death has actually occurred so in the use of the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor, death is evening, with dusk consequently being the act of dying. 
The second line of the stanza uses two cognitive metaphors: LOVE IS A JOURNEY and DEATH IS DEPARTURE. The LOVE IS A JOURNEY cognitive metaphor is invoked by the verb metaphor “gone” as is the DEATH IS DEPARTURE cognitive metaphor. The LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor is applicable here because journeys have beginnings and ends as well as things like paths and vehicles available for the journey, so here Auden is saying how they have reached the end of their journey; their love has finished. The DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor is used because when the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphor used in the first line is considered, because the life has ended, that means death has occurred so when this is considered along with the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, there is a cross mapping between the two cognitive metaphors of LOVE IS A JOURENY and DEATH IS DEPARTURE that creates the combined metaphor with the verb “gone” in the second line doing this. This emphasises the futility of love against time when the use of the two cognitive metaphors at the same point is considered. 
The final line of the final stanza leaves the lasting impression of time by saying how the “deep river ran on”. Using the TIME IS FLUID metaphor, Auden is once more expressing how powerful time is by using “deep” and also showing the speed with which it moves: “ran on”. Auden is showing here how after love has ended and people have died, time still exists. He is also using the TIME IS FLUID metaphor to act as a conclusion to the LOVE IS A JOURNEY and the A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphors in a by proxy way thus using composing to show how these two metaphors end with time conquering, in turn invoking the fourth metaphor, this time the metaphor of TIME CONQUERS.  

Section 4.2 The use of the megametaphor TIME CONQUERS
Throughout the poem there is a megametaphor of the generic level metaphor TIME CONQUERS. Some of the micrometaphors that recognise this megametaphor are not necessarily metaphors that would form part of the cognitive linguistic view of metaphor; they are novel metaphors, but still help form part of the megametaphor that is a metaphor within the cognitive linguistic view of metaphor. 
One key way in which Auden shows the megametaphor of TIME CONQUERS is how references are made to time at both the start and end of the poem. The start of the poem refers to it in a by proxy way:

“As I walked out one evening” (Line 1)

Here the TIME CONQUERS megametaphor is referred to because of where on the conceptual mappings the poet is in the A LIFETIME IS A DAY and the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphors. Because it is so late in the poet’s life, he is going to die soon, in turn meaning he is succumbing to time. The end of the poem makes a more explicit reference to time:

“And the deep river ran on.” (Line 60)

Here, because of the TIME IS FLUID metaphor, time has shown to conquer because only the river, therefore time, is left. Because time is being referred to at both the start and the end of the poem, the reader notices on a subconscious level the megametaphor of TIME CONQUERS and will then probably see how it pervades throughout the rest of the poem and will also see how time can be viewed as being at the start and end of life and existence.
Several references have been made to the TIME CONQUERS metaphor throughout the analysis of the individual stanzas and lines, so I will now only cover the stanzas or lines where there has not been any analysis carried out. The first such occurrence I will cover is in stanza nine:

“Time breaks the threaded dances 
       And the diver’s brilliant bow.” (Lines 35-36)

This is a novel metaphor in relation to time and Fuller (Pg 108:1970) states how it is a combination of the literal and metaphorical worlds (see section 4.3). The aspect I will analyse here is how if Fuller’s opinion about it being about a girl and dances, things associated with youth, then the megametaphor here is showing not just how time conquers, but also conquers youth as well as older people. This in turn shows how even in youth, time will start to have an impact upon a person’s life. This principle is shown in a similar way in the twelfth stanza:

“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
       And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
 And the Lily-white boy is a Roarer,
        And Jill goes down on her back.” (Lines 45-48)

The megametaphor of TIME CONQUERS is realised by several micrometaphors within this stanza. One overall way that it is achieved is how a world filled with characters from childhood stories and nursery rhymes are in “the land of the dead” showing how this aspect of youth has already died and therefore means that it has already being conquered by time. TIME CONQUERS is also shown through the use of pubescent and post pubescent images of two of the characters:

“And the Lily-white boy is a Roarer,
       And Jill goes down on her back.” (Lines 47-48)

The TIME CONQUERS metaphor is applicable here because it should be impossible for characters in nursery rhymes to age and so because they have gone through puberty – with “Roarer” and “on her back” being representations of sexuality and sex respectively – even in the supposedly mythical world the effects of time can be seen. One other thing to note about this is how because they have aged this far, it is possible for them to age further and eventually die. The ageing of the nursery rhyme characters is a symbol of the ageing of children within the literal world as well showing how they will be conquered by time as well. 
A final comment I will make on this stanza is on the line

“And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,” (Line 46)

Because of how in the story the giant was going to kill Jack if the giant caught him, if Jack finds the giant enchanting then that means that he won’t run away which in turn means he will be killed. Because of this it means in turn he will be conquered by time and thus realise the TIME CONQUERS megametaphor. 
I’ll finally comment on stanza thirteen to show how the TIME CONQUERS metaphor is used there. 

“O look, look in the mirror,
    O look in your distress:
 Life remains a blessing
     Although you cannot bless.” (Lines 49-52)

The first two lines imply that signs of ageing can be seen upon the face of the viewer because of how the second line says to look in “distress” which means that the viewer won’t like what they see, which I take to mean ageing. This in turn shows the effect of time and how therefore time can be seen to be defeating the individual, realising the TIME CONQUERS megametaphor. 
The second two lines are an indication of impotence: “cannot bless”. This may be a sign of old age because sexual ability decreases with old age and so shows how close the individual is to death, in turn realising the TIME CONQUERS metaphor or may be an indication of how society in general is going to be conquered by time if the impotence affects society as a whole. 

Section 4.3. The use of literal and metaphorical worlds and a comparison of the mundane versus the ultimate in these worlds
I will now briefly investigate the claims of Fuller (1970) about how Auden is attempting to draw together within the text two worlds: the literal world and the metaphorical world. I will also study how both the mundane things in life are combined with the ultimate things in life such as life and death. To take the first two lines in the first stanza as an example:

“As I walked out one evening,
      Walking down Bristol Street,” (Lines 1-2)

The use of A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY and A LIFETIME IS A DAY metaphors have already been commented upon and analysed, but what I will study here is the use of how the two cognitive metaphors are used in the first line are then related to the literal world, with “walking” acting as the mapping between the two worlds and “Bristol Street” representing the literal world. Here Auden is linking together the passing of his life to the mundane activity of walking down a street. A further example is in the next two lines: 

“The crowds upon the pavement
       Were fields of harvest wheat.” (Lines 3-4)

This shows how not just Auden is in a textual limbo between the two worlds, but the other individuals who are out are as well. 
The literal world and the metaphorical world are combined within the statement made by the lover to the loved with a prime example being:

“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.” (Lines 13-16)

The literal world is invoked by the lover’s claim to love with reference to the ocean and stars for example but he then refers to a metaphorical world to compare how long his love will last because of the nature of the references he makes. The reference to these novel metaphors are an attempt by the lover to show how in the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, how long the journey, i.e. love will last because of how unlikely it is that the events that the lover is stating will occur within the literal world. If these events are not going to happen, then by proxy the lover’s love is shown to be eternal. 
In terms of the mundane and ultimate – two contrasting themes that run throughout the poem, the lover is trying to show how his love is more towards the ultimate. This claim, however, is counter-acted by the clocks when they state:

“And coughs when you would kiss.” (Line 28)

The clocks therefore show how time will destroy love in the end because even one of the most mundane of things to do with love – to kiss – isn’t allowed to happen by time. This in turn shows how it is in the actual mundane things that time will defeat love. One other thing to notice here is how the metaphorical world intrudes upon the literal world. Time cannot literally cough, only a personification of time can, so for the lovers to be defeated by time in this way, it means that the metaphorical world would have to transcend upon the literal world. This is also noticeable through the clocks. As has been previously mentioned, “whirr” and “chime” are taken to represent the clocks been able to speak so here too the metaphorical world is intruding upon the literal world. 
The eleventh stanza is a key example of the mundane and the ultimate coming together and the literal world and the metaphorical world coming together:

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
      The desert sighs in the bed,
 And the crack in the tea-cup opens
       A lane to the land of the dead.” (Lines 41-44)

The second two lines of this stanza have been analysed in a previous section so I will only focus on the first two here. In the first two lines of this stanza Auden is showing how two entities of nature, noticeable for their sheer size infringe upon the what is termed the domestic refuge of life (Spears, Pg 111: 1963). One other thing that is noticeable is how a glacier that is cold based upon it being a formation of ice while a desert is hot. There is a contrast in heat showing how all different aspects of heat – the ultimate in terms of contrast of heat – infringe upon the everyday life. It is hard to distinguish here whether the world that is being presented is a literal world or metaphorical world because of the image metaphors invoked. 

Section 5 Conclusions
One of the key points to come out of this study was how four main subjects were covered by the poem: life, love, death and time. The first three were shown in terms of their overall inferiority to the control of time. This was shown by the metaphors that Auden chose to use and where along the conceptual mapping of these metaphors he placed events in the poem; time would not have been seen as being so powerful in the poem if he had placed people at the morning period of the A LIFETIME IS A DAY for example. 
Another main finding alongside of this was how while there were explicit mappings of the metaphors relating to both life and love and of death to a lesser extent, the generic level metaphor TIME CONQUERS was only implied about most of the time; the metaphor was only realised in a by proxy way. This created the impression of time almost being stealthy in its manner and attitude towards life and love. On top of this, while the metaphors for life, love and death were conventional most of the time, almost all of the metaphors that implied the TIME CONQUERS metaphor were more novel in terms of their location on the scale of conventionality. 
There was some use of the poetic tools of composite metaphors and extending. When these were used, a pattern formed whereby only a few different metaphors were involved. To take the use of composite metaphors as an example, three of the composite metaphors had the A LIFETIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor within them, two had A LIFETIME IS A DAY and two had DEATH IS DEPARTURE. This shows how Auden was trying to underline the role of death throughout because even when the composite metaphors didn’t have a metaphor relating to death, the combination of two life metaphors where the individual was old still only demonstrated how close death may be. 
There was a similar pattern with the use of extending. Two examples extended the conceptual domains of the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor while three others extended the LIFE IS FLUID metaphor, with two of these examples also extending the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor. The choice of mappings within the PEOPLE ARE PLANTS metaphor shows the closeness of time and the lover’s valiant attempt to defy time. The LIFE IS FLUID metaphor underlines the opinion of previous critics of how the poem is trying to show how life is lost in both the mundane and the extraordinary, but mainly the mundane. 
The poem also draws contrasts between time and life by using the TIME IS FLUID metaphor and the LIFE IS FLUID metaphor. The contrast is done here by showing how in the poem how time is “brimming” while life “leaks away”. Throughout the poem, the spectre of death and time always hangs over life and love.
Time is also shown as being able to destroy both the literal and the metaphorical/mythical. The stanza where the nursery rhymes and childhood stories are referred to shows how even a world that does not literally exist can eventually be defeated by time. 


  1. Awesome work! This helped me a lot! I am having to dissect this poem for Tech Writing and then I have to write an essay on the literary devices being used. So this helped me figure out the meanings and some of the literary devices. Thanks so much!

  2. Thankyou so much, i have an english literature as exam on friday and have found this essay really insightful and helpful :)

  3. oioi reporting from college, this has helped me so much with poetry. I hope i get a good grade on my literature mock........................... oioi thanks xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  5. You can also read a very brief summary of this poem here.