by W.H. Auden
In A Nutshell
"Lullaby" is no ordinary love poem. We've got hermits, glaciers, madmen, tarot cards... you name it. But at its core, it's about love. Love between two men (W.H. Auden was gay, so we can pretty safely assume that his love poems are addressed to men) who are far from perfect. It makes sense that Auden would tackle this topic; his favorite subjects for poetry were normal stuff, like daily life, pop culture, politics, and, of course human relationships.
Auden is one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century. Yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before, but this one's special. Even though he was influenced by a lot of the groundbreaking poets of the 1920s (like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound), he was different from these guys. Most of the modernist poets wrote in free verse, meaning their poems didn't rhyme or have a set meter or form. Auden's poems did just the opposite. Many, if not most, of his poems are written with formal rhyme schemes and meters. He tackled every form from the limerick to the haiku to the villanelle. He's really known as a master of forms.
The Form-Master was also very involved in politics, and wrote a number of poems about the Spanish Civil War. While poetry critics may be most interested in Auden's political works, his most popular poems are about – you guessed it – love. The best part of Auden's poetry, including "Lullaby," is that he loves the entire human being, warts and all. This probably explains his popularity. Who doesn't have a few secret warts, after all?
Why Should I Care?
Have you ever been in love? Have you ever had the feeling that the person you love isn't perfect, but just perfect for you? This is what lullaby is about. It's a very intimate poem about what it's like to love someone who is human: a person with faults, a person with imperfections, a person who makes mistakes. In short, it's about what love is like for all of us. No one is perfect, but most of us fall in love regardless. "Lullaby" is a poem about this universal experience of loving another human being for his weaknesses and imperfections as much as for his strengths.