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by W.H. Auden

Lullaby Theme of Death

The speaker of "Lullaby" spends a whole lot of time thinking about death. In the same sentence, he calls his beloved both "living" and "mortal." While he's alive now, he won't be alive forever. The speaker really hammers this idea in. Then, in the climax of the poem, the speaker announces that we should "find the mortal world enough" – that we should be satisfied with the here and now, and not look to God for answers. We should accept the mortality of all life and rejoice in the meaning that death provides. Sure, it's not exactly the cheeriest idea for a love poem. But there's something lovely about the speaker's realistic outlook on life and death.

Questions About Death

  1. What is the effect of Auden's deathly diction? Why do words such as "grave" and "mortal" appear all over this poem?
  2. Why does the speaker focus so much on childhood in the first stanza? What is the connection between childhood and death in the poem?
  3. What does it mean when the speaker says "beauty, midnight, vision dies"? How can these fairly abstract things die? Is he speaking metaphorically?
  4. What does the phrase "mortal world" mean to you?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Lullaby" is the most depressing love poem ever. Auden can't stop thinking about death, and this makes the poem a huge bummer to read.

"Lullaby" is an incredibly realistic love poem. Auden's focus on death makes love seem all the more poignant and beautiful.

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