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Themes

At its most basic level, "Lullaby" is a love poem. The speaker begins by addressing his sleeping loved one, and goes on to ponder how love works in a world where everything eventually ends and where no one or nothing is perfect. Even though the speaker seems a bit negative at times (he knows full well that both he and his beloved are flawed), the poem ultimately affirms the value of love. In fact, for the speaker, imperfection is what makes his lover "entirely beautiful."

Questions About Love

  1. What is the effect of the direct address to the speaker's sleeping loved one?
  2. What is Venus's role in the poem?
  3. We know that Auden was gay. Does homosexuality play any role in the poem? Could a heterosexual poet just as easily write this poem?
  4. What's the deal with the hermit's "carnal ecstasy"? Why does this weird and solitary figure appear in a love poem?
  5. Does the speaker have a negative view of love? Or just a realistic one?

Chew on This

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

"Lullaby" is about the conflicts that come from being gay in an intolerant society.

"Lullaby" has nothing to do with homosexuality. No one is perfect, gay or straight.

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