Ol' W.H. makes it pretty clear what's going on in this one. The title, "As I Walked Out One Evening," is a good indication of what follows: it's the speaker's observations and thoughts during an evening stroll. Sounds kind of nice, right? Well, stay tuned.
Auden begins by setting the scene. The speaker is out for a mosey. This isn't a nature walk. There is pavement and crowds of people. It's an urban, English street. The speaker overhears a lover professing his love—you know, "I love you this much and that much." Of course, Auden's love quantifiers are pretty special. We're not talking roses are red here.
But just as our lover is really hitting his stride ("I'll love you, dear, I'll love you / Till China and Africa meet") The speaker is distracted by a new voice. It is the voice of, well, clocks—those pesky measurers of passing time. Their message isn't as warm and fuzzy as the lover's. For the next nine stanzas those clocks go on and on about mortality and the inescapability of aging and death. Things take a decidedly negative turn. We're not gonna lie: Shmoop likes the other part better.
By the time the clocks finally zip it the lovers are long gone. The poem ends with the original speaker, still out and about long after dark, alone, contemplating the silence and a deep, dark river. Hey, what happened to all that Love stuff?