Study Guide

As I Walked Out One Evening Death

By W.H. Auden

Death

No discussion of "As I Walked Out One Evening" would be complete without looking at Death. (If you're scared, it's okay to cover your eyes and read through your fingers.) Death is kind of tied up with Time, if you think about it. When considering the passage of Time, that end point (dying) always seems to sneak into the conversation. Despite the lover's attempt to ignore it, Death shows up and puts a real damper on things. Auden portrays Death like Time—an inescapable, natural part of life.

Questions About Death

  1. Where in the poem does Auden introduce the Death theme? Name a line and an image. How many images or symbols in the poem can you connect with Death?
  2. Which image or description do you think best captures the ideas or emotions associated with Death? Why?
  3. How does a cracked tea-cup open a path to "the land of the dead?" Sure, it sounds good but what does it mean? Try making a list of other things that might open that path and insert them for tea-cup. Some might be funny and some might be downright spooky. (e.g. And the empty can of Red Bull opens / A lane to the land of the dead.) See what you can come up with. It might give you a new appreciation for that crack in the tea-cup.

Chew on This

In the poem, Auden portrays death as simply a fact of life. It isn't something to fear or revere. It's just something to accept.

The poem reveals a secret key to defeating Time and escaping death: avoid cracked tea-cups and you can live forever. No. Not really. But Auden does suggest that, even with the knowledge of our looming demise, it is our duty to love as best we can.