Study Guide

Lullaby Death

By W.H. Auden

Death

Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral: (3-6)

This is the beginning of the speaker's focus on death. He notes that nothing lasts forever: children grow up and lose their beauty, and everyone dies eventually.

But in my arms til break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty but to me
The entirely beautiful. (7-10)

By referring to his sleeping beloved as a "living creature," we're reminded of the fact that, one day, he will not be living. The speaker then goes on to call him "mortal;" just another reminder that we will all die some day.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell, (21-23)

Here the speaker includes symbols of time passing – a clock and a bell – which have the effect of reminding us that time is always passing.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies; (31)

Nothing lasts forever in this poem or in the world. It's not just human beings who die. Beauty doesn't last forever, nor do our visions. Even midnight "dies" every night.

Find the mortal world enough (36)

The speaker asks his sleeping beloved to be satisfied with their earthly life. He says that their world and their love are enough for both of them; they don't need a god or supernatural powers.

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