Poem of the Week

The poetry of W. H. Auden can sometimes be rather obscure and difficult, but when he writes simply, as here, there are few I would rather read.


The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

W. H. Auden


This poem manages to be funny, sad, tongue-in-cheek, sincere, silly and heartrending, all at once. The short lines and regular AABB rhyme scheme give it a tender simplicity. But there is deeper meaning here too. The star-gazing imagery perfectly captures that painful sense of distance and… unattainability, I suppose, that characterizes unrequited love. And yet the speaker doesn’t despair. There is solace and almost satisfaction in being ‘the more loving one’. Better this way than the other: being the object of affections you are unable to match. At least it shows, unlike stars, you are capable of feeling love; it might not be reciprocated, but it’s still there, in you. And as the last stanza suggests, human beings are great at adapting, at learning to live with things. No stars anymore, but isn’t the unbroken darkness wonderful? Sometimes you just have to make the best of it: even if it takes ‘a little time’.

I hope you like it. And these (although of course they couldn’t give a toss):




Filed under Poem of the Week

5 responses to “Poem of the Week

  1. Annie

    I enjoyed this – reminds me a bit of:

    I hold it true, whate’er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all

  2. Victoria Hood

    Hi Mark,
    I am normally quite receptive to stories and poems, however in this situation I find it too vague.
    Would it be possible for you to better describe the contents for me. Can I also just say, I am happy that poem of the week is back!

    Kind Regards

  3. katie todd

    I think we have all been there at times. I think its a lovely poem.

    Thank you.


  4. Keely Guest

    how lovely! i really like this

  5. marktill

    Hi, thanks so much for your replies.

    Annie – Yes, it does. It’s that same kind of heroic stoicism, isn’t it? An extract, or a few extracts, from Tennyson’s In Memoriam will definitely have to be Poem of the Week one week.

    Victoria – Certainly; I’ll email you shortly. But I wouldn’t worry too much about precise “meaning” – I’m only guessing. It’s enough to read and enjoy the way Auden strung his words together, and the feelings they evoke.

    Katie – Yes, sadly, I suspect we all have. Although as Mr Hector says in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, “It’s the only education worth having.” Well … possibly.

    Keely – Great: thankyou for saying so. I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s too…


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