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):