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That night when joy began

W.H. Auden
by

Mary Shea

on 16 March 2013

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Transcript of That night when joy began

W. H. Auden That night when joy began That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Of morning's levelled gun.

But morning let us pass,
And day by day relief
Outgrows his nervous laugh,
Grown credulous of peace,

As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser's reproach,
And love's best glasses reach
No fields but are his own. That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Of morning's levelled gun.

But morning let us pass,
And day by day relief
Outgrows his nervous laugh,
Grown credulous of peace,

As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser's reproach,
And love's best glasses reach
No fields but are his own. Slant Rhyme That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Of morning's levelled gun.

But morning let us pass,
And day by day relief
Outgrows his nervous laugh,
Grown credulous of peace,

As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser's reproach,
And love's best glasses reach
No fields but are his own. "levelled gun" (4)

"nervous laugh" (7)

"credulous of peace" (8)

"trespasser's reproach" (10) Diction "morning let us pass" (5) Personification The couple is so excited to be together, but their joy is short-lived. The use of slant rhyme teases the couple with the promise of comfort and then follows up with things that do not exactly rhyme. The extensive use of commas imparts the reader with a sense that there is never any rest despite the apparent joy. The poet's word choice expresses the couple's level of anxiety and the perceived threats that they face. And the frequent personification of non-human entities weighs down what should be an intimate situation with third parties. But the final sentiment that the couple's love truly is permeating everything and that there is safety for them ends the poem with reassurance. Ultimately, this poem gives the reader the sense that previous experiences should not make one jaded or suspicious of love. Nothing should keep two people apart if love is present. Conclusion Mary Shea a
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e Punctuation As Poetry “A poem begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes a direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life – not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion” (Frost). Each rhyme is slant rhyme: the words have similar consonant or vowel combinations. The rhymes are all inexact. It's as if the lovers want to be comforted by rhyme, but there is still enough difference in sound to make them uneasy.
For example, in the first stanza, joy begins as veins "flush." And the same consonants show up in the next line, but with a different connotation: the "flash" of a gun. Joy begins, but is followed by a comma, as if the lovers do not trust that it will last. And the "gun" that is supposed to ruin them is definite, as it is followed by a period. In the second stanza, as the lovers describe their anxiety, each thought is followed by a comma. These commas lend the stanza a feeling of constant vigilance, as if there is no rest in the face of potential danger. With only one comma in the final stanza, the feeling of the poem shifts. Trust creeps into the minds of the lovers, and their final hopeful thought is validated with a period. The diction in this poem cries of an overwhelming sense of anxiety and impending danger. A nervous laugh and credulity at peace are described, but it is important to note that the levelled gun and trespasser's reproach that induce such panic never actually exist.
"relief outgrows his nervous laugh" (6-7)

"love's best glasses reach no fields but are his own" (11-12) Morning, relief, and love are all given human characteristics and become their own entities.

The inclusion of these things as individuals crowds the poem that should be about two people in love and makes it feel as if there is always something laying in wait to ruin things for this couple. Or even if the third party is not looking to ruin the couple, its existence is a reminder of the outside influences a couple must face. Auden's poem should be considered "great poetry" because it meets Frost's criteria for what a poem should be. This poem does indeed begin in delight: it actually sets out to describe "that night when joy began." The direction of the poem follows from the first line laid down. Its purpose is to describe what happens after this joy. It also runs a course of lucky events: despite the lovers' certainty that they will not make it through the morning, morning lets them pass, and their shaky, nervous laughter begins to peter out. And the poem ends in triumph with a clarification of life. The lovers discover that everything they can see is in favor of their union. They need not fear the reaction of others to their personal lives. And while this may not seem to be an earth-shattering conclusion to come to, Frost decidedly states that this does not matter. This idea that prior misfortune should not prevent one from trusting future happiness is important, if only for a moment in one's life.
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