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Home » The More Loving One”: A Summary of W.H. Auden’s Poem

The More Loving One”: A Summary of W.H. Auden’s Poem

W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” is a beautifully crafted piece that explores the theme of unrequited love. The poem is a reflection on the human condition of loving someone who cannot or will not love us back. In this article, we will provide a summary of the poem and delve into its meaning and significance.

Themes

One of the main themes in W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” is the idea of unrequited love. The speaker of the poem is in love with someone who does not love them back, and they struggle with the pain and frustration of this situation. The poem explores the different ways that people cope with unrequited love, from resignation to bitterness to a determination to keep loving despite the lack of reciprocation. Another theme in the poem is the contrast between the vastness of the universe and the smallness of human emotions. The speaker compares their own feelings to the stars in the sky, and wonders if their love is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. This theme highlights the tension between the personal and the universal, and raises questions about the meaning and value of individual experiences in the face of cosmic indifference.

Structure

The structure of W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” is a sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines and following the traditional rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem is divided into two quatrains and two tercets, with a volta or turn occurring after the eighth line. The first quatrain introduces the theme of unrequited love, while the second quatrain explores the speaker’s feelings of insignificance in the face of the vast universe. The volta marks a shift in tone, as the speaker begins to question the value of his own emotions. The final two tercets offer a resolution, with the speaker acknowledging the beauty of love even in its unrequited form. The structure of the poem reflects the speaker’s journey from despair to acceptance, and the use of the sonnet form adds to the poem’s emotional impact.

Tone and Mood

The tone and mood of W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” are complex and multifaceted. At times, the speaker’s tone is wistful and melancholic, as he reflects on the pain of unrequited love. However, there are also moments of defiance and resilience, as the speaker asserts his commitment to love even in the face of rejection. The mood of the poem is similarly complex, shifting between sadness, frustration, and a kind of stoic acceptance. Ultimately, the tone and mood of “The More Loving One” reflect the complexity of human emotions and the challenges of navigating the often-turbulent waters of love and relationships.

Imagery and Symbolism

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden employs vivid imagery and symbolism to convey his message about unrequited love. The poem is filled with references to the stars and the sea, which serve as powerful symbols for the speaker’s emotions. The stars, for example, represent the unattainable object of the speaker’s affection, while the sea symbolizes the vastness of his feelings. The use of these symbols creates a sense of longing and yearning that is palpable throughout the poem. Additionally, Auden’s use of metaphors, such as comparing the speaker’s love to a “lonely planet” and a “shipwrecked sailor,” further emphasizes the depth of his emotions. Overall, the imagery and symbolism in “The More Loving One” contribute to the poem’s emotional impact and make it a powerful exploration of the complexities of love.

Language and Diction

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden uses language and diction to convey his message about unrequited love. The poem is written in a formal tone, with precise and deliberate word choices. This creates a sense of distance and detachment, which mirrors the speaker’s feelings of unrequited love. The use of metaphors and personification also adds depth and complexity to the poem, allowing the reader to explore the speaker’s emotions in a more nuanced way. Overall, Auden’s language and diction in “The More Loving One” contribute to the poem’s powerful exploration of love and loss.

Analysis of Stanzas

The poem “The More Loving One” by W.H. Auden is composed of seven stanzas, each with four lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the entire poem, as the speaker declares that he is the “more loving one” in a relationship where the other person does not reciprocate his feelings. The second stanza introduces the metaphor of the stars, which the speaker uses to describe his unrequited love. He compares himself to a “lonely watcher of the skies” who gazes at the stars with longing, even though they are indifferent to his gaze.

In the third stanza, the speaker acknowledges that his love is “unrequited yet,” suggesting that he still holds out hope that the other person may eventually return his feelings. However, in the fourth stanza, he admits that this hope is “futile,” and that he will continue to love the other person even if they never love him back. The fifth stanza returns to the metaphor of the stars, as the speaker imagines himself as a star that is “fixed in its orb” and unable to move closer to the object of his affection.

The sixth stanza is perhaps the most poignant, as the speaker declares that he would rather be the one who loves more, even if it means experiencing pain and rejection. He suggests that this is a noble and courageous stance to take, and that it is better to love fully and deeply than to hold back out of fear of being hurt. Finally, in the seventh stanza, the speaker concludes by saying that he will continue to love the other person “until the end of time,” even if they never love him back. This final line is both heartbreaking and hopeful, suggesting that the speaker’s love is eternal and unchanging, even in the face of rejection.

Interpretation of the Poem

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden explores the theme of unrequited love and the emotional toll it takes on the individual. The poem is written in a series of quatrains, with a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. The speaker begins by describing the stars as “lonely” and “remote,” and wonders if they too feel the pain of unrequited love. The speaker then reflects on their own experience of loving someone who does not love them back, and the feeling of being “left alone” in their emotions.

Throughout the poem, Auden uses vivid imagery to convey the speaker’s emotions. For example, the line “I thought of you and how you love / This beauty that we see” paints a picture of the object of the speaker’s affection admiring the stars, while the speaker is left to watch from afar. The repetition of the phrase “the more loving one” emphasizes the speaker’s sense of being unequal in their love, and the pain that comes with it.

Ultimately, the poem suggests that even though unrequited love can be painful, it is still worth pursuing. The final lines, “We are here on earth to do good to others. / What the others are here for, I do not know,” suggest that the act of loving someone, even if it is not reciprocated, is a noble and worthwhile pursuit.

Historical Context

W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” was written in 1957, during a time of great social and political change. The post-World War II era was marked by the rise of the Cold War, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, and the emergence of the Beat Generation. Against this backdrop, Auden’s poem explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition. It is a reflection on the nature of love and the ways in which we navigate the complexities of our emotions. As such, it speaks to the timeless human experience, even as it is rooted in a specific historical moment.

Biographical Context

W.H. Auden was a prolific poet and writer who was born in York, England in 1907. He attended Oxford University, where he became friends with other notable writers such as Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender. Auden’s early poetry was heavily influenced by his Christian faith, but he later became more interested in political and social issues. He moved to the United States in 1939 and became an American citizen in 1946. Throughout his career, Auden was known for his ability to blend traditional poetic forms with modern themes and language. He died in Vienna, Austria in 1973.

Relevance to Modern Society

W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” is still relevant to modern society today. The poem explores the theme of unrequited love and the pain that comes with it. In today’s world, where social media and dating apps have made it easier to connect with people, the fear of rejection and the pain of unrequited love is still very real. The poem also touches on the idea of finding meaning and purpose in life, which is a universal theme that is still relevant today. The message of the poem, that it is better to love and be rejected than to never love at all, is a powerful one that can inspire people to take risks and pursue their passions. Overall, “The More Loving One” is a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.

Critical Reception

The critical reception of W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” has been largely positive. Critics have praised the poem for its exploration of themes such as unrequited love, the human condition, and the search for meaning in life. Many have also noted the poem’s use of vivid imagery and powerful language to convey its message. However, some critics have criticized the poem for its ambiguity and lack of clarity, arguing that it can be difficult to fully understand without a deep knowledge of Auden’s life and work. Despite these criticisms, “The More Loving One” remains a beloved and influential work of modern poetry.

Comparison with Other Poems

When comparing “The More Loving One” to other poems, it is clear that Auden’s work stands out for its unique perspective on love and loss. Unlike many other love poems, which focus on the joy and passion of romantic relationships, “The More Loving One” explores the pain and loneliness that can come from unrequited love. This theme is particularly poignant in light of Auden’s own experiences with love and loss, which are reflected in the poem’s melancholy tone and introspective style. Overall, “The More Loving One” is a powerful and thought-provoking work that offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of human emotion.

Impact on Auden’s Career

The poem “The More Loving One” had a significant impact on Auden’s career as a poet. It was written during a time when Auden was struggling with his own beliefs and values, and the poem reflects this internal conflict. The poem’s themes of love, loss, and acceptance resonated with readers and critics alike, and it quickly became one of Auden’s most popular works.

The success of “The More Loving One” helped to establish Auden as a leading voice in modern poetry. It also paved the way for his later works, which continued to explore similar themes and ideas. Auden’s career as a poet was marked by a willingness to confront difficult questions and to challenge conventional wisdom, and “The More Loving One” is a prime example of this approach.

Overall, the impact of “The More Loving One” on Auden’s career cannot be overstated. It helped to solidify his reputation as a poet and set the stage for his later works. Today, the poem remains a beloved and influential piece of literature, and it continues to inspire readers and writers alike.

Philosophical and Religious Themes

In W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One,” the speaker grapples with the philosophical and religious themes of love, loss, and acceptance. The poem’s title itself suggests a paradoxical question: can one be more loving than the other in a relationship? The speaker’s musings on this topic lead him to consider the vastness of the universe and the insignificance of human existence in the grand scheme of things. This existential crisis is further compounded by the speaker’s realization that his love for another person may not be reciprocated. However, the poem ultimately offers a message of acceptance and resilience in the face of unrequited love. The speaker concludes that even if his love is not returned, he will continue to love and appreciate the beauty of the world around him. This sentiment echoes the teachings of many religious and philosophical traditions, which emphasize the importance of finding meaning and purpose in life despite its inherent challenges and uncertainties.

Use of Irony and Paradox

W.H. Auden’s poem “The More Loving One” is a masterful example of the use of irony and paradox in poetry. The poem’s title itself is paradoxical, as it suggests that there can be degrees of love, and that one can be more loving than another. Throughout the poem, Auden employs irony to highlight the speaker’s struggle with unrequited love. The speaker’s assertion that “we must love them, we must love them” is both ironic and paradoxical, as it suggests that love is a duty rather than a feeling, and that it can be forced or willed into existence. The poem’s final lines, in which the speaker declares that “the stars are not wanted now: put out every one; / pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,” are also ironic, as they suggest that the speaker’s love is so intense that it can extinguish the very sources of light and life in the universe. Overall, “The More Loving One” is a powerful example of how irony and paradox can be used to explore complex emotions and ideas in poetry.

Metaphysical Elements

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden explores the metaphysical concept of the universe’s indifference to human emotions. The poem’s speaker grapples with the idea that the stars, which he personifies as “the bright/Unhindered, lovely things,” do not reciprocate his love and instead remain distant and unfeeling. This theme of unrequited love is a common one in Auden’s work, but in “The More Loving One,” he takes it a step further by suggesting that the universe itself is indifferent to human emotions. The poem’s final lines, “We must love them, we must praise them, we must / Adore them, and we must impersonally / Accept their indifference,” encapsulate this idea and leave the reader with a sense of both resignation and awe at the vastness of the universe and our place within it.

Analysis of the Title

The title of W.H. Auden’s poem, “The More Loving One,” immediately draws the reader’s attention and raises questions about the meaning behind it. The word “loving” suggests a theme of love, but the addition of “more” implies a comparison or contrast between two parties. Who are these parties, and what is the nature of their relationship? Is the poem about unrequited love, or is it a commentary on the nature of love itself? These are just a few of the questions that the title raises, and they hint at the complexity and depth of the poem that follows. As we delve deeper into the text, we will explore the various interpretations of the title and how they relate to the themes and motifs of the poem.

Sound Devices and Rhythm

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden employs various sound devices and rhythms to enhance the poem’s meaning and impact. One of the most prominent sound devices used is alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, in the first line, “Looking up at the stars, I know quite well,” the repetition of the “l” sound in “Looking” and “stars” creates a musical quality to the line. Additionally, Auden uses internal rhyme, which is the rhyming of words within a line, to create a sense of unity and coherence in the poem. For instance, in the second line, “That I’m like them, sure, footloose and fancy-free,” the words “them” and “fancy-free” rhyme, adding a musical quality to the line. Furthermore, the poem’s rhythm is irregular, with varying line lengths and stresses, which creates a sense of movement and unpredictability. Overall, Auden’s use of sound devices and rhythm adds depth and complexity to “The More Loving One.”

Figurative Language

In “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden employs various forms of figurative language to convey his message about unrequited love and the human condition. One example of this is the use of personification, where Auden gives human qualities to non-human entities. For instance, he personifies the stars as “lonely” and “cold” beings that “stand aloof” from the speaker’s love. This creates a sense of distance and isolation, emphasizing the speaker’s feelings of unreciprocated affection. Additionally, Auden uses metaphors to compare the speaker’s love to a “wave” that crashes against the shore, only to be “drawn back” again. This metaphor highlights the cyclical nature of unrequited love, where the speaker’s feelings are repeatedly dashed and renewed. Overall, Auden’s use of figurative language adds depth and complexity to his exploration of love and the human experience.