Night Mail – W.H. Auden
Night Mail - W. H Auden
Auden was born in York. He was a Yorkshire public school boy and Oxford graduate. He left England for America in 1939. He was a school master and later became Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He wrote documentaries. He was a poet, dramatist and a critic.
Auden spoke about the common situations with intelligence and breadth with urgency and energy and wit. Auden’s middle class and private jokes were puzzling. His poem ‘Night mail’ was written to be a commentary for a documentary film made in 1936. The film was around twenty four minutes and was named as ‘Night mail’. At the end of the film the poem was read by Auden to the accompaniment of music composed by Benjamin Britten.
The poem seems to be very easy one and in brief it shows how a train brings different types of letters for the people in England to Scotland and how people are waiting anxiously to get those. Apart from that Auden captures nicely with his creative poetic language how the train moves smoothly, nicely across English landscapes from England to Scotland. Moreover one can get to know the life style patterns of the people. Furthermore the train is not an ordinary one; it is a night mail that comes at night. It was an era where the system of communication was not highly developed yet the steam engine was found. And people communicated mostly through letters. So the night mail was the messenger that associates the people who live in different areas. On the way of its journey the train goes through the hilly terrain, countryside and industrialized cities too. The writer gives a universal appeal to the train by telling that it brings letters for all for rich and poor both. He personifies the smooth manner it goes for a woman. ‘She passes no one wakes’. The feminine nature makes its movement more steady and stylish. Especially use of onomatopoeia with the words like ‘gossip gossip’ and ‘the chatty the chatty’ add more realistic effect for the poem. Apart from the nature of the train writer brings us a multitude of human activities and the feelings of happiness, sadness through the different patterns of the letters it bring. So at the end of the poem the poet changes the reader’s impression that gets at the beginning of the poem. Because with the simple title we feel that the poem is about a train journey yet at the end it gives the idea that it is through different kind of letters we get a huge picture of the life style of the people and their experiences.