W.H. Auden’s ‘Lullaby’ as Camp Romance

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I  DO NOT remember being surprised as a high school student in the turbulent 60’s when I learned that W. H. Auden was gay. A few years later, as I was attempting my own “out” life in the East Village, Auden would pass by me, scuffling home, always in the same gray suit and reddish carpet slippers, as I headed in the opposite direction to my bookstore clerk job. I knew not to speak to him. Once, at a poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y, someone asked why he changed the line “we must love one another or die” to “and die,” and he replied, “Because we must all die anyway!” Personally, I preferred the original words, which were illogical but emotionally true. There was something grand in the over-the-top ending that I now understand signifies “camp.” So perhaps it was Auden’s language that let me know he was gay.

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