Again, we began the lesson by reading an unseen poem: If I Could Tell You by W H Auden. In just 15 minutes, were able to make some very original and imaginative interpretations.

W H Auden

Amelia and Mariam have very kindly compiled the ideas from the lesson and have written some thoughtful interpretations of key lines from the poem:

“Time will say nothing but I told you so”

The use of this phrase repeated throughout the poem indicates how time is always there right in front of us, also it shows how he wants to get his point across as he keeps repeating it. Another interpretation of this quote is that time is being secretive as it knows what is written for our future. Therefore this makes the reader feel curious because ‘time’ knows everything, however we don’t. This can also be seen as ‘time’ mocking us by knowing our deepest secrets or it can be seen as time protecting us by hiding it.

“If we should weep when clowns put on their show”

The use of the oxymoron connotes that time delivers more bad than good as clowns are represented to be a happy symbol which contrasts with the idea of weeping. It also shows that time knows about the bad events of our future which is why it might not let us enjoy the good times. Another connotation of this quote is that the theme of ‘regret’ presents how weeping was wasted, making us as the reader aware that time should be cherished.

“Perhaps the roses really want to grow”

​The literal point is that ‘roses’ want to grow however are being prevented or cut off from growing as time is disrupting it. On the other hand the ‘roses’ can be seen metaphorically as a relationship not being able to develop.

“Will time say nothing but I told you so?”

The most frequent line in the poem is used, however in the last stanza it has been turned into a question. This shows that there is uncertainty in the writer’s tone which portrays that time is confused. ‘Time’ has a capital letter which emphasizes that it is a personified figure, much like a conscience. His conscience is a constant reminder of regret. The regret could be the result of fear presented throughout the poem.


The poem is written in iambic pentameter. All the stanzas have 3 lines except the last stanza which has 4 lines. This suggests that the last stanza is a summary of his feelings and adding one extra line is a use of dramatic effect. The use of natural imagery throughout the poem suggests a kinder view however the use of the words ‘brooks’ and ‘soldiers’ in the last stanza depicts how harsh he has become, just wanting to get his point across. As each stanza only has 3 lines it infers that the writer is stuck in time however in the last stanza it shows that he is finally letting go of time as well as his fears.