Summary of the Poem Night Mail by W.H. Auden

Famous poem “Night Mail” by W. H. Auden was composed in 1936 for John Grierson’s documentary of the same name.

The voyage of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) postal train as it passes through the night to carry mail throughout Britain is eloquently depicted in the poem.


The poem recounts the trip of the train, emphasizing its rhythmic motion, the scenery it travels through, and the postal workers who sort and distribute mail while on board. By evoking a feeling of mobility and urgency via his use of sound and imagery, Auden highlights the significance of the postal service in fostering national connections.


In addition to highlighting the commitment and difficulties postal workers have when working through the night to guarantee mail delivery on schedule, the poem also considers the human side of their jobs. As letters and packages go from sender to receiver, spanning distances and bringing people together, it honors the feeling of community and connection established by the postal service.
All things considered, “Night Mail” pays homage to the postal service’s role in fostering connection and communication while also highlighting the significance and beauty of the train’s nighttime excursion and its crew.

Critical Appreciation

W. H. Auden’s “Night Mail” is a deep meditation on the passing of time and humanity’s interdependence, as well as a glorification of the postal service and its employees. The following is a critical analysis of the poem:


1. Form and Structure: Auden uses free poetry with erratic meter and rhyme in “Night Mail,” which has a distinctive structure. This enhances the sensation of speed and rhythm while reflecting the irregularities in the train’s trip. The voyage is broken up several stanzas throughout the poem, each of which focuses on a distinct topic, such as the train’s departure or arrival.

2. Imagery and Sensory Detail: The reader is able to fully experience the voyage because to Auden’s use of vivid imagery and sensory detail. By describing the sights, sounds, and sensations that the postal workers encountered, he paints a multifaceted picture of the nighttime environment that the train travels through.


3. Themes of Community and Connectivity: The poem highlights how crucial the postal service is for bringing people together over long distances. It honors the sense of camaraderie that is generated by letter and package exchanges, emphasizing the part postal employees play in fostering and sustaining interpersonal connections.

4. Social Commentary: Auden gently touches on political and social concerns throughout the poem, such as how urbanization and industry affect customary ways of living. The way that the labor of the postal workers is shown speaks to larger issues about the working class and how work is evolving in the contemporary world.


5. metaphor and Symbolism: “Night Mail” might be seen as a metaphor for life’s cycles and the passage of time. While the mailman conveys memories, feelings, and experiences from generation to generation, the train’s nighttime voyage symbolizes time’s unrelenting passage.


6. Sound and Rhythm: Auden develops a musicality that mimics the train’s rhythmic movement by utilizing sound techniques like alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia. The poem’s audio element adds to its overall impact and improves its sensory appeal.


To sum up, “Night Mail” is a brilliant piece of writing that goes beyond its immediate subject to delve deeper into ideas of time, labor, and human connection. Because of Auden’s deft use of language and structure, as well as his perceptive social criticism, this poem has stood the test of time and is still beloved by readers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does Auden’s use of structure and form affect “Night Mail” as a whole?
2. Talk about how the poem’s use of imagery and sensory details helps to visualize the postal train’s voyage.
3. What relevance do the notions of community and connectedness have in the setting of “Night Mail” and how are they explored in the poem?
4. How does Auden’s portrayal of postal workers’ labor in “Night Mail” offer social commentary?
5. Examine the poem’s symbolism and allegorical components, paying special attention to how time passes and experiences are passed down.
6. How might Auden use rhythm and sound to improve the reading of “Night Mail,” and what effects does this auditory aspect have on the poem?

7. Take into account the historical setting in which “Night Mail” was composed. How could the ideas and messages of the poem be influenced by this context?
8. Talk about how “Night Mail” still has value now and how it speaks to readers even if it was published decades ago.
9. Examine your own interpretations and associations with “Night Mail” and its themes of human connection, communication, and work.
10. How does Auden’s poem “Night Mail” represent his wider literary style and thematic interests as a poet?

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