W.H. Auden: “if I have any work to do, I must be careful not to get hold of a detective story for, once I begin one, I cannot work or sleep till I have finished it.”
If you’ve read the article and the poem and returned to get my take on it, I must say I don’t know what the poem really means. I can make a stab at it.
Who cannot . . . “mark the spot where the body of his happiness was first discovered?” I take this to mean that we all know when and where we lost our innocence or our sense of innocence.
“Someone must pay for our loss of happiness, our happiness itself.” So the murderer of our happiness is someone else, someone who must pay? And what is that lingering doubt and that smile all about? I smile at the ending of the detective story because . . . I am the murderer of my own happiness? Because I know that the murderer in the story is not so very different from me? And I wonder about the justice of the verdict because . . . I don’t want to admit that I am guilty?
“But time is always killed.”
I can never figure out the who the murderer is in most detective stories either.