Some say that Love's a little boy And some say [he's]1 a bird, Some say [he]2 makes the world go round And some say that's absurd: But when I asked the man next door Who looked as if he knew, His wife was very cross indeed And said it wouldn't do. Does it look like a pair of pyjamas Or the ham in a temperance hotel, Does its odour remind one of llamas Or has it a comforting smell? Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is Or soft as eiderdown fluff, Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges? O tell me the truth about love. The history books refer to it In cryptic little notes, And it's a common topic on The Trans-Atlantic boats; I've found the subject mentioned in Accounts of suicides, And even seen it scribbled on The backs of railway guides. Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian Or boom like a military band, Could one give a first-class imitation On a saw or a Steinway Grand, Is its singing at parties a riot, Does it only like Classical stuff, Will it stop when one wants to be quiet? O tell me the truth about love. I looked inside the summer-house, It wasn't ever there, I've tried the Thames at Maidenhead And Brighton's bracing air; I don't know what the blackbird sang Or what the roses said, But it wasn't in the chicken-run Or underneath the bed. Can it pull extraordinary faces, Is it usually sick on a swing, Does it spend all its time at the races Or fiddling with pieces of string, Has it views of its own about money, Does it think Patriotism enough, Are its stories vulgar but funny? O tell me the truth about love. Your feelings when you meet it, I Am told you can't forget. I've sought it since I was a child But haven't found it yet; I'm getting on for thirty-five, And still I do not know What kind of creature it can be That bothers people so. When it comes, will it come without warning Just as I'm picking my nose, Will it knock on my door in the morning Or tread in the bus on my toes, Will it come like a change in the weather, Will its greeting be courteous or bluff, Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love.
B. Britten sets stanzas 1-2, 5-7
About the headline (FAQ)View original text (without footnotes)
Note: Britten's setting begins with a spoken line that does not appear in the Auden poem: "Liebe l'amour amor amoris."
1 Britten: "it's"
2 Britten: "it"
- by W. H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden (1907 - 1973), "O tell me the truth about love" [author's text not yet checked against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):
- by (Edward) Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976), "Tell me the truth about love", 1938, published 1980, stanzas 1-2, 5-7 [ voice and piano ], from Cabaret Songs, no. 1 [sung text checked 1 time]
Researcher for this text: David K. Smythe
This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 64
Word count: 404