Funeral Blues W. H. Auden Analysis

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In the poem “Funeral Blues,” W.H. Auden’s choice of diction allows the reader a greater understanding of the intensity and depth of feeling experienced upon the loss of a loved one. Likewise, the symbolism used by the poet pulls us into the actual world of the grief stricken as he searches for ways to mourn this passing. Auden’s choice of diction here was used to drawn the reader into the emotional disrepair felt by the afflicted. He shortens sentences and uses comparisons to the destruction left behind after the passing.

“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.” He is using these types of phrases to show us just how significant the death was. By using such statements as, “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,” Auden shows a want of motion and sound stopped. He wants the reader to recognize the symbols of distress and mourning. “Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves. Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.” He uses the symbolism to express a certain respectful mourning.

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One can almost see the funeral procession of grieving family members and friends as they bring the coffin out with solemnity. After reading all of the other responses, I am greatly interested in finding out more about Auden’s life. I feel that the explanation about the play and the poem being written for a woman to sing about someone is probably the most accurate. However, it could very well be that Auden was writing about his own love, or even just a dear, dear friend. I know that I have personally been able to write something this heartfelt about a friend. Auden was obviously an emotional man. Also, the satire view seems very reasonable. As well as being emotional, Auden was quirky.

In this poem, the writer uses regular verse and traditional pattern of rhythm and rhyme to give impact to his unexpected imagery of the end of a relationship when he cuts himself off from the rest of the his life because his grief is too much. To describe the incredible pain and isolation of when someone you love leaves you and the way time seems insignificant, the writer starts the poem by reiterating the title, creating emphasis by his use of assonance of the monosyllables: “Stop all the clocks”. Unlike Valentine, this poem incorporates a series of metaphors to describe the writer’s feelings instead of using one extended metaphor; he then continues to describe the suffering he feels and the way everything that used to have a purpose stops by using the atypical metaphor of a dog and a bone. To exemplify the way he feels his life has ended, he then uses metaphors associated with a funeral: “Silence the pianos and with a muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”

To show the end of happiness and the start of mourning, the writer includes the silencing of the pianos and then low thudding drums used at funeral to describe the phenomenal sadness he feels now the relationship is over. He includes the metaphor “coffin” to either represent his own emotional death he feels now he has lost something so valuable to him or to represent the death of the relationship. The second stanza further illustrates the engulfing pain this poem is describing. To symbolize the feeling that everything in his life is also submerged in pain, the writer uses the word “moaning” to describe an aeroplane, followed by: “Scribbling on the sky the message He is dead” This line typifies the lackadaisicality he feels now nothing matters by using the word “scribbling”, which is given emphasis by the sibilance of “sky”.

The fact that the message has been written on the sky shows the scale of the writer’s grief now the relationship has ended. To show the God-like significance his partner was in his life, he uses “He” with a capital; there is also emphasis on the three heavy monosyllables that creates a morose feel to the end of the line. The writer then expresses that all peace has now gone and is blemished and weighed down with death by referring to “crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves”.

Auden continues to describe the inconsequentiality of the rest of the world as he pushes himself away from his life: “Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.” The third stanza of Our Love Now is different from the other two; instead of using metaphors related to everyday life he starts to explore his pain deeper by directly referring to how the loss of his partner will effect him, using metaphors of cosmic significance: “He was my North, my South, my East and West” To describe how life cannot go on without his beloved and how everything in his life is a reminder of pain, the writer expresses how every aspectof himself was associated with his partner: “My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song”

The last line of the stanza ends in “I was wrong”, which, similarly to “He is dead”, gives a sense of finality to the flow of speech by the use of heavy monosyllables; this live also references to love not lasting forever, concurring with the idea that the poem is about an end to a relationship, not a genuine death. The final stanza depicts the way he does not care for beauty any more; his immeasurable grief makes it impossible for him to appreciate anything anymore. His first line shows how items of beauty are no longer necessary: “the stars are not wanted now”. His second and third lines to the final stanza further illustrate the way nothing has any importance or significance to his life anymore; he uses metaphors of life-giving things being pushed away like litter: “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.” His final line summarizes what the entire poem is demonstrating: “For nothing can ever come to any good”

A poetry analysis of Funeral Blues by W H Auden will usually end up talking about the themes of time, loss, emotion and control. The poet’s intentions are made clear in the opening lines:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come’

Where the imperative seems an obvious demand for the regain of a control which brought reassurance and security. W H Auden will later go on to show how these things have been lost. But for now, in the first lines of this free and anguished funeral poem, readers are unaware of what has happened. Auden speaks in the present, using an arresting demanding tone to grab the attention of the reader. He chooses to mention an instrument that measures time, his second image relates to communication – or the lack of it. He wishes time to stand to stand still, and for silence. For now, this may be in respect for the dead, but later it seems to be because he feels that the loss of a loved one leaves no meaning in time, or in senses such as hearing. His demands suggest a need to regain control over his helplessness in the face of death.

‘Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. ‘

The next lines are more prosaic, involving common mundane events – perhaps the sort of everyday events that one takes for granted when hale and hearty in one’s workaday life,yet which seem so precious as the clock ticks by towards death. The poem assumes a seemingly comical tone with cartoon-like images which hides a more bittersweet undercurrent of cynicism for the poet knows that nothing anyone does to comfort or to respect, will bring the loved one back.

Indeed, the word ‘nothing’ comes back again to haunt the closing line of the poem, where Auden’s message seems to say that everything after the loss of his loved one is pointless and meaningless and nothing worthwhile will ever be fulfilled again. The finality of this statement is emphasised by the clearing away of all works of progress, using language such as ‘sweeping,dismantle’ and’ pouring.’ All are words of rejection, waste and redundancy. The lines:

‘He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong’

Return to an almost metaphysical theme, melting time and space together and blurring boundaries, as in eternity itself. The time references give the feeling that the speaker’s own life now seems redundant and that one element,love, is not eternal for him. Without that, there is a nothingness, and all is wasted. This is now one of the most famous poems about dying, having been used in the movie ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral. It is now often used as a funeral poem.

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