Funeral Blues is a simple but devastatingly emotional poem about death isolation and emptiness and longing. The poem initially appeared as a song in a play The Ascent of F6 which was co-composed by Auden and Christopher Isherwood. The poet wrote the poem during World War 1 in which he was killed. Funeral Blues was published 1937 in Collected Poems. The poem is also referred to as Stop All the Clocks a title which is due to its famous first line.
The poem is in the format of a dirge or a lament for the dead. The poem is also about the end of a love affair. The tone of the poem instead is more somber than early iterations. The poem has four stanzas every four lines. However, each stanza line has different syllables but contain approximately four beats each. The poet moves from the time before the funeral then moves to time during the funeral and period after the funeral.
Though the poet speaks of an individual, the poem is more universal. The poet utilizes symbolism in the entire poem. In the first Stanza, for example, the poet employs some symbols of death this include; No sound may be made to disturb the dead, use of low slam beats to signal the arrival of the dead body and the user's act of stopping all clocks (Auden, 2001). In the ancient times, all clocks in a house would be stopped to signal the end of time for the deceased. Also, mourners would be informed about the death by the use of the clocks so that they could mourn.
The poet also utilizes a mingling of the high and the low which he has used in many of his previous poems. This style of writing is a classical elegy though poets using this technique use everyday life objects, for instance, the use of the clock in this poem. This style of mingling is an important modernist move which allows the poet to embrace the modern world and come to terms with the complexities of human experience through art.
The poet utilizes the use of upper-case throughout the poem. An example is where he uses the phrase He is Dead (Auden, 2001). The use of upper-case proclaims the importance of the deceased person being mourned. The individual is referred to in this case was not an ordinary person to the poet but rather a significant one. The use of the upper-case can be compared to that of God. The poet is saddened by the death of the individual whom he corresponds to God. In stanza three the poet reminisces about the importance of this individual. The stanza illustrates the bond between the two. The verse also reveals the tragedy of human life, i.e., the reality that everyone must die. Love does not last forever.
In the fourth and last stanza the poet singles out all things in nature which are symbols of love. These include; the moon, the sun and the stars. The poet also compares the beauty of the ocean and the woods to love yet all these vanish (Auden, 2001). The poet also wants the world to reflect the emptiness within him. The end of the poem leaves the reader with a bitter sense of grief.
Auden, W. H. (2001). Funeral blues. 24th Street Irregular Press.
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