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.
Let the airplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message "He is dead".
Put crepe bows around the white necks of public doves.
Let traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
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.
The stars are not wanted now, put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
This poem was written by WH Auden, an English academic and author, who is widely regarded as being the leading poet of the 20th century. (For more information about the author, click here.) The poem is variously known as Twelve Songs IX, as Funeral Blues, or by its first line as Stop All The Clocks. It is perhaps best known from its inclusion in the movie Four Weddings And A Funeral, where it was read during the funeral scene to devastating effect. I've loved it from the first time I heard it.
The comparative restraint of the first two verses lull the reader into a false sense of calm and then the storm breaks in the third verse, especially the last line. There's a return to the word play in the last verse and then the final line's flat despair washes over the reader. As a poem, it's a horrible experience. If the reader should be suffering from a loss of a loved one, this is the kind of cathartic poem that may not make him or her feel comforted, but may make him or her feel understood.
Auden is one of my favourite authors. I have another fanlisting devoted to him, and I have always enjoyed his work. I think he's fascinating, although I know I have way more to learn about him. The wildness of the images ('Pack up the moon, dismantle the sun') echoes the all-consuming nature of grief; their surrealism, the literary equivalent of Dali's melted clocks, mirrors its irrationality and overwhelming quality. Look at the way the significance of the items mentioned in the poem broadens from the personal household (the clocks, the dog) out to the public sphere (the birds, the traffic policemen), and then in the last verse, to the whole earth (the celestial bodies, the ocean, the wood), as though the grief is spreading out through the world in the same way that ripples spread out from a stone thrown into a pool. Funeral Blues is painful to read, but it's beautiful too.
© Tehomet 2006.
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A fanlisting is a place for all fans of a particular author, movie, book, etc. to connect. To my mind, it's a great excuse to build a little tribute site. :) There are over 50,000 fanlistings in existence and the number is growing all the time. Some are simple fanlistings and some are part of a much bigger website. Find out more about the fanlistings phenomenon at the Fanlistings Network HQ.
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