Funeral Blues

February 22, 2007 at 2:09 am 15 comments

W. H. Auden



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 aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the 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 for ever: 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.

The beauty of this poem lies in its ability to bring in time – the clock and the telephone, the traffic policemen and the public dove – into our mourning, and then effortlessly add timelessness to the mix – the sun, the moon and the stars.

The first two stanzas create a picture postcard of how we want the world to mourn. And two more to truly reflect what we yearn.

* from Four Weddings and a Funeral



Entry filed under: Black Mamba, English, Wystan Hugh Auden.

Law like Love Lullaby

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Revealed  |  February 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I do wish it hadn’t gone into 4 weddings and a.. I always feel that the slightly over-the-top style of this poem was a little tongue-in-cheek. But then what’d I know. Also sorta an obvious choice for this series one feels.

  • 2. blackmamba  |  February 22, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Revealed: yes, it is over-the-top, but however unsentimental and cynical I am, there are mushy and maudlin times. And then, I can’t actually go out crying – as I wouldn’t want people to see my uncynical side. And it is at those times that having these thoughts expressed so well, helps me, somehow.

    And hey, think it was a rather well done reading of the poem in 4 weddings, …

  • 3. Shrikant Joshi  |  February 23, 2007 at 6:18 am


    Oh and BTW I have a clipping of the scene where he peaks it out. Truly moving.

    Any takers?

  • 4. Revealed  |  February 23, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    True. It was a good reading but I just didnt like the pop-culture-ish hue that it lent the poem. That’s all. And I see your point about the necessity of maudlin stuff for maudlin times :D.

  • 5. Jacqueline  |  February 25, 2007 at 7:53 am

    You have to appreciate the words of this work. Remove yourself from the artsy film criticism stuff. Read it for what it’s worth. When I first heard the actor in the film recite “Funeral Blues” years ago in 4 Weddings it meant very little but now, years later, after losing close friends and family, and seeing the movie again tonight, the words have a completely different meaning. It’s all relative to what you have experienced in life – and, more importantly, what you have learned from these experiences that makes things, such as this poem, meaningful.

  • 6. R.B.  |  October 26, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Love this poem and feel it is in perfect context with this film – not over the top. I like that it doesn’t have all the religious sentiment, but is rather to the heart of pain… that the world should take a pause for loss. Afterall, when we lose a loved one, that reality of aloneness is so overwhelming and surreal that it is a wonder the world does not take a moment of pause.

  • 7. Andrew  |  November 7, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    This is nice – BUT do you know where the original 5 stanza version is?

    Too many people have read the 4 stanza version , thinking it was directly from Auden’s life, when in fact, it was written for someone else.

    The original version was apparently from a play he had written.

    Any idea on where to find it?


  • 8. Vy  |  December 26, 2007 at 6:46 am

    I was wondering the same as above: do you have the original 5 stanza version? Can’t seem to find it anywhere on the internet!!!

  • 9. Barbara G.  |  August 15, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Since I’ve been losing friends and family right an left, it strikes a tender and bruised cord, making me want to shout ‘Stop all the clocks’ order time to halt until we can comfortable part and say our goodbyes. The poem leaves me thinking that’s exactly how I would feel if I suddenly lost my husband.

  • 10. Funeral Readings Guru  |  December 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    This is truly beautiful poem. Thanks

  • 11. Funeral Readings  |  December 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    This poem is really beautiful. Excellent post. Thanks

  • 12. Joel Mamon  |  March 31, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Can you tell me where the five stanza poem of “Funeral Blues” can be found?

    • 13. Anna  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:08 am

      Hold up your umbrellas to keep off the rain
      From Doctor Williams while he opens a vein;
      Life, he pronounces, it is finally extinct.
      Sergeant, arrest that man who said he winked!

      Shawcross will say a few words sad and kind
      To the weeping crowds about the Master-mind,
      While Lamp with a powerful microscope
      Searches their faces for a sign of hope.

      And Gunn, of course, will drive a motor-hearse:
      None could drive it better, most would drive it worse.
      He’ll open up the throttle to its fullest power
      And drive him to the grave at ninety miles an hour.

      • 14. VeLiKi  |  January 4, 2011 at 10:44 am

        thanks so much!

  • 15. Funeral Readings  |  July 31, 2010 at 5:36 am

    As a life-long poet and poetry enthusiast, Auden has always been one of my favorites.


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