Poem of the Week: An Auden Classic

Stop all the clocks

W H Auden’s memorable Funeral Blues featured at a memorial service I attended yesterday.

Readers will be familiar with it, as it is intoned at many funerals, as in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

It is highly evocative, and appropriate when celebrating the life of friend or relation whose time on the planet should not only be remembered by people, but by the natural world.

In effect the poem, which dates from the mid 1930s, is saying that time should stand still to mark the passing. The world will never be the same again.

Funeral Blues

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 crepe 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 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.

W H Auden