WH Auden’s Funeral Blues
To listen to this post, click here –
On this day in 1973 the poet WH Auden died.
A prolific writer and traveller who became for a while an American citizen and resident, he wrote around four hundred poems mainly on the themes of love or politics.
Auden moved in the artistic circles of the time which included Stephen Spender, Cecil Day-Lewis, Christopher Isherwood, Benjamin Britten and TS Eliot. His private life included affairs with a number of men and though he seemed to yearn for a lifetime relationship, it never happened.
He embraced spirituality particularly through the works of Kierkegaard and Niebuhr. From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford University. His writing is notable for its direct expression of feelings and appeals to a wide audience. His poem Funeral Blues had a huge impact in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message: “He is dead!”
Put crepe bows around 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 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 come to any good.
Today I pray that I will be able to express my feelings when I need to.