funeral blues essay 250 words

Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks) Summary & Analysis by W. H. Auden

  • Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis
  • Poetic Devices
  • Vocabulary & References
  • Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
  • Line-by-Line Explanations

funeral blues essay 250 words

“Funeral Blues” was written by the British poet W. H. Auden and first published in 1938. It's a poem about the immensity of grief: the speaker has lost someone important, but the rest of the world doesn’t slow down or stop to pay its respects—it just keeps plugging along on as if nothing has changed. The speaker experiences this indifference as a kind of rude torment, and demands that the world grieve too. Grief, in the poem, is thus presented as something deeply isolating, an emotion that cuts off the people who grieve from the world around them.

  • Read the full text of “Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)”

funeral blues essay 250 words

The Full Text of “Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)”

“funeral blues (stop all the clocks)” summary, “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)” themes.

Theme Grief and Isolation

Grief and Isolation

Line-by-line explanation & analysis of “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)”.

Stop all the ... ... the mourners come.

funeral blues essay 250 words

Let aeroplanes circle ... ... black cotton gloves.

He was my ... ... I was wrong.

Lines 13-16

The stars are ... ... to any good.

“Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)” Symbols

Symbol Clocks

  • Line 1: “clocks”

Symbol Telephone

  • Line 1: “telephone”

Symbol Pianos

  • Line 3: “pianos”

Symbol Doves

  • Line 7: “doves”

Symbol Stars

  • Line 13: “stars”

Symbol Black clothing

Black clothing

  • Line 7: “crepe bows”
  • Line 8: “black cotton gloves”

“Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)” Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

End-stopped line.

  • Line 1: “telephone,”
  • Line 2: “bone,”
  • Line 4: “come.”
  • Line 6: “Dead’.”
  • Line 7: “doves,”
  • Line 8: “gloves.”
  • Line 9: “West,”
  • Line 10: “rest,”
  • Line 11: “song;”
  • Line 12: “wrong.”
  • Line 13: “one,”
  • Line 14: “sun,”
  • Line 15: “wood;”
  • Line 16: “good.”
  • Lines 3-4: “drum / Bring”
  • Lines 5-6: “overhead / Scribbling”
  • Line 1: “clocks, cut”
  • Line 4: “coffin, let”
  • Line 9: “North, my South, my”
  • Line 11: “noon, my midnight, my talk, my”
  • Line 12: “forever: I”
  • Line 13: “now; put”


  • Line 1: “c,” “c”
  • Line 2: “b,” “b”
  • Line 3: “m”
  • Line 4: “c,” “m,” “c”
  • Line 5: “m”
  • Line 6: “Sc,” “sk,” “m,” “D”
  • Line 7: “c,” “p,” “d”
  • Line 8: “p”
  • Line 9: “m,” “m,” “S,” “m,” “W”
  • Line 10: “M,” “w,” “w,” “m,” “S”
  • Line 11: “M,” “m,” “m,” “m,” “m”
  • Line 12: “l,” “l”
  • Line 13: “n,” “n,” “p”
  • Line 14: “P,” “s”
  • Line 15: “P,” “s,” “w,” “w”
  • Line 16: “n,” “n,” “c,” “c”
  • Line 1: “o,” “o,” “o,” “o”
  • Line 2: “o,” “o”
  • Line 3: “o,” “u,” “u”
  • Line 4: “o,” “o”
  • Line 5: “ea”
  • Line 6: “e,” “ea”
  • Line 7: “e,” “u,” “o”
  • Line 8: “e,” “e,” “o,” “o”
  • Line 9: “y,” “y,” “y,” “Ea”
  • Line 10: “y,” “ee,” “y”
  • Line 11: “y,” “y,” “i,” “y,” “y,” “o”
  • Line 12: “ou,” “o”
  • Line 13: “o,” “a,” “o,” “ou,” “o”
  • Line 14: “u,” “u”
  • Line 15: “u,” “oo”
  • Line 16: “o,” “o,” “oo”
  • Line 1: “ll,” “c,” “l,” “ck,” “c,” “ff,” “l,” “ph”
  • Line 2: “b,” “k,” “c,” “b”
  • Line 3: “S,” “c,” “m,” “ff,” “m”
  • Line 4: “c,” “m,” “c,” “m”
  • Line 5: “c,” “c,” “m”
  • Line 6: “Sc,” “bb,” “sk,” “m,” “ss”
  • Line 7: “P,” “c,” “p,” “b,” “ck,” “p,” “b,” “l,” “c”
  • Line 8: “L,” “p,” “l,” “c,” “bl,” “ck,” “c,” “l”
  • Line 9: “m,” “m,” “S,” “m,” “st,” “W,” “st”
  • Line 10: “M,” “w,” “k,” “w,” “k,” “m,” “S,” “st”
  • Line 11: “M,” “n,” “n,” “m,” “m,” “n,” “m,” “m”
  • Line 13: “t,” “n,” “t,” “w,” “nt,” “n,” “w,” “p,” “t,” “t,” “n”
  • Line 14: “P,” “p,” “m,” “n,” “n,” “m,” “n,” “n”
  • Line 15: “P,” “w,” “w,” “p,” “p,” “w”
  • Line 16: “n,” “n,” “c,” “n,” “c,” “n”
  • Line 5: “Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead”
  • Lines 9-11: “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;”
  • Lines 13-15: “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;”
  • Lines 12-13
  • Line 12: “I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”
  • Line 16: “For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

“Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)” Vocabulary

Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.

  • Public Doves
  • Working Week
  • Sunday Rest
  • (Location in poem: Line 3: “muffled”)

Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme of “Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)”

Rhyme scheme, “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)” speaker, “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)” setting, literary and historical context of “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)”, more “funeral blues (stop all the clocks)” resources, external resources.

The "Blues" Aloud — Tom O'Bedlam reads the poem out loud.

An Introduction to "Funeral Blues" — A detailed history of the poem from the British Library.

Funeral Blues — Benjamin Britten's musical setting of "Funeral Blues."

W. H. Auden's Biography — A detailed biography of W. H. Auden from the Poetry Foundation.

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" — A scene from the classic 1994 film in which a character recites "Funeral Blues" at his partner's funeral. The film helped secure the poem's place in modern pop culture.

LitCharts on Other Poems by W. H. Auden

As I Walked Out One Evening

Epitaph on a Tyrant

In Memory of W. B. Yeats

Musée des Beaux Arts

Refugee Blues

September 1, 1939

The More Loving One

The Shield of Achilles

The Unknown Citizen

Ask LitCharts AI: The answer to your questions

The logo.

“The Funeral Blues” by WH Auden Essay

Introduction, speaker of the poem, the setting of the poem, the theme of the poem, imagery used, figures of speech.

The Funeral Blues is a poem written by WH Auden in 1930 speaks of how the all-encompassing death of a partner is expected to bring sobriety and restrain the natural forces (Kennedy, et all, 2004). This paper provides an analysis of the poem.

The narrator of the poem is lamenting the loss of his beloved partner and is strongly suggesting that all signs and events that signify life and living be stilled. Since Auden was a Gay poet, we have to presume that the narrator of the poet is lamenting this death or loss of the partner.

The poem was set in the 1930s when Auden had started a literary career. The poem highlights the taut, tense, and truncated use of verses and this was the time when the Gay movement was just beginning and Europe was midway through the Great depression.

The theme of the poem is about the manifestation and display of his grief and his obsession with the loss of his partner. Auden has explored how various symbols of life and joy are in contrast with the deep grief he is facing. He has also spoken of his deep attachment to the partner through a series of metaphors about nature and elements like the four directions, the heavenly bodies, the oceans, and the woods, and how their mere presence clashes with his grief.

Auden makes vibrant use of everyday metaphors and images that signify life and living. So obsessed is he with the loss of this partner that he wants the whole world to join him and share his grief. In the second verse, he has wanted airplanes to write across the skies the message that ‘He is dead’. This speaks of the profound grief that he is suffering and it is clear that the message of death be spread far and wide, for all to see so that they could share the grief. As an outward manifestation of the announcement of his grief, Auden wants the traffic policemen who signify law and order and its enforcement to wear black cotton gloves. Cotton is naturally white and by suggesting black, Auden wants the imagery of grief to be rendered in black and white. Auden also suggests that the dove, which is a symbol of peace, should be adorned with crepe bows.

The coffin is a symbolism that represents the culmination of grief and suffering, When Auden asks for the coffin to be brought in with muffled drums, he tries to create somber imagery that should not be disturbed by any noise or events such as a telephone, which may ring anytime; a dog with a juicy bone that may start barking and a piano that may utter sounds that would break the silence of the muffled drums.

Auden has made liberal use of nature and sublimates the cessation of their presence to signify his grief. In the third paragraph, he equates the four directions to his partner and how his working week, as well as the Sundays, belonged to the partner, so close was their association. To Auden, all signs of life such as the heavenly bodies, the telephone, piano, oceans, and woods are interfering with his grief. He uses figures of speech that suggest that such objects be removed and put away.

  • Biograpgy, 2007, WH Auden: Early Years.
  • Kennedy XJ, Gioia Dana, 2004, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama , Longman, U.S.A., Compact Edition (4th Edition), ISBN: 0321245504
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2021, September 16). "The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden.

""The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden." IvyPanda , 16 Sept. 2021,

IvyPanda . (2021) '"The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden'. 16 September.

IvyPanda . 2021. ""The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden." September 16, 2021.

1. IvyPanda . ""The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden." September 16, 2021.


IvyPanda . ""The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden." September 16, 2021.

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Analysis of “Funeral Blues” Poem

In his arguably the most illustrious artwork titled “Funeral Blues,” first printed in 1938, Wystan Hugh Auden presents a morose, sorrowful elegy that brilliantly outlines the feelings linked to grieving. The poet mainly talks about the immensity of pain through an unmentioned speaker experiencing great discomfort after his extensively cherished and valued friend died (Auden line 1). Auden uses literary devices such as imagery, exaggeration, and assonance to indicate the narrator’s love towards his friend.

In the first stanza, the speaker employs imagery through words such as piano, ocean, and clock to show the significance of their friendship. Auden in line 1 notes, “silence the pianos and with muffled drum,” to depict the passing on of the speaker’s friend and the feeling of sorrow. Such instances portray deep admiration the speaker had for his acquaintance, but death finally put them apart.

The poet uses exaggeration to establish emphasis in its messaging. The speaker experiences a dejected feeling where he views the world as the worst place to be without a precious pal. Hyperbole is used in the line “stop all clocks, cut off the telephone,” which contains fewer syllables just to emphasize the feeling the speaker had at that particular time (Auden Line 1). In the epic, agony is presented as emotional and touching since death eliminates the speaker’s close and treasured friend.

In addition, the poet uses assonance to deliberate the mood, intention, and subject of the work. For instance, in line 9 and 10, Auden uses the words west and rest not only to achieve the required rhythm but also to provide unity in speaker’s feelings. The poet also employs certain assonance by using the words such as drove and glove to evoke deep feelings in the speaker.

In conclusion, the poem expresses a solemn feeling as the speaker grieves the loss of his prized friend. The two who had been close friends were sadly separated by death. The farce of the narrator’s feelings crests with the penultimate stanza that suggests eliminating the oceans. It is characterized by heart-wrenching accounts that deliver real poignancy while revealing Auden’s poetic capacity to connect with human feelings.

Auden, Wystan, H. “Funeral Blues.” Research Guide , 2021. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 16). Analysis of “Funeral Blues” Poem.

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funeral blues essay 250 words

Lit. Summaries

  • Biographies

Deconstructing Grief: A Literary Analysis of W.H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’

In his poem “Funeral Blues,” W.H. Auden explores the theme of grief and the impact of loss on the human experience. Through a literary analysis of the poem, this article aims to deconstruct the various elements that contribute to the powerful emotional impact of the work. From the use of language and imagery to the structure and form of the poem, we will delve into the ways in which Auden captures the essence of grief and mourning in this timeless piece of literature.

Background of W.H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden, commonly known as W.H. Auden, was a prominent English poet born in York, England in 1907. He was educated at Oxford University and later moved to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1946. Auden’s poetry is known for its intellectualism, wit, and technical mastery. He was a prolific writer, producing over 400 poems, as well as plays, essays, and libretti. Auden’s work often explored themes of love, politics, and religion, and he was known for his ability to capture the complexities of human emotion. He died in Vienna, Austria in 1973, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.

The Poem: ‘Funeral Blues’

W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a powerful and emotional poem that captures the essence of grief and loss. The poem is a lament for a loved one who has passed away, and it expresses the speaker’s deep sense of loss and despair. The poem is structured in four stanzas, each with four lines, and the rhyme scheme is ABAB. The language is simple and direct, but the emotions it conveys are complex and profound. The poem is a masterpiece of modern poetry, and it has become one of Auden’s most famous works.

Structure of the Poem

The structure of W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a crucial element in understanding the poem’s impact on the reader. The poem is composed of four stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. This structure creates a sense of order and control, which contrasts with the overwhelming emotions of grief and loss expressed in the poem. The repetition of the phrase “Stop all the clocks” at the beginning of each stanza further emphasizes the speaker’s desire for a complete cessation of the world around them. The final stanza breaks from the established structure, with the repetition of the phrase “He was my North, my South, my East and West” creating a sense of finality and closure. Overall, the structure of “Funeral Blues” serves to enhance the poem’s emotional impact and create a lasting impression on the reader.

Themes of the Poem

One of the most prominent themes in W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is the overwhelming sense of grief and loss. The speaker’s mourning is palpable throughout the poem, as he describes the ways in which his world has been shattered by the death of his loved one. The repetition of the phrase “stop all the clocks” emphasizes the speaker’s desire to freeze time and hold onto the moment before his loved one’s passing. Additionally, the use of imagery such as “the stars are not wanted now” and “the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves” creates a somber and melancholic atmosphere, further emphasizing the theme of grief. Overall, “Funeral Blues” is a powerful exploration of the depths of human emotion in the face of loss.

Use of Language in the Poem

In “Funeral Blues,” W.H. Auden masterfully employs language to convey the depth of grief felt by the speaker. The poem is filled with vivid imagery and metaphors that paint a picture of the speaker’s overwhelming sense of loss. For example, the line “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one” creates a powerful image of the speaker’s world being plunged into darkness. Additionally, Auden’s use of repetition, particularly in the refrain “Stop all the clocks,” emphasizes the speaker’s desperation and desire to halt the passage of time. The language in “Funeral Blues” is both beautiful and heartbreaking, perfectly capturing the complex emotions of grief.

Symbolism in the Poem

The poem “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden is rich in symbolism, which adds depth and meaning to the poem. One of the most prominent symbols in the poem is the color black. Black is traditionally associated with mourning and grief, and it is used throughout the poem to convey the speaker’s sense of loss and despair. The black hearse, the black coffin, and the black silk gloves all serve to emphasize the solemnity and finality of death.

Another important symbol in the poem is the clock. The clock is used to represent the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The speaker laments that “the clocks were striking thirteen” when his loved one died, suggesting that time has become disordered and chaotic in the wake of his loss. The clock also serves as a reminder that life is fleeting and that death is always looming on the horizon.

Finally, the poem is full of religious symbolism. The speaker refers to his loved one as his “North, his South, his East and West,” suggesting that he was the speaker’s guiding star and source of spiritual sustenance. The speaker also asks that the stars be put out and the moon be covered with a black cloth, which is reminiscent of the biblical account of the crucifixion of Jesus. This religious imagery serves to underscore the speaker’s sense of loss and his need for comfort and solace in the face of death.

Overall, the symbolism in “Funeral Blues” adds depth and complexity to the poem, allowing the reader to explore the themes of grief, loss, and mortality in a more nuanced and meaningful way.

Mood and Tone of the Poem

The mood and tone of W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” are somber and mournful. The poem is a lamentation for the loss of a loved one, and the speaker’s grief is palpable throughout the verses. The use of repetition, particularly in the refrain “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,” adds to the sense of despair and finality. The tone is also bitter and angry, as the speaker rails against the world for continuing on as if nothing has changed. The use of hyperbole, such as “the stars are not wanted now” and “the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves,” heightens the sense of the speaker’s overwhelming grief and the world’s indifference to it. Overall, the mood and tone of “Funeral Blues” convey a sense of profound loss and the struggle to come to terms with it.

Comparison to Other Works by Auden

In comparison to other works by Auden, “Funeral Blues” stands out as a particularly emotional and poignant piece. While Auden is known for his use of complex language and themes, this poem is stripped down to its rawest emotions. It is a powerful exploration of grief and loss, and it resonates with readers on a deep level. Other works by Auden, such as “The Shield of Achilles” and “September 1, 1939,” deal with larger political and social issues, but “Funeral Blues” is a deeply personal and intimate work. It showcases Auden’s ability to connect with readers on a human level and to capture the essence of the human experience.

Reception and Interpretation of the Poem

The reception and interpretation of W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” has been varied and complex. Some readers view the poem as a powerful expression of grief and loss, while others see it as a commentary on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. Still others interpret the poem as a critique of societal norms and expectations surrounding death and mourning. Regardless of the specific interpretation, it is clear that “Funeral Blues” has resonated deeply with readers since its publication in 1938. The poem’s themes of love, loss, and mortality continue to be relevant and poignant today, making it a timeless work of literature.

Impact of the Poem on Popular Culture

W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” has had a significant impact on popular culture since its publication in 1938. The poem’s themes of grief, loss, and love have resonated with audiences across generations and have been referenced in various forms of media. One of the most notable examples is the use of the poem in the 1994 film “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” where it was recited by actor John Hannah during the funeral scene. The scene and the poem’s inclusion in the film have become iconic, and the poem has since been referenced in other films, television shows, and music. The poem’s impact on popular culture is a testament to its enduring relevance and the power of Auden’s words to evoke emotion and connect with audiences.

Analysis of the Poem’s Final Line

The final line of W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a powerful and poignant statement that encapsulates the speaker’s overwhelming grief. “For nothing now can ever come to any good” suggests a sense of finality and hopelessness, as if the speaker has resigned themselves to a life without joy or happiness.

The use of the word “nothing” is particularly striking, as it emphasizes the emptiness and void left by the loss of a loved one. The repetition of the word “ever” also adds to the sense of permanence and irrevocability.

Furthermore, the phrase “come to any good” implies that the speaker has lost faith in the possibility of anything positive or beneficial happening in their life. It is a bleak and despairing outlook, one that speaks to the depths of the speaker’s sorrow.

Overall, the final line of “Funeral Blues” is a haunting and unforgettable conclusion to a poem that explores the complexities of grief and loss. It leaves a lasting impression on the reader, a reminder of the profound impact that death can have on our lives.

Historical Context of the Poem

W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” was written in 1936, during a time of great political and social upheaval in Europe. The rise of fascism in Germany and the looming threat of war had a profound impact on the cultural landscape of the time. Auden himself was deeply affected by these events, and his poetry often reflects the anxieties and uncertainties of the era. “Funeral Blues” is no exception, as it grapples with themes of loss, grief, and the fragility of human life in the face of larger historical forces. The poem’s elegiac tone and mournful imagery speak to the sense of collective mourning that pervaded the period, as people struggled to come to terms with the devastation wrought by war and political violence. At the same time, the poem’s focus on personal grief and the intimate details of a single death also speaks to the enduring power of individual experience, even in the midst of larger historical events. By situating “Funeral Blues” within its historical context, we can gain a deeper understanding of the poem’s themes and the ways in which it speaks to the concerns of its time.

Relationships in the Poem

In “Funeral Blues,” relationships play a significant role in the speaker’s grief. The poem begins with the speaker’s declaration that “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,” indicating a desire to isolate themselves from the outside world and focus solely on their loss. This isolation is further emphasized when the speaker asks for “the dogs to be silenced” and “the pianos to be muffled.”

The relationship between the speaker and their loved one is also explored in the poem. The speaker describes their loved one as “my North, my South, my East, and West,” indicating that they were the center of their world. The use of cardinal directions also suggests that the loved one provided guidance and direction in the speaker’s life.

The speaker’s grief is compounded by the fact that their relationship with their loved one was not publicly acknowledged. The speaker laments that “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 use of past tense and the admission of being wrong suggest that the relationship has ended, and the speaker is left to mourn alone.

Overall, relationships are a crucial aspect of “Funeral Blues.” The poem explores the isolation and grief that can come from losing a loved one, as well as the importance of acknowledging and cherishing those relationships while they last.

Religious Imagery in the Poem

Religious imagery is a prominent feature in W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues.” The poem opens with the line “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,” which can be interpreted as a call to mourn and pay respects to the deceased. This line also alludes to the tradition of tolling church bells to announce a death.

The second stanza contains the line “He was my North, my South, my East and West,” which echoes the biblical phrase “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). This suggests that the speaker’s relationship with the deceased was a source of comfort and guidance, much like one’s faith in God.

The third stanza contains the line “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,” which can be interpreted as a reference to the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. This line also suggests that the speaker’s grief is so intense that they wish for the world to end.

Overall, the religious imagery in “Funeral Blues” adds depth and complexity to the speaker’s grief. It suggests that the speaker’s relationship with the deceased was akin to a spiritual connection, and that their loss is felt on a profound level.

Psychological Analysis of the Poem

The psychological analysis of W.H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ reveals the speaker’s deep sense of grief and loss. The poem is a powerful expression of the speaker’s emotions, which are characterized by a sense of despair, anger, and hopelessness. The speaker’s grief is so intense that he wishes for the world to come to a standstill, and for all the clocks to stop ticking. This desire to freeze time is a common response to grief, as it reflects the speaker’s desire to hold on to the past and to prevent any further loss or change.

The speaker’s anger is also evident in the poem, as he rails against the “traffic policemen” and the “mourners” who continue to go about their daily lives, seemingly unaffected by his loss. This anger is a natural response to grief, as it reflects the speaker’s frustration with the world’s indifference to his pain.

Finally, the speaker’s sense of hopelessness is perhaps the most striking aspect of the poem. He feels that his world has come to an end, and that there is no hope for the future. This sense of hopelessness is a common response to grief, as it reflects the speaker’s belief that his loss is so profound that it can never be overcome.

Overall, the psychological analysis of ‘Funeral Blues’ reveals the complex emotions that are associated with grief and loss. The poem is a powerful expression of the speaker’s pain, anger, and despair, and it offers a poignant reminder of the profound impact that loss can have on our lives.

Gender Roles in the Poem

In W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” gender roles play a significant role in the portrayal of grief. The speaker, who is assumed to be male, is depicted as the one who is experiencing the loss and the one who is expected to express his emotions openly. Meanwhile, the female figure in the poem is relegated to the background, serving as a mere accessory to the male’s grief. This reinforces the traditional gender roles of men being the emotional providers and women being the emotional supporters. However, the poem also challenges these gender roles by showing the vulnerability and fragility of the male figure, who is often expected to be stoic and unemotional. Overall, the poem presents a complex and nuanced portrayal of gender roles in the context of grief.

Cultural Significance of the Poem

W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a poem that has gained immense cultural significance over the years. The poem has been used in various forms of media, including movies, television shows, and music. It has also been referenced in political speeches and used as a symbol of grief and loss. The poem’s themes of love, loss, and mourning are universal, making it relatable to people from all walks of life. The poem’s popularity has also been attributed to its simplicity and accessibility, making it easy for readers to connect with the emotions expressed in the poem. Overall, “Funeral Blues” has become a cultural touchstone for those experiencing grief and loss, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its emotional resonance.

Interpretation of the Poem’s Title

The title of W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues,” immediately sets the tone for the reader. The word “funeral” suggests death and mourning, while “blues” implies a sense of sadness and melancholy. The combination of these two words creates a powerful image of grief and loss.

However, the title can also be interpreted in a more literal sense. The word “blues” is often associated with music, specifically the genre of blues music. This could suggest that the poem is meant to be read or performed in a musical way, with a rhythm and cadence that mimics the structure of a blues song.

Overall, the title of “Funeral Blues” sets the stage for a poignant and emotional exploration of grief and mourning, while also hinting at the possibility of a musical interpretation.


Funeral Blues | Summary and Analysis

Critical appreciation of funeral blues.

Funeral Blues is a poem by W H Auden that deals with themes of grief and loss . It is written from the perspective of someone who is grieving the death of a person dear to them. It was initially composed in 1936 as a part of the play “The Ascent of F6”, and later published as a poem.

This poem has 16 lines, split into four quatrains .  Each quatrain consists of two rhyming couplets, that is, the first two lines and the last two lines of each stanza rhyme. This poem’s rhyme scheme is AABB . This provides a consistent rhythm throughout the poem and is reminiscent of a funeral march’s repetitive drum. The rhythmic poetry is also used to allow this poem to be easily followed by readers or listeners and to helps in making it memorable. The poem was published in 1938.

Funeral Blues | Analysis, Lines 1-4

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.

The speaker wants the entire world to come to a standstill. “ Cut off the telephone, ” says the speaker, desiring silence, but also no longer valuing the companionship and human connection that the telephone could bring. The desire to prevent the dog from barking with its juicy bone also shows us that the speaker desires silence, and that the happiness or joy of others is no longer relevant. The dog barking is a sign of happiness, and the muzzling of that shows the absolute anguish that the speaker expects in the world. The silenced pianos mean the silencing of song, and dance, and party. All that needs to be heard is the sound of the funeral drums as the mourners congregate around the coffin of the dead.

Funeral Blues | Analysis, Lines 5-8

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.

This stanza makes it sound as though an important, global figure had died. The aeroplanes should fly and tell the world by writing it in the sky. Every inch of the outside world should respond appropriately to such a death. Doves should fly dressed in mourning, and even traffic police should wear black gloves as the whole world mourns the dead. The moaning sounds that the speaker expects from the aeroplanes is the speaker’s desire for the world to lament the death of this person, so even the aeroplanes are moaning with grief.

Funeral Blues | Analysis, Lines 9-12

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 person who died was very near and dear to the speaker, so we understand that the speaker felt that he was of such importance that the whole world should grieve as though they too feel this loss. This person filled every waking moment of the speaker’s life. Everywhere they looked, this love was there for them, any time of day or night, in happiness or sadness, this love was there for the speaker. The speaker thought this love would last forever. The short and abrupt “ I was wrong ” reflects the abrupt end due to death, and the short love that the speaker thought would last forever.

Here, the repetition of “ my ” in the first two lines emphasizes how the person who died was so important and integral to the speaker’s life. It reinforces that the dead man was the one that the speaker turned to for everything, and whose death leaves a gaping hole in their life.

Funeral Blues | Analysis, Lines 13-16

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.

It is not just this world that must come to a standstill. The beauty of the universe is no longer relevant to the speaker, the stars can go out, the moon and sun are no longer needed. The ocean can be drained away and the forests can be swept up. Due to this misery and anguish, the speaker believes nothing can ever come to any good ever again, so all these things are pointless and meaningless.

The poet uses strong imagery to represent the breakdown of the world. The moon should be packed up, the sun should be dismantled. These actions are highly exaggerated yet a feeling that people can connect to. The desire for the ocean to be poured away and for the woods to be swept up, as it no longer feels as though life can go, on brings an image of completely cleaning out the world and leaving it as empty as the speaker feels.

The speaker is crippled with grief and wants the whole world to stop moving and grieve with them. It is a poem of pain and loss coupled with the desire for this person to be recognized as important. The world keeps on moving even though the speaker’s life seems to have come to an abrupt stop, the death of their love having put a period in their flow of life. The lack of the person who filled up every moment of life motivates the speaker to put a stop to the loud chaotic world and bring silence and respect to the funeral of this man.

Funeral Blues | About The Poet

W.H. Auden was born in England, on 21 February 1907. He was an Anglo-American poet, author, and playwright.

His poetry usually deals with moral, social, or political issues. His first collection, simply titled “Poems” was published in 1928. His style was varied and versatile, as he wrote poems in all verse forms, some extremely long, some very short, and incorporated all kinds of knowledge into his poetry.

He was a great influence in the world of poetry during the 20 th century and received a Pulitzer Prize for “The Age of Anxiety” in 1948. Some of his notable works are “The Shield of Achilles”, “September 1, 1939”, and “Musée des Beaux Arts”.

He died on 29 September 1973, in Vienna, Austria.

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of W. H. Auden’s ‘Stop All the Clocks’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

W. H. Auden’s poem ‘Stop all the clocks’ – poem number IX in his Twelve Songs , and also sometimes known as ‘Funeral Blues’ – is a poem so famous and universally understood that perhaps it is unnecessary to offer much in the way of textual analysis.

Yet we’re going to offer some notes towards an analysis of ‘Funeral Blues’ in this post, because if a poem does touch us and move us in some way – especially so many of us – it’s always worth trying to explain why.

The poem – and the work of W. H. Auden (1907-73) more generally – was brought to a whole new audience when it was quoted in full in the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral , in which Auden is described as a ‘splendid bugger’. You can read ‘Stop all the clocks’, which was first published in 1936, here .

‘Funeral Blues’: summary

A brief summary of ‘Funeral Blues’ first. The poem is divided into four stanzas. The first two stanzas see the speaker of the poem, who is mourning the loss of a close friend (or, indeed, a lover), making a series of requests or commands.

In the first stanza, he asks that the clocks be stopped, the telephone be cut off so it cannot ring, the dog be kept quiet with a bone to gnaw, and the music of the pianos be discontinued. Instead, let the muffled drumbeats – historically associated with funerals – accompany the coffin as it is brought out and the mourners at the funeral arrive.

So far, so straightforward. During a funeral and, more widely, a time of mourning, you might not want to be disturbed by the noise of the world around you, partly because you need time to grieve and partly because such sounds are a reminder that the world around you carries on. The requests the speaker makes are paving the way for the funeral, after all.

In the second stanza, the speaker’s requests become different, however. He moves from a private or close-knit ceremony of mourning – the funeral of ‘Funeral Blues’ – to wish for an altogether more public display of grief. But this is faintly absurd.

He asks that the planes circle in the sky and, using the relatively recent phenomenon of skywriting (first used for advertising purposes by the Daily Mail in 1922, just over a decade before Auden wrote ‘Funeral Blues’), that the message ‘He Is Dead’ be scribbled across the sky. This is, to say the least, unlikely to happen.

The crepe bows he wants to put round the necks of the public doves (what are ‘public doves’, by the way – does he mean pigeons?) suggests that the speaker’s grief is overwhelming and that he wants the whole world to mourn with him. The bows round the necks of the doves, and the black cotton gloves – black being associated with mourning – that he wants the traffic policemen to wear, are both excessive and unreasonable requests to make, but this is precisely the point.

One’s personal grief dwarfs the concerns of the rest of the world, and it often becomes inconceivable that everyone else would not share in the feeling of loss and sorrow the individual feels.

Indeed, as the third stanza makes clear, the man who has died was everything to the speaker: no matter where he was, or what day it was, or what time of day, the dead man was the speaker’s life.

This suggests that the speaker is talking about more than a friend, and is lamenting the loss of a lover: Auden himself was gay, of course, and the idea that the poem is an elegy by a male poet for a dead male lover is certainly how the poem was interpreted in Four Weddings and a Funeral , where John Hannah’s character recites the poem at the death of his lover, played by Simon Callow.

The speaker thought that his lover would always be around, but with three simple words, heartbreakingly delivered at the end of the stanza, he concludes: ‘I was wrong.’

The final stanza then takes a number of romantic tropes typically associated with poetry – the stars, the moon, the sun, the oceans – and rejects them as unhelpful. What use are such symbols of romantic love when you have lost your one true love?

As with the previous stanza, the power of Auden’s poetry in this stanza lies in the contrast between this catalogue of now-useless poetic tropes in the first three lines and the final line, which is breathtakingly simple and direct.

So, mentioning these poetic tropes has a dual purpose: as well as rejecting the usefulness of such romantic talk in the face of his grief, the speaker is also saying that the world – indeed, the entire universe – is of no worth if it does not have his lover in it.

‘Funeral Blues’: analysis

‘Funeral Blues’ is, then, a poem full of common tropes associated with funerals and mourning. But immediately from those opening words onwards, ‘Stop all the clocks’, there is a suggestion that the poem is going above and beyond – or asking us to go above and beyond – the usual conventions associated with the mourning of a lost loved one. (After all, who stops all the clocks when someone suffers a personal tragedy, apart from Miss Havisham ?)

And when we examine the tropes and images of Auden’s poem more closely, it becomes more interesting. Is this poem, after all, a sincere expression of personal grief? There is a sense of the melodramatic in many of the (impossible or unreasonable) requests the speaker demands: putting out all of the stars, for instance, or pouring away all the oceans. Even asking the traffic policemen to don black gloves in recognition of the passing of the dead person seems excessive.

Perhaps, then, this is not merely an expression of personal grief, but a poem of mourning for a more public figure? After all, we are used to more rhetoric, and to wholesale public displays of mourning, when a high-profile public figure dies.

That said, sky-writing the news of the person’s death – when sky-writing using aeroplanes was more common for celebrations or for advertising – seems to strike an odd note. What is Auden saying, then?

In that final stanza, too, the word ‘dismantle’ verges on being flippant in the second line, as if the sun is a mechanical device that one can simply take apart, like a watch. It suggests that even the natural world seems fake and unreal now that the joys of the world have been taken from him.

But it is also overblown. Should we, then, respond to these lines as a symptom of the speaker’s hyper-emotional grief for the death of someone who was, as he himself acknowledges, his everything, his north, south, east, and west? Maybe. But then, maybe not.

Looking into the origins of ‘Stop All the Clocks’ and placing the poem within this original literary context helps to make sense of these aspects. Although it is often read and even analysed as a sincere and personal expression of grief, spoken and written by one man about the death of another man – and Auden himself is one of the best-known gay poets of the twentieth century – this was not how the poem was originally conceived. It was not personal, but public; and not sincere, but, in actual fact, a parody.

Curiously, ‘Stop All the Clocks’ began life as a piece of burlesque sending up blues lyrics of the 1930s: Auden originally wrote it for a play he was collaborating on with Christopher Isherwood,  The Ascent of F6   (1936), which wasn’t entirely serious (although it was billed as a tragedy).

The play is about a climber named Michael Ransom who undertakes a sponsored expedition to the peak of a fictional mountain named F6. Ransom (spoiler alert) is desperate to beat a rival nation to the peak and dies in his hasty attempt to be the first to scale the mountain.

funeral blues essay 250 words

And it might be more accurate to say that half of the poem began as a parody: the first two stanzas of ‘Funeral Blues’ (or ‘Stop All the Clocks’) appear in The Ascent of F6 , but the second half of the poem as we know it was added later. (Instead of ‘He was my North, my South’ etc. we get, in The Ascent of F6 , the rather more tongue-in-cheek couplet, ‘Hold up your umbrellas to keep off the rain / From Doctor Williams while he opens a vein’.)

It appears that Auden salvaged those two stanzas from the otherwise forgotten play he wrote with Isherwood, and added two new stanzas to them, turning the poem into a more serious expression of grief and lost love. And yet traces of the poem’s original satirical mode remain, such as in that uneasy opening couplet of ‘telephone’ and ‘juicy bone’, and the excessive language used throughout, noted above.

‘Funeral Blues’ is written in quatrains rhymed aabb : although it is arranged into quatrains or four-line stanzas, its rhyme scheme is rhyming couplets. The metre of the poem is (loosely) iambic pentameter , although there are many variations, with the second line having twelve syllables, for instance.

This gives the poem a more conversational and unpredictable feel which is perhaps fitting for a poem about the vagaries of personal grief, and the poem’s origins as a satire on public outpourings of loss and mourning only serve to reinforce such an interpretation.

As we said at the start of this close reading , many readers may feel that no additional analysis of W. H. Auden’s poem is required. ‘Funeral Blues’ is not a difficult or elusive (or allusive) poem. But some its images are worth commenting on, as well as the way it achieves its emotional effects, the way it carries such a punch.

You can watch John Hannah reciting ‘Funeral Blues’ in  Four Weddings and a Funeral  here .

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3 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of W. H. Auden’s ‘Stop All the Clocks’”

Auden intended this poem to be a song lyric, but I think we all like it better as a poem. Would you judge it any differently as a lyric?

It’s magnificent because it tears up all meaning of poetry and smashes through convention. When a poet does that he stamps his image on eternity. ‘ When fishes flew and forests walked ‘ or ‘ Horsed upon the sightless couriers of the air ‘ Beethoven does it in his appasionata piano sonata

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funeral blues essay 250 words

W. H. Auden

Funeral blues.

(Song IX / from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)


funeral blues essay 250 words

Other works by W. H. Auden...

Time can say nothing but I told y… Time only knows the price we have… If I could tell you, I would let… If we should weep when clowns put… If we should stumble when musician…

They wondered why the fruit had be… It taught them nothing new. They… But did not listen much when they… They knew exactly what to do outsi… They left. Immediately the memory…

funeral blues essay 250 words

Encased in talent like a uniform, The rank of every poet is well kno… They can amaze us like a thunderst… Or die so young, or live for years… They can dash forward like hussars…

funeral blues essay 250 words

Now the leaves are falling fast, Nurse’s flowers will not last; Nurses to the graves are gone, And the prams go rolling on. Whispering neighbours, left and ri…

funeral blues essay 250 words

Let me tell you a little story About Miss Edith Gee; She lived in Clevedon Terrace At number 83. She’d a slight squint in her left…

funeral blues essay 250 words

When there are so many we shall ha… when grief has been made so public… to the critique of a whole epoch the frailty of our conscience and… of whom shall we speak? For every…

At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end, the delicious story is ripe to tel… to tell to the intimate friend; over the tea-cups and into the squ…

funeral blues essay 250 words

Carry her over the water, And set her down under the tree, Where the culvers white all days a… And the winds from every quarter, Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeab…

Unrhymed, unrhythmical, the chatte… Yet no one hears his own remarks a… Beneath each topic tunelessly disc… The ground-bass is reciprocal mist… The names in fashion shuttling to…

Unbiased at least he was when he a… Having never set eyes on the land… Between two peoples fanatically at… With their different diets and inc… “Time,” they had briefed him in L…

If all a top physicist knows About the Truth be true, Then, for all the so-and-so’s, Futility and grime, Our common world contains,

Fish in the unruffled lakes Their swarming colours wear, Swans in the winter air A white perfection have, And the great lion walks

My dear one is mine as mirrors are… As the poor and sad are real to th… And the high green hill sits alway… Up jumped the Black Man behind th… Turned a somersault and ran away w…

If it form the one landscape that… Are consistently homesick for, thi… Because it dissolves in water. Ma… With their surface fragrance of th… A secret system of caves and condu…

I sit in one of the dives On Fifty-second Street Uncertain and afraid As the clever hopes expire Of a low dishonest decade:

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Literary Analysis of Funeral Blues by W. H. Auden

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Published: Aug 6, 2021

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funeral blues essay 250 words

Poetry Connection

W. H. Auden - 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 woods; For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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Literary Analysis Of Funeral Blues By W.h. Auden

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