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Thread: W.H. Auden -- Funeral Blues; a problem ??

  1. #1
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    W.H. Auden -- Funeral Blues; a problem ??

    Quote Originally Posted by 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 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.

    I love most Auden's poems, including this one. I've always been bothered by the third stanza, however.. I can't find anything good about it. In fact, considering how witty the rest is ("Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves," and especially the final stanza), it seems incredibly cliched. I can almost stomach the first three lines, but the last one ruins it for me.

    But, I keep thinking that I'm missing something here. Auden is always fresh and interesting.. the fact that this seems so uncharacteristic of his work is either his defect, or my own. Poetry lovers often discuss this piece, but never mention that third stanza. Is there something wrong with me, or are those four lines among the worst of Auden's work ?
    Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.

    - Pericles

  2. #2
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    I actual thought those lines were often quoted. Some people consider the third stanza of the poem the best part. I do think that those lines are very un-Auden. They have an almost Victorian kind of tempo--like something Elizabeth Barett Browning would write. Is it the worst poetry by Auden? That's hard to prove. Consider some of his later poems like Et in Arcadia Ego where the ideas are dull and the punctuation and line breaks are at random.
    Last edited by Quark; 08-12-2007 at 05:15 PM.
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    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    Funeral Blues

    To Alex: Havn't looked in depth enough to be absolutely sure, but on the surface I think this stanza is compatable with the rest of the poem. Since you can't judge by just "meter" and "ryme scheme", the latter is a good match. You might look here for more in depth information http://audensociety.org/ but if you want to be absolutely sure...you must research the many works of criticism of Auden's work and check for a timeline that may give you the real life inspiration for this poem, IF, there is one. When you read the entire work, I personally don't see the stanza or the line as anomaly. quasimodo1
    Last edited by quasimodo1; 08-12-2007 at 05:17 PM.

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I've got mixed feelings on Auden. Sometimes he is so good and other times I wonder why he's considered such a great poet. This one has a strange mix of originality and, if not quite cliche, certainly common. I think in this case it's offset by the command voice of the first stanza and the subjuntive tense of the second and fourth stanzas. Actually I agree; I think the third stanza is the weakest, but it seems to have an honesty to it, and that can offset triteness, especially if the rest of the poem is interesting.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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