Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stop all the clocks

I took a class on W.H. Auden while in grad school and, although I could have had no better instructor for Auden than Roger, the poet in question remained as much a mystery to me as when I began.

And yet this poem is as clear as the grief it conveys. I think of my friend Kathy and her dear friend Cindy, and of how sometimes words fail me. I'm grateful that, for Auden, they did not.

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 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.

While searching for an online version of this poem (I may be ambitious, but can be a little lazy), I found some great resources. Please consider exploring them at your leisure:

• End of Life: Exploring Death in America (with images of the Adams Memorial statue)
• Academy of American Poets entry on Auden
• Wikipedia entry on Auden (praised by the Auden Society)
• and, finally, The Auden Society.

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