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Funeral Blues: an Explication Essay

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,Silence the pianos and with muffled drumBring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let aeroplanes circle moaning overheadScribbling 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. In life, people experience moments that are absolutely indescribable; from the birth of a firstborn child, to the death of a parent; things in life that impact us with such unrelenting force, that we are unable to even fathom their depths. It is the job of a writer or poet to make a reader feel the emotions of others, describe the indescribable, and tell a story.

W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” does all three, and more for readers, due to its beautiful descriptive language, blinding imagery, and theme. The poem demonstrates everything that is needed in such a fine piece of literature. Have you ever heard the rustle of the leaves? The wind whistle, maybe? Both are examples of descriptive language that we hear every day, so often that it has become common. Auden takes the simple things and describes them with sharp detail. “Muffled drum” is a good example of a solemn drum beat of a funeral procession.

Aeroplanes moaning overhead” is a good example of personification, as if the aeroplanes are mourning the loss of the loved one also, and by extension, the world. This effectively gets the point across that the writer feels as if the world has stopped due to the death of this person, and is a very powerful message. The theme of this poem is the loss of a loved one, something that almost everyone has experienced in their life, or seen someone go through. It is known by many as the sick feeling one gets in their gut when they hear the news of death, or the resignation they feel once they know fighting it will do nothing.

Death is a natural occurrence, but that knowledge does nothing to alleviate the pain of loss. It many ways, it hurts even more to think that your hardships and pain have been felt by billions before you; insignificance adds insult to injury. That is precisely why this poem works. The writer’s seemingly effortless words mesh together to paint a picture: a perfect understanding of loss. The need for one’s pain to not only be significant, but to be acknowledged by all.

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