Mamacita says: If you have seen the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” you are already familiar with W.H. Auden. His haunting and heartbreaking “Funeral Blues” was recited by John Hannah in this film, and it was unforgettable.
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
Scribbbling 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, my 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.
Oh, sure, ABAB, CDCD, etc, but honestly. If that’s all you carry away from this poem, you’re deficient somehow, and I suspect the deficiency is in the heart, which, scientifically speaking, is actually in the brain. Draw whatever conclusions you wish.
When I try to say this poem aloud, I break down. I break down, not only because of the heartbreak, but because of the way Auden chose his words and word combinations carefully so we could link the heartbreak to our own experiences and feel them as strongly as if they were happening again, fresh.
The first person pronouns in this poem make it as personal as if this broken human were standing before us all, baring his broken heart to the world. Which is, of course, exactly what he is doing.
What good are stars if the one we love is no longer there to see them with us? Without our beloved, the moon is nothing but a snare and lure for madmen. Who cares about the sea or the forest if our lives are bereft of all that made them worth living? Stop the music. Muzzle the dogs. And why would we need to know the time of day if we’re all alone and can conceive of nothing else but solitude for the rest of our lives?
And why isn’t t everyone and everything else grieving, too? How dare the policemen go about their business? How dare a plane cross the sky? How dare a bird fly and chirp; how dare music play on, as if the world had not spun amuck beneath them?
“I thought that love would last forever. I was wrong.”
That’s the line that pierces my very soul, as sharply as a spear.
Did I mention that I love this poem? Do I have to mention it? Can’t you tell? Because if you can’t tell if I love a poem or not, I’m not doing something right.
The fact is, hearts break like this daily. Hourly. Every second of every day, someone’s heart is broken. And in spite of the fact that nothing on this earth will ever be the same again for these people, this earth just keeps on spinning as though nothing had happened at all.
Because, of course, nothing has. Except for the one with the broken heart.