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“The Funeral Blues” by WH Auden Essay

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Updated: Sep 16th, 2021

Introduction

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.

Speaker 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 setting of the Poem

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

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.

Imagery Used

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.

Figures of Speech

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.

References

  1. Biograpgy, 2007, WH Auden: Early Years.
  2. Kennedy XJ, Gioia Dana, 2004, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Longman, U.S.A., Compact Edition (4th Edition), ISBN: 0321245504
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IvyPanda. 2021. ""The Funeral Blues" by WH Auden." September 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-funeral-blues-by-wh-auden/.

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