Funeral Blues Auden Essay

The cover featured an image of Hugh Grant at his most fetching, as well as the name of the film in the flowery script used on the posters, and this obviously made up an enticing offer since, according to Edward Mendelson, Auden’s greatest scholar and his literary executor, the pamphlet sold some 275,000 copies. As it happens, the politics of Coward’s play pointed in the opposite direction to Auden’s, but both deployed the blues to striking effect; and Britten’s setting brings out an emotional complexity that you might not have expected from the knockabout quality of Auden’s lines as they appear on their own. And Gunn, of course, will drive the motor-hearse: None could drive it better, most would drive it worse. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

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What poems mean can often be significantly shaped by the place where they appear, and Auden's well-known poem, ‘Funeral Blues’, or ‘Stop all the clocks’, is a nice example of this. He’ll open up the throttle to its fullest power And drive him to the grave at ninety miles an hour. Usage terms Christopher Isherwood: Copyright © Katherine Bucknell and Don Bachardy 2012, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited.

The poem is principally famous for modern audiences thanks to its appearance in the successful romantic comedy movie (1994), which starred Hugh Grant and was scripted by Richard Curtis; the verses are recited in the film by Matthew (played by John Hannah) at the funeral of his beloved, flamboyant partner Gareth. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence. Christopher Isherwood: Copyright © Katherine Bucknell and Don Bachardy 2012, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited.

Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Auden printed the songs together in his 1940 volume : gathered under the title ‘Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson’, they form part of the second section of the three into which the volume is divided, ‘Lighter Poems’.

The heading is a nice one: Auden, who edited (1937), is not offering us ‘Light Verse’ exactly, merely ‘Lighter’.The capacity of love to transform a life is keenly felt in many Auden poems, but often the true immensity of love is learned through realising the enormity of its absence: the revised text of ‘Funeral Blues’ has a striking line that confesses such defeat: ‘I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong’.What happens when love fails is something contemplated by many of the poems in – grotesquely in the morbid ballad stories of ‘Miss Gee’, ‘Victor’ and ‘James Honeyman’; with psycho-analytical diagnostic tools in the pen portraits of Edward Lear and A E Housman; with strangely stoic resignation in the opening poem’s portrait of ‘the expressive lover’ who discovers ‘Fresh loves betray him, every day’; or with epochal resonance in ‘September 1, 1939’, where we are told ‘We must love another or die’, a line which Auden came to dislike for its portentous statement of an untruth (for, he said, we will die anyway).Auden evidently decided to rework the poem for Anderson to use independently.He kept the first two stanzas, but dropped the last three which made reference to named characters, substituting instead the two stanzas that are now familiar to us: ‘He was my North, my South, my East and West ...’.The volume also contains ‘Refugee Blues’, a song of displacement voiced by a German Jew; and, as though to imply a predicament that is universal and not specific to any one historical crisis, ‘Roman Wall Blues’, in which a soldier stationed on Hadrian’s Wall laments his loveless, uprooted lot in gruff, taciturn lines: ‘I’m a Wall soldier, I don’t know why’.The impossibilities poignantly urged upon the universe in ‘Funeral Blues’ – ‘Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’ – call to mind the similar catalogue of surreal not-happenings of which the romantically deluded lover sings in ‘As I walked out one evening’, 35 pages earlier in the book: This lovely exuberance is checked by the voice of experience: ‘O let not Time deceive you, / You cannot conquer Time’. 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.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. The first two stanzas describe the author’s mourning of a friend or lover.The closing rhyme, which could so easily have come good (if it had had the singular form of ‘wood’ to work with), misses its chance, as though momentarily distracted by grief. 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.

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