portrait of W. H. AudenW. H. Auden
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten (1939)

Funeral Blues

Also known as "Stop All the Clocks", Auden wrote this in 1936 as a satirical part of The Ascent of F6, a play he wrote with Christopher Isherwood (the image at right is actually cropped from a photo of Isherwood and Auden together), then worked with composer Benjamin Britton and released a final version in 1938. In Selected Poems of W. H. Auden it appears as the first entry in "Two Songs for Hedli Anderson". In 1940 Auden released Another Time, in which it is one of four parts of "Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson".

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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.


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