Funeral Blues Poem by W.H. Auden Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem is a melancholy, melancholy elegy that does a fantastic job of capturing the emotions connected to grief. The poem’s lasting popularity may be explained by its heartbreaking declarations and deft twists, which lend it a genuine poignancy. It demonstrates Auden’s poetic empathy for human feelings. The world changes for someone who has experienced a loss, like the speaker. To all others, however, nothing is different. No one seems to care what’s going on, and time doesn’t slow down. The speaker in this poem is afflicted by the world’s apathy. They beg everyone to share their sorrow, to comprehend it, to join him in his pain.

About the poet 

Wystan Hugh Auden, sometimes known as W. H. Auden, was a well-known and prolific poet from Britain who made a lasting impression in the 20th century. He was born in England in 1907, attended Oxford for his education, and became well-known in the 1930s. His early poetry addressed political and societal themes, capturing the apprehensions of the period leading up to the war. Auden was a multi-talented writer who wrote plays, essays, libretti for operas, poems, and even co-wrote documentaries. He received multiple honors, such as the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his work “The Age of Anxiety.”


The poem is divided into 4 stanzas of 4 lines each or quatrains.


Stanza 1

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.

Here, the concept of stopping the clocks has two uses. It implies the stopping of time in addition to putting an end to the potentially bothersome ticking sound. This symbolizes the idea that when someone passes away, their time is over. The constant theme is to encourage quiet and put an end to noises to stop the dog from barking. That appears to be the main idea of this opening stanza, in truth. It’s silence all around today. The concept of using a muffled drum to quiet the piano is intriguing. The drum being discussed here doesn’t seem to be a real drum. 

As the following line in the poem alludes to the coffin’s arrival, it depicts the footfall of pole carriers. The way these men are marching could be seen as a drumbeat. It’s interesting to note that the verse finishes with the invitation-like phrase “Let the mourners come.”

Stanza 2 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling 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.

Auden employs words with painstaking cleverness. In this stanza, he mentions noises once more. However, this time he refers to the aircraft as “moaning.” First and foremost, it’s important to notice that the words “moaning” and “mourning” sound a lot alike. However, it’s also a sound connected to passing away. Auden’s poetry is known for his astute word choice, which is seen in “Funeral Blues.” 

There’s something weird about the next line. It’s a bit unreasonable to think that a jet could write something that complicated with its chemical trails. However, I believe that the narrator’s feelings are being conveyed more in this line. This statement has a hint of “for all I care,” as if the narrator would want everything to disappear right away rather than have to cope with it. In the following line of “Funeral Blues,” the narrator alludes to the “dove.” The dove is a potent symbol, particularly when viewed through a religious lens. It brings us back to the narrator’s wish for silence since it stands for purity and tranquility. The fact that this is somewhat twisted, nevertheless, is noteworthy. Using “public doves,” Auden The recommendation in the following phrase is that even the traffic cops ought to be in mourning. Black gloves would be a fitting tribute to the deceased.

Stanza 3 

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.

In this verse of “Funeral Blues,” the mourners express their feelings about the deceased person directly. The first sentence alludes to a compass’s points and conveys the idea of being disoriented. Without their spouse, the speaker is emotionally and physically lost. The deceased’s significance is emphasized in the next line. The narrator uses it to convey how important this person is to them. This is emphasized in the third line. They return to the idea of silence that has appeared often in the poem by declaring that they have lost their “talk” and their “song.” 

The narrator loved the person they were referring to and believed that feeling would stay forever based on the last phrase of the stanza. Grief has taken its place.

Stanza 4 

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.

One of the poem’s most powerful starting lines is found in the final stanza of “Funeral Blues.” It expresses the apathetic state that arises when everything appears meaningless and vexing. At this moment, the narrator has no interest in hope or love, which are represented by the stars. Their grief has left them in a pretty dark place, so to speak. They then discuss breaking down the skies, carrying on the grim theme. They genuinely believe that because they lost a loved one, they are unable to go on.

The penultimate stanza of ‘Funeral Blues’ peaks the dramatization of the narrator’s emotions as they propose eliminating the oceans. They believe they can never be happy again because the person they are grieving for is no longer in their lives. This poem’s content will undoubtedly resonate with anyone who has experienced a sad loss because it is incredibly strong and emotive.


The “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden is a moving and potent song that expresses anguish over the loss of a close loved one. The poem demands that everyone stop and acknowledge the loss in its opening series of imperatives. The rhythms of nature should be disturbed, phones should be turned off, music should stop, and clocks should be stopped. This wish for global grieving emphasizes how deeply hurt the speaker is.

This idea is emphasized in the second verse, as the speaker expresses a desire to write the deceased’s name for everyone to see across the sky. Since their life was closely related to all that exists, the entire world must give witness to the tragedy of this death. Declaring that they “was lonely without him,” the speaker highlights the profound bond and enduring gap that is left behind.

The poem then turns to a series of directives addressed to specific people. It is instructed that the green fields be painted grey and that the mourners should wear black garments rather than white. The sharp contrast between life and death, as well as how everything becomes dull in the face of loss, are symbolized by these opposites.

The final verse features more intimate information and great cosmic announcements mixed with more personal images. Stars, the moon, the sun, and the waters are all requested to remember the deceased. The enormity of the loss is highlighted by the striking contrast between the individual’s mortality and these huge components, which stand for eternity and grandeur. With these succinct yet devastating lines, the poem closes: “He was my North, my South, my East and West, / My working week and Sunday rest.” This statement perfectly captures how grief permeates every part of the speaker’s life and leaves them completely lost in its aftermath.

The intensity of feeling and the imagery in the poem imply a great love and connection, even though the relationship between the speaker and the deceased is not stated explicitly. Regardless of their unique situation, readers can relate to its unadulterated feelings as it provides a potent and universal representation of loss.