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Wystan Hugh Auden  (1907-1973)

Funeral Blues (Song IX / from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

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 in 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 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.

This poem can be found under at least four titles. There is some confusion and much discussion on Usenet about the original title of this poem. The following information is mainly taken from newsgroup postings.

The title "Funeral Blues" was used in a publication 3 years after Auden's death, presumably with the knowledge and permission of Auden's literary executors, amongst whom was Edward Mendelson, unchallenged in his role as Auden's chief editor, biographer and critic. Professor Mendelson himself used that title for the poem when editing "Collected Poems" (1976).

'Auden reprinted the poem under various titles, as was his habit. In "Collected Shorter Poems" it appears as one of the 12 songs. But he also pub'd it as "Funeral Blues." I am also pretty sure the poem first appeared in the verse play "The Ascent of F-6" which Auden wrote with Christopher Isherwood.'
- Richard Elias

"Auden intended it to be set to music, and it has been used as lyrics at least three times. It was first set by Benjamin Britten, who often collaborated with Auden and who made this poem into a showpiece for the cabaret singer Hedli Anderson. Ned Rorem wrote two contrasting versions in his song cycle `Songs of Love and the Rain'. Britten called his setting `Funeral Blues', and Rorem called both his `Stop All the Clocks'."
- Dylan Bryan-Dolman

'What is the poem in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL? - "The poem is by W. H. Auden. Like many of his other works, it is known by its first line, "Stop All the Clocks". It was also listed as "Funeral Blues" in a 1940 publication."'
- rec.arts.movies FAQ, question 31, I

'In the late summer of that year... Auden wrote "September 1, 1939,"... one of the many first-rate pieces in Another Time (1940), which also included "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," "As I Walked Out One Evening," "Funeral Blues," "The Unknown Citizen," "Musee des Beaux Arts," the intensely beautiful "Lullaby" ("Lay your sleeping head, my love"), and the astonishing ballads "Miss Gee" and "Victor."'
- "An Introduction To Poetry", XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia

Below are scans of pages from the first edition of "Another Time".

[click on the pics to see the full size image]

Another Time - title page
title page

Another Time - publishing history
publishing history

Another Time - contents
part of contents

Another Time - Funeral Blues
"Funeral Blues"

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thanks to NR for stimulating me to track the title history
comments to weed@wussu.com
revised 24 November 2005
URL http://www.wussu.com/poems/whafb.htm