"Funeral Blues": an Elegy of Heartbreak and Desolation

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Elegy as a Form of Mourning
  • Emotional Intensity and Desolation
  • Symbolism and Universality
  • Conclusion


W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" is a compelling elegy that delves into the depths of heartbreak and desolation in the aftermath of loss. Through its evocative language, poignant imagery, and emotional resonance, the poem captures the profound impact of death on the human spirit. This essay explores the elegiac elements, emotional intensity, and symbolism within "Funeral Blues."

Elegy as a Form of Mourning

"Funeral Blues" belongs to the literary tradition of the elegy, a poetic form dedicated to expressing grief and lamentation for the deceased. The elegy serves as a space for the speaker to grapple with their emotions and pay homage to the departed. In this case, the poem functions as a heartfelt tribute to a loved one and a means of processing the overwhelming feelings of loss.

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As an elegy, "Funeral Blues" employs various elegiac conventions, such as invoking nature to mirror the emotional landscape of the speaker. The references to "the stars are not wanted now: put out every one," and "the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves" contribute to the elegiac atmosphere, creating a sense of solemnity and mourning.

Emotional Intensity and Desolation

The emotional intensity of "Funeral Blues" is palpable from the opening lines. The speaker's command to "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" sets the tone for the poem's emotional weight. The desire to silence the world reflects the internal chaos that accompanies grief—a wish for the world to acknowledge the loss and the ensuing emptiness.

The vivid imagery of the poem paints a picture of a world turned bleak by the absence of the loved one. The speaker's plea to "pack up the moon and dismantle the sun" captures the enormity of their pain, as if even the celestial bodies are not immune to the impact of loss. The contrast between the vibrant world of the living and the speaker's internal desolation intensifies the emotional impact of the poem.

Symbolism and Universality

Throughout the poem, Auden employs symbolic language to convey the speaker's emotions. The repeated phrase "the stars are not wanted now" underscores the idea that the world has lost its luster in the wake of the loved one's death. The symbolism of "pour away the ocean" and "sweep up the wood" signifies the futility of trying to contain the magnitude of the loss.

The universal themes of grief and heartbreak in "Funeral Blues" resonate with readers who have experienced loss, as the poem captures the emotional turmoil that accompanies mourning. The poem serves as a vessel for readers to process their own feelings of grief, connecting them to the collective human experience of loss and heartache.


"Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden is a poignant elegy that encapsulates the profound emotions of heartbreak and desolation in the aftermath of loss. Through its elegiac form, emotional intensity, and symbolic language, the poem provides readers with a space to confront their own feelings of grief and find solace in the shared experience of mourning. "Funeral Blues" reminds us that in the face of loss, words have the power to give voice to our deepest emotions, allowing us to honor the departed and navigate the complex journey of healing. As readers engage with the elegy's resonance and the universality of its themes, they join the poet in crafting a tribute to the enduring impact of love and loss on the human heart.

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