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Funeral Blues

Auden’s Funeral Blues is a captivating poem that can hardly leave anyone indifferent. Filled with sorrow and grief, the poem lines become a reflection of the deep feelings that cannot be expressed with the words. In fact, they do not have to make an impression that each person has something individual and personal that should not be announced to others. The central theme of the poem refers to devastating Death that deprives people of joy and hope. It is noticeable not only from the title of this poem but also from the literary techniques that Auden used. This paper analyzes such poetic devices as personification, imagery, and metaphors. Additionally, it discusses the way their combination effectively contributes to gradual creation and strengthening of the grieving atmosphere and revealing the theme of death and sufferings.


Personification allots the inmate objects with some characteristics that are uncommon for them and commonly characterizes the living beings. In the poem, this literary technique is used twice in the same stanza. The first of such traits is moaning.  In line 5, one can read that the airplanes “circle moaning overhead” (Auden). Moreover, the same airplanes are “scribbling on the sky” (Auden). Obviously, these actions are bizarre for the machines. Conversely, moaning as the reflection of pain is natural for the living beings. Scribbling something is also common for humans, especially if one hurries or does not care about the calligraphy anymore. Providing the airplanes with the ability to moan and scribble makes the author’s loss even deeper than it can seem at first. This image shows that the pain is excruciating, and it is felt everywhere around including the actions of the animate or inanimate beings. The usage of the verb scribbling contributes to the understanding that nothing else matters. The death of the loved person is so painful that even the airplanes suffer.

Another poetic technique is imagery which implies the usage of the human senses including touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste to evoke the emotions. In the discussed poem, one can find several lines used to make the reader feel as if being right there, in the place full of grief and sorrow. In the first stanza, one can notice a great number of imagery reflecting some details that create the feeling of presence. For instance, addressing to the reader with the words “cut off the telephone”, “stop the dog from barking”, “stop all the clocks” or “silence the pianos” in the lines 1, 2, and 3 makes him feel as if these sounds were just heard (Auden). Furthermore, lines 6 and 7 provide the effect of presence due to the strong visual effects of “crepe bows round the white necks” or “black cotton gloves” of the policemen (Auden). Auden refers to the simple and widely known images for the readers to picture the place he is describing and feel the emotions he is conveying. Grief, sadness, despair, and mute scream of inability to change anything are common emotions that one experiences while reading.  These lines prove that nothing can be as it was previously. One cannot enjoy the piano music, the dog cannot bark, and even the drums become muffled as the people mourn and bring the coffin. All the imagery enhances the theme of suffering, loss, and grief.

The next technique is symbolism used to draw the parallels and convey the abstract ideas about someone or something. The things discussed originally can be different, but they still can have some similarities. The most obvious symbol is a comparison of the beloved but lost person to all parts of the world: North, South, East and West. Thereby, the poet shows that the person he lost was everything for him, literary, his world. The further expressions like “my working week” and “my Sunday” are also used to show the presence and the importance of this person in any sphere of his life (Auden). Additionally, in line 11, one can notice that the poet does not stop to enumerate the aspects of life suffering from such loss. Consequently, no part of his life can remain as it was in the past. The death of the beloved person has brought emptiness to all spheres, even those that could initially seem negligible. Therefore, whatever he does, wherever he goes, this feeling of grief will follow him as the entire world has altered.  Each one of the mentioned concepts contributes to the depth of the author’s emotions and strength of his sufferings.

All the techniques in complex effectively help to create the central theme of death and loss in the story. For instance, the first and second stanzas provide the feeling of presence. At the very beginning of the poem, the imagery contributes to the readers’ emotional state and the understanding of the events on the funeral. Personification makes the atmosphere of grief and deepens the feeling of loss and despair. Gradually, this feeling gets even stronger as Auden uses symbolism to show how important the beloved person was for him. Finally, the realizing that there is no place or thing that will remain unchanged after the death of the beloved makes the sufferings even more terrible. Hereby, the literary techniques used by Auden foster the tension in the poem and effectively contribute to the central theme.

In conclusion, Funeral Blues is a poem about death and loss. However, without the imagery, personification, and symbolism used by the author readers would hardly feel the atmosphere of pain the poet conveys. Due to the poetic devices, Auden has managed to represent the emotions and feelings of hopelessness and devastation gradually and very precisely.