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Funeral Blues

Wystan Hugh Auden was considered by many scholars one of the most important poetry authors in the XX century. Auden was a popular modern poet, dramatist, and literary critic whose everyday language and conversational rhythms have had a major influence on modern poetry.  

In The Song IX, the poem focuses on death as an irreversible moment of every human being. The author makes special emphasis that although people die, relationships don’t. The principal theme, of course, deals with the idea of death and the atmosphere of a funeral, every detail that concern this moment of life or better to say, of death.  The narrator leaves the dead man’s name anonymous as if his name would be obvious. There is a mixture between private and public knowledge of the identity of the man. 

The first we must say is that the poem is an elegy. The poem is the deep and moving lamentation for the loss of a loved one.

The poem appears from the perspective of the narrator who laments the death of someone close to him. The identity of the narrator is unknown; it is not known whether the speaker is a man or a woman. The speaker sounds very forceful, even angry at the beginning of the poem. At the end, he shows his emotions and his pain due to the loss of this person

The first stanza begins with a group of commands; the speaker harshly asks an unknown interlocutor or interlocutors to silence some domestic objects (clocks, telephones, pianos, drums) and animals (a dog). He wants everything to stop; he wants his loved one to be proclaimed to the world as an important person.

In the second stanza, he continues on a similar style. He asks airplanes to write “He is dead” in the sky. The act of writing it across the sky shows that the narrator wanted the death of his love one to be publicly acknowledged.

In the third stanza, the poem turns to the personal aspect. He claims that the dead was everything for him, but that love won’t last forever, as he once thought. The speaker is broken because of that loss. These lines are very personal, especially when they are compared to the previous lines. These lines reveal the tragedy of human life; everyone has to die, and everyone will experience the loss of a loved person.

In the fourth stanza, he loses his hope and he despairs. He does not want to see the stars, the moon, the sun, the ocean, the forest. He wants the world to reflect his sadness. The dead man has gone, so nothing will ever be good again. 

The whole poem is full of rhetorical features. One of the most obvious is hyperbole. But the hyperbole is finely administered or controled. We find that the first stanza contains a number of requests for silence which are hardly hyperbolic. There is a crescendo in the demand of the speaker, for in the second stanza he wants to imply the whole town in showing their sorrow for the death of his friend or relative. In the last stanza, the second and third lines are, however, completely hyperbolic as well, you cannot “dismantle the sun or “pour” out all the water of the ocean. The crescendo in the level of exaggeration or hyperbole is well gauged and corresponds to an increase of the dramatism which the death of a beloved one implies: from the domestic, to the civic and from here to the cosmic plane.

A different kind of hyperbole can be seen in the third quatrain. A series of exaggerated metaphors (“He was my…”) convey the intimacy and love between the narrator and the deceased.

Personification is also present within the poem, where the author gives inanimate object human-like characteristics and traits.

Another feature that we can point out is the use of metaphors in order to compare two unlike things. In the third stanza, the speaker indicates his deep love by stating that this person was what made up his world: “my North, my South, my East and West”, and his whole life “My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song”; it’s mean that this person was important for the speaker and he filled most of the time in the speaker’s life.

The poem revolves around the topic of death. It is seen as something very cruel, bad, something that pulls out your loved ones from your life. After the death of the man, the narrator has no hope and he is completely devastated. The topic of communication is also important here. It is clearly seen that the narrator wants to make public his loved one’s death. The speaker seems to think that mourning has to be a public event.

Dealing with the rhythm of the poem, line 1 has ten syllables, and written in iambic pentameter. Line 2, has twelve syllables, and the rhythm is iambic with some modulations by means of trochees in both lines. Line 3 has eleven syllables, and line 4 has ten. So we see that there is not exact metrical regularity but there is still a consistent pattern. There is a rhyme scheme by the end of stanza 1. “Drum” rhymes with “come” and “telephone” rhymes with “bone” (AABB).

The dead man was like a compass, every day and hour for the speaker and even his direction so here we find metaphors. Line 12 is shocking, he is expressing that nothing last forever, nothing is eternal, he is facing the reality. He return to his hyperbolic way of think.

In conclusion, this pessimisitic poem is highly inspirational and original. It represents perfectly the feelings that a lover suffers when his couple dies. Auden uses a simple language and just few figures to make this poem easy to follow, but at the same time deep concerning human feelings. The poem is very moving.