by W. H. Auden
Funeral Blues Theme of Language and Communication
The speaker spends a whole lot of time in "Funeral Blues" issuing commands to an unnamed audience. He may be actually giving a eulogy at a funeral, or he may be talking to himself and expressing his desires. Either way, communication plays an important role in this poem, because we have all kinds of it here—private telephone communication, public skywriting, even traffic directing. "Funeral Blues" raises all kinds of questions about private and public speech, and private and public mourning. Does mourning have to be a public act? This speaker seems to think so.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Do you think that this poem is actually meant to be read at a funeral? Or does it just describe the feelings of a man whose beloved has died?
- Why is it so important to the speaker for the public to acknowledge the death of his loved one?
- Is it possible for the speaker to mourn privately? Or is mourning always a public act?
- Do you think that the poem itself is a form of communication?
Chew on This
Mourning is a public act. The only way for the speaker to adequately express his grief is for him to tell the world about his pain.
Mourning should be a private act. The speaker should stop trying to get the world to feel his pain.