Study Guide

Funeral Blues Language and Communication

By W. H. Auden

Language and Communication

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. (1-4)

The speaker wants all communication to cease, or at least quiet down in the wake of his beloved's death. He doesn't want any noise, not even the noise of the private communication between two people on the telephone. Only silence can allow for his mourning. So…then why's he writing this poem?

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead. (5-6)

Skywriting. Now that's communication. The speaker wants the whole world to hear about and acknowledge the death of his beloved. He wants it written on the sky for all to see. In these lines, the speaker desires a public recognition of the man's death.

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. (7-8)

These images are examples of nonverbal communication of grief—symbols, to be precise. The black gloves, the crepe bows, are signs of mourning that he wants others to wear.

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song (11)

The speaker switches back to talking about the private sphere. His beloved meant everything to him. He says that he actually formed the speaker's communication itself—his talk, his song.

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