Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Poem For The Day

W.H. Auden

Even those for whom Wystan Hugh Auden is not a name which trips off the tongue easily will know the poem read by John Hannah in the film

"Four Weddings And A Funeral", with Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant.

W.H. Auden died September 29th, l973 in Vienna

According to James Fenton, the first two stanzas were used initially in Auden and Isherwood's play 'The Ascent of F6', as a pastiche blues satirising the love of a population for a political leader. The sky-writing planes were for a dead Franco or Mussolini, not for a lover. In 1936, however, whilst working with Benjamin Britten, Auden decided to use these two verses as the start of this love song.

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.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message, He Is Dead,
Put the crepe bows on the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


  1. hello friko - at one point i read everything isherwood wrote. i have recently noticed that some of his later journals have been published - presumably because those he would name are at a stage in their cosmic passage where it's no matter!!!! i didn't know the history of this poem and so reading it again it was fresh for me. thankyou so much. have a lovely day. steven

  2. I’m taking a break from drying my flooded books and came to read the posts that I missed during my trip to Canada. You had some interesting posts from the Scraper to gardens. I saw a beautiful Victorian garden in Halifax with many types of dahlias – I’ll print them when I can spend some time on the computer. The trip was very nice but it was sad to come back to our flooded town – and flooded family room. I posted some pictures on my blog – the water was quite muddy.

  3. hi Friko~ what a way to express stark, searing pain. Auden is a good one to go back to.
    btw, Friko, I just ran into a Texan-Oklahoman lady who would like to have a postcard from Salzburg translated from the German. If you think you can help, Shelia is at: aroseandababyruth.blogspot.com. it might be fun! xxox

  4. ...moved me more than you might imagine...thank you very much...auf bald...

  5. Not familiar with this name but did appreciate the poem.

  6. Oh the pain of love lost. We feel we will never recover . . . but . . . we do . . . usually.

    Do you relate to this poem Friko?

  7. He sets the proper words
    in the correct instinct of
    lines, capturing cathedral like
    gravity in service of the most human

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  8. A Real Beautiful post !! I must say the words are beautiful and lovely !! Great Post..Thanks for sharing..Unseen Rajasthan

  9. Loss devoid of faith bears an enduring pain - so well expressed here. Change and loss require a letting go that here expressed was not complete. Thought provoking post, Thank you.

  10. Good morning Friko

    I remember first hearing those words spoken by John Hannah in the movie and found them so moving...

    My grandfather, about whom I posted a little while ago was named John Hannah...

    Happy days

  11. This is such a serendipitous act that I am speechless. I used Auden's poem in a post last Sunday about the state of print journalism. Many thanks. It is always nice reading such a masterpiece.

    Greetings from London.

  12. steven - does anyone still read Isherwood now? I'm glad I was able to come up with information.

    Vagabonde - I'm glad you are back, hope everything gets settled soon.

    Margaret Pangert - as you know by now, i got in touch.

    robert - see you soon

    QMM - thank you, QMM

    Bonnie - sure do.

    Cloudia - thank you and Aloha!

    Unseen Rajasthan - thank you very much

    Rose Marie - yes, indeed, I agree with you. thank you

    Delwyn - me too; no relation I take it?

    A Cuban in London - I missed your post, hope you didn't mind my coming up with Auden too. I expect anniversaries make us think of the same people.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.