Wednesday, August 15, 2012

W. H. Auden: "Stop All the Clocks"

Pulitzer Prize winner W. H. Auden's poem "Stop All the Clocks" is a masterpiece on grief.

Stop All the Clocks

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 crepe bows round 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.

The imagery to me is so realistic.  When experiencing the death of someone so beloved, you can't imagine even your dog being happy.

What poem do you think best describes grief?


  1. This poem always punches me right in the gut, no matter how many times I read it. It's so so good and so perfectly describes what it is like to feel a grief so intense.

    There is an entire collection of "grieving" poems that came out in the last few years, edited by Kevin Young called "Dear Darkness." I haven't read it yet, but I did read the 2011 Best American Poetry; it was excellent and also edited by Kevin Young. It's a collection that I've been meaning to read.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll add it to my every growing TBR list.

  3. Oh, this one. Have you ever seen the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral? It's read out loud at one of the funerals.

    1. I haven't seen that movie, but I have heard that Auden's poem was read. I'll have to add it to my Netflix!