Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Nation's 19th Favourite Poem

Earlier today I was browsing my recently acquired copy of the BBC book "The Nation's Favourite Poems". Published in 1996 (and reprinted every year since), this is a compilation of the top 100 poems in a poll conducted for National Poetry Day in 1995. It's a lovely anthology of a wide range of poets and styles.

The favourite poem in the poll was Rudyard Kipling's "If", to which I may return in a future post. Today I've chosen W.H. Auden's "Twelve Songs, IX" better known as "Funeral Blues". Like many people, I was introduced to this by John Hannah's recitation in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it remains a firm favourite of mine as well as the nation!

Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden

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 crêpe 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.


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