Being able to express the inexpressible and overwhelming emotions humans feel, poetry in elegy communicates mournful expression and sorrow. In “Stop All the Clocks,” written by poet W.H. Auden, the heightened emotion of despair exemplifies the intensity of losing a loved one. Through four quatrains of metaphors and iambic pentameter with two enjambments, Auden communicates inconsolable grief throughout his poetic prose. Dramatizing the overwhelming feelings of grief and sorrow, Auden successfully conveys the sentiments of heartbreak and losing a loved one when words are unable to describe the pain.
Auden begins “Stop All the Clocks” with an urgency to cease all noise and movement of the world. The poet requests to, “Stop all the clocks,” (Auden, 1), symbolic for ceasing time itself, in addition to stating, “—cut off the telephone, / Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,” (1-2). Auden asks for a moment of silence, free from noisy interruptions. This provides readers with an emotionally captivating introduction emphasizing the urgency to feel deep despair for someone who has died. The following lines state, “Silence the pianos and with muffled drum / Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.” (3-4). Written in rhymed couplets, to cease the joyous music of a piano and to bring in a coffin with a dreary drumming, the standstill of the world Auden has painted with his words emphasizes despair. Carefully breaking the meter to emphasize the magnitude of the death, almost like a quiver in a voice, Auden finishes with an enjambment of the, “muffled drum” (3). The first stanza of the poem, through the power of rhyme and shifting meter, emphasizes the extent the death has had on the poet, setting the initial sorrowful tone of the poem.
Turning to mourn publicly, Auden writes, “Let the aeroplanes circle moaning overhead / Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,” (5-6). Auden carefully chooses to describe the aeroplanes engine as moaning, suggestive that even the plane is mourning the overwhelming loss he is feeling inside. Containing the second enjambment of the poem following “overhead” (5), Auden breaks the flow to emphasize the emotional impact the death has on the speaker. Writing, “He Is Dead,” (6) in the sky, Auden emulates the heavy weight of the death. The capitalization of this phrase stresses the magnitude the death and is written publicly so others can share the grief he is feeling, suggesting that his pain has become too much to bear on his own. In an additional request to share the weight of the pain, for respect, the poet asks for the “public doves,” (7) and the “traffic policemen” (8) to wear the colour black to symbolize the sombre occasion.
The intensity of grief and loss is prevalent throughout the poem. Describing the deceased as being, “—my North, my South, my East and West, / My working week, and my Sunday rest,” (9-10), Auden uses metaphor as a symbol that the deceased was his direction in life, suggesting that without him, he is lost. All his days revolved around his loved one, and with his death, he no longer has a sense of being. This impactful statement uses metaphors as a rhetorical device to further accentuate the effect the death has on his life. Describing his feelings using metaphors allows the readers to be able to see and feel the immense grief of the poet. To dive deeper into the heartbreaking emotions of the poem, Auden writes, “I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.” (12). Being blinded by the power of love, Auden never considered living life without him. Breaking the poems metre with “I was wrong” (12) adds a dramatic twist of the knife in the readers chest that intensely elevates the level of emotional despair the poem resonates.
In the final stanza, using metaphorical connections between romantic words, Auden emphasizes the grief he feels for his loss. Writing, “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;” (13-15), Auden takes the romantic words, “stars”, “moon”, and “ocean”, and requests that, like his love, they cease being the extraordinary life they behold, because he feels them pointless to exist if his only love in life is dead. Requesting the stars and the moon to be extinguished of their light dramatically symbolizes the depression and despair Auden feels, thus further emphasizing the darkness of the poem. Auden closes the poem with the final words being, “For nothing now can ever come to any good.” (16), suggestive that nothing in life will ever be good like they once were because his love is dead and therefore, he might as well be dead too.
Beginning the poem, “Stop All the Clocks” with requesting silence in the world and the entire universe to grieve with him, W.H. Auden establishes a tone of grief, loss and despair. Further resonating the strong and painful emotions of loss, Auden emphasizes his pain through metaphors, enjambments and rhyming couplets. The emotionally captivating grief and sadness of the poem is reinforced from beginning to end. Leaving the poem in an unsolved manner leaves the readers still grieving with sadness over the death of the poets loved one, suggestive that the poet is unable to move forward with life. W.H. Auden uses “Stop All the Clocks” as a means to communicate what no amount of words are able to describe; the heightened emotional intensity of death.
Works Cited Auden, W. H. “Stop all the Clocks.” All Poetry, 2014. Web. <http://allpoetry.com/Funeral- Blues>