Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Stop All the Clocks

Stop All the Clocks

W. H. Audens Stop All the Clocks (1938) is commonly viewed as one of the most famous poems about grief written in the twentieth century. Through poetic devices such as caesura, enjambment, and metaphor, the speaker reflects on the themes of life, love, and death. ‘Stock All the Clocks’ is also known as ‘Funeral Blues‘.

Written in

1936

Written by

W. H. Auden

Form

Elegy

Metre

Iambic pentameter

Rhyme scheme

AABB

Poetic devices

Caesura, enjambment, end-stop lines, metaphor

Frequently noted imagery

Animals, navigation, black clothing

Tone

Mournful

Key themes

Love, death

Meaning

Love is fleeting in the face of death. The emotions of a man when his partner dies.

The context of Stop All the Clocks

We begin with the biographical, historical, and literary contexts of ‘Stop All the Clocks’.

Biographical context

W. H. Auden was born in 1872 in Birmingham, England. He and his long-time friend and collaborator Christopher Isherwood were among the first openly gay writers of the twentieth century. For this reason, the poem is often read in LGBTQIA contexts, and it was used at the funerals of many gay men during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. This reading of the poem is famously used in the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral, where a gay man delivers the poem as an elegy for his dead partner.

Historical context

The poem was written in the 1930s when fascist views were becoming increasingly popular in Europe, reaching a boiling point in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II. Auden and Isherwood both firmly believed in left-wing politics and were against imperialism. Their political beliefs and the wider context of Europe were great influences on how the two men collaborated to write the first iteration of the poem.

Literary context

The poem was not published until 1938, but its first iteration was actually composed in 1936. The poem started as a song in the play The Ascent of F6 (1936), which Auden and Isherwood wrote together. The play was created as a satire of British imperialism. In the play, this poem was performed by a character grieving the death of a politician. The language was purposefully melodramatic to highlight the absurdity of the situation.

The poem was then partially rewritten and given to cabaret singer Hedli Anderson to perform. It was changed considerably to be used for Andersons cabaret performance; for instance, it was originally set to music. The final three stanzas were rewritten so they would not reference the play, and the poem also became more serious and sincere.

The poem was first published in Audens 1938 collection, Poems of To-Day, and was further published in his 1940 collection Another Time. As a stand-alone poem, Stop All the Clocks has a more mournful tone.

The poem: ‘Stock All the Clocks’ or ‘Funeral Blues‘

Funeral Blues

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 forever: 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.

W. H. Auden's ‘Stop All the Clocks’: Summary

Let us begin with a brief stanza-by-stanza summary of the poem.

Stanza one

The first three lines are comprised of imperatives listing the different requests that the speaker has. In the final line, the speaker references a coffin, letting the reader know that someone has died.

Stanza two

This stanza deals with public mourning as the speaker requests that planes, public birds, and policemen join him in grieving.

Stanza three

The third stanza discusses how the speaker feels about the deceased as he talks about what his late lover meant to him.

Stanza four

The final part of the poem sees the speakers mourning become hopeless, as nothing can be good without his love.

The structure of Stop All the Clocks

Here we consider issues such as the poem’s rhyme scheme, form, caesura, enjambment, and end-stop lines.

Rhyme scheme

Auden uses an AABB rhyme scheme in the poem, which is paired with an iambic pentameter that runs throughout the piece. This combination is called a heroic couplet, and it helps to create a musical nature to the poem, which, of course, we know is linked to the poem having originally been set to music. By using this scheme, Auden transforms the poem into a kind of funeral song.

A heroic couplet is a pair of rhyming lines written in iambic pentameter.

Form

The poem is written in the form of an elegy, which is commonly associated with funerals. It creates a mournful and sad tone.

An elegy is a poem that discusses a serious lamentation.

Caesura

Auden uses caesuras (a pause in a line of poetry) frequently in this poem. Examples occur in lines one and four: Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, and Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. The caesuras break up each line into two halves, replicating the breaks and pause the speaker would take during a real elegy. This creates a disjointed rhythm to the poem that mimics the pauses of a real elegy given at a funeral.

Auden contrasts the caesuras by also using enjambment (one line continuing into the other, with no punctuation breaks). Examples can be found at the beginning of stanza two: Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead / Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead. This replicates the patterns of someone speaking at a funeral while showing that the speakers thought is not yet complete.

Every stanza in the poem finishes with an end-stop line (full stops at the end of a line), for example, For nothing now can ever come to any good. Auden uses end-stop lines to emphasise the finality of death. Nothing continues after the full stop, just as life will not continue (either literally or metaphorically) after the funeral.

The poetic devices of Stop All the Clocks

Here, we consider the title, the imagery, and the use of metaphor in the poem.

The title

The official title of the poem is Funeral Blues’, but it is commonly referred to as Stop All the Clock because of its use in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

Auden uses imagery throughout the poem to not only describe the funeral but also help the reader understand the grief that the speaker is feeling.

Animals

The speaker instructs to Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone’, by which he means to stop life from moving on naturally. The speaker feels that if he can prevent the dog from doing something normal, natural life may pause.

The speaker also includes doves in his grief, instructing to Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves. Doves are traditionally used as symbols of love and peace. However, here the imagery is inverted as the doves represent death and grief. These doves are public’, which emphasises that the speaker feels the mourning for the deceased should not be private. This idea could be linked to the LGBTQIA context of the poem, as the speaker refuses to mourn privately, despite the risk that mourning publicly would have posed due to his sexuality.

Auden references the stars, moon, and points of the compass. He was my North, my South, my East and West. This image shows how important the dead man was to the speaker and how all-encompassing his grief is, as he cannot navigate the world without him, while at the same time being the only thing the speaker is led to. This is shown further by repeating the idea, but with the stars, moon, and sun.

The imagery of black clothing is used in the line Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. The speaker feels that public mourning should occur at this funeral. Of course, the request is unrealistic, as the speaker cannot expect such public mourning to happen. Yet the speaker feels that the grief is so overpowering and colossal that it should be universal; everyone else should feel it, too.

Why is the speaker requesting for public mourning to occur?

Auden frequently uses metaphors (a figure of speech where something stands for something else) in this poem. A notable example occurs in the third stanza.

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;

The speaker is not saying that the deceased person was literally his working week. Instead, Auden uses metaphors to show just how important the dead person was to the speaker. He refers to his lover as his Sunday rest, which links the ideas of religion and love. The speaker states that his lover was like a religion to him.

The meaning of Stop All the Clocks

While there is never one clear-cut meaning in poetry, many people reach similar conclusions about Stop All the Clocks’, i.e., that it is a poem that deals with grief and the misery that can come with it. This is because the speaker is coming to terms with a great loss. The poet uses metaphors, imagery, and instructions in a first-person account to show that the speaker is grieving and how he is dealing with the emotion.

Tone

The poem takes on a tone of mourning. It is seen as a classic example of an elegiac poem (a poem that is an elegy) as it uses poetic devices such as metaphor and imagery to show the grief that the speaker is feeling. This sorrowful tone is perhaps seen best in the final line, For nothing now can ever come to any good. Here, the plosive ending good indicates that there is a clear and firm ending to both the speech and death.

The themes of Stop All the Clocks

The poem’s key themes are love and death.

Love

The theme of love is seen throughout the poem. The poet uses poetic devices in order to show the love between the speaker and the deceased, such as metaphor, as was mentioned above.

Auden uses the last line of the third stanza to show that love is fleeting:

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong

The caesura isolates the final three words of the poem to emphasise the isolated pain the speaker is feeling. This statement shows that love is not something that can last forever but is finite.

Death

The poem also deals with the theme of death: it is, after all, called Funeral Blues. The poem looks at how love cannot be everlasting in the face of death, despite how deeply it can be felt. The speaker pleads with the reader to hide all forms of life, as shown in the below quote:

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood

Yet despite this imperative, the world will continue anyway. The poem explores death in a hopeless way, knowing that love cannot exist forever because of it. Death becomes a mental conflict for the speaker to tackle. The speakers view of the world has changed following this death: I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. Now, in the wake of the death, he is conflicted about this view while also grieving.

Stop All the Clocks - Key takeaways

  • Stock All the Clocks is also known as Funeral Blues.

  • The poem was first written for a play as a satire of British imperialism but was later rewritten and published first in 1938 and then again in 1940.

  • The poem focuses on a speaker who is dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

  • W. H. Auden uses poetic devices such as rhyme, metaphor, and imagery in the poem.

  • Stock All the Clocks deals with themes of love and death.

Frequently Asked Questions about Stop All the Clocks

There is no direct inspiration for ‘Stop All the Clocks’. However, the poem was originally written by Auden and Isherwood as a satire of British imperialism. Following this, it was rewritten and given to cabaret singer Hedli Anderson to perform.

There is not a set message to the ‘Stop All the Clocks’. However, a widely accepted analysis is that the poem focuses on the overwhelming grief that someone faces when they lose a loved one.

‘Stop All the Clocks’ was written for the cabaret singer Hedli Anderson.

The conflict shown in ‘Stop All the Clocks’ is mental rather than physical. The speaker’s view of the world has changed following the death of a loved one: ‘I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong’. Now, in the wake of the death, the speaker is conflicted about this view, while also grieving.

Poetic techniques such as rhyme, metaphor, and imagery are all used in ‘Funeral Blues’.

Final Stop All the Clocks Quiz

Question

Who wrote, "Stop All the Clocks"?

Show answer

Answer

The poem was originally written by WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood, but WH Auden rewrote the poem on his own.

Show question

Question

What is the official title of the poem?

Show answer

Answer

The official title of the poem is "Funeral Blues" however it is better known as "Stop All the Clocks".

Show question

Question

Why was the original poem written? 


Show answer

Answer

It was originally written for a play that satirised British imperialism.

Show question

Question

What was the name of the play that the poem was written for? 


Show answer

Answer

The play was called The Ascent of F6.

Show question

Question

Who was the poem rewritten for?

Show answer

Answer

Hedli Anderson, a cabaret singer.

Show question

Question

When was the poem first published?


Show answer

Answer

The poem was first published in 1938

Show question

Question

What were the names of the two poetry collections it was published in?

Show answer

Answer

Poems of To-Day

Show question

Question

What film is the poem notably used in?

Show answer

Answer

The poem is famously used in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral

Show question

Question

True or False - The poem is a sonnet


Show answer

Answer

True! This poem is written as a sonnet.

Show question

Question

True or False - "Funeral Blues" is an elegiac poem


Show answer

Answer

True! 'Funeral Blues' is an elegiac poem

Show question

Question

What is an elegiac poem?


Show answer

Answer

An elegiac poem is one that discusses a serious reflection. Typically, this centres around a lamentation on death.

Show question

Question

What tone is the poem written in? 


Show answer

Answer

Mournful

Show question

Question

What two themes does the poem discuss?

Show answer

Answer

Technology

Show question

Question

What rhyme scheme is the poem written in?

Show answer

Answer

The poem is written in an AABB rhyme scheme

Show question

Question

What is the metre of the poem?

Show answer

Answer

It is written in iambic pentameter 

Show question

Question

True or False - the poem is written in heroic couplets

Show answer

Answer

True! The poem is written in heroic couplets

Show question

Question

What device is used in the quote, "He was my North, my South, my East and West,"


Show answer

Answer

The device used in the quote "He was my North, my South, my East and West," is a metaphor

Show question

Question

Name two types of imagery present in the poem

Show answer

Answer

Navigation

Show question

Question

True or False - the poem only uses caesuras

Show answer

Answer

False! The poem uses caesuras, enjambment and end stop lines

Show question

Question

 How many stanzas were in the poem?


Show answer

Answer

4

Show question

More about Stop All the Clocks
60%

of the users don't pass the Stop All the Clocks quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.