A Poem for Good Friday: “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden

ImageI came across this poem last year on Good Friday. While I don’t know the context in which it was originally written, it seems very apt for Good Fridays.


“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.

I felt this poem strongly as the altar was stripped last night. I silently watched my fellow parishioners take away the cup, the chalice, the bells, the cross, the bible, the vestments, the candles. My pastor removed her stole with a look of grief in her eyes. I surveyed the banners on the walls, with symbols of seashells, doves, bread, cups, loaves, and fishes. Was it all for naught? Were these past three years with Jesus just a momentary snap of judgment? He is dead. He is gone. He was executed in the most humiliating fashion. What do I do now with these stoles, these cups, these vestments? Do I just go on as if nothing ever happened? How can I go on, a changed person, in a world where Christs die? Who can I share my mourning with? Do I linger with these disciples? What do we do now?

 

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