Wednesday, August 6

Post-9/11 Elegy: Bush White House's "Spendid Bugger" of America

The funeral segment in the Hugh Grant/Andy McDowell film Four Weddings and a Funeral proffers viewers a moving rendition of British poet W.H. Auden's elegiac "Funeral Blues."

With a modicum of reflection, Auden's elegy provided an emotional vehicle in remembering what has happened to my country during the criminal reign of King George II, especially during and since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country.

Here's the first half* of Auden's poem recited in the film:

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
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.

If you prefer the visual performance from FW&aF, watch the short clip below:

But you also can pick your own "funeral poem"--elegy--from this impressive list, headed by Auden's "Funeral Blues."

Other elegiac--or "farewell"--poems from the list below may be more appropriate for your current sensibilities regarding the state of American democracy:

"Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden
"To the Dead" by Frank Bidart
"Fugue of Death" by Paul Celan
"Because I Could Not Stop For Death" by Emily Dickinson
"Dying Away" by William Meredith
"To an Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman
"Death Stands Above Me" by Walter Savage Landor
"The Reaper and the Flowers" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"For the Union Dead" by Robert Lowell
"Dirge Without Music" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Elegy for Jane" by Theodore Roethke
"November" by Edmund Spenser
"Question" by May Swenson
"In Memoriam" by Lord Alfred Tennyson
"A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London" by Dylan Thomas
"O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman

Finally, a great resource is the anthology Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and published by W. W. Norton.

*Read part II here.

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