What are the themes, issues and ideas of "Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The themes of "Funeral Blues" are grief, love, death, mourning and unhappiness.  The narrator's loved one has died, and it feels as if their entire world has been destroyed.  The issue that they are dealing with is their total and complete grief and lack of meaning to life now that this person is gone.  Their loved one meant everything to them, and they don't know how to function without them in the world anymore.  This sense of total loss is conveyed in the last two stanzas, where Auden writes that the loved one was their everything, their "noon," "midnight," and "North, South, East and West."  Then, Auden feels as if nothing on the entire earth should exist anymore if their loved one doesn't exist, and that is where the desire to "pour out the ocean" and "sweep up the forests" comes from.  With the death of their loved one, everything else ceases to exist.

Auden conveys very powerfully the feeling of grief and devastation that can occur after a loved one dies.  Those unfortunate enough to have experienced that loss understand its total and overwhelming grief, and that is the issue that Auden writes about in the poem. I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem 'Funeral Blues' by W.H. Auden, the poet writes about bereavement, about losing one's compass in the universe, losing one's anchor and raison d'etre. There are all sorts of bereavement and many of us are unlucky enough to lose someone during our lives. For some it might be an expected death (old age) - or even a 'happy release' to happier times in heaven (freedom from suffering and pain.) The person may have already started to 'move on' in terms of losing their personality, or being unconscious. For Auden, though, the pain of loss is very close and personal and he feels it deeply as a vacuum or a sense of disorientation and placelessness. This comes over strongly in his use ,like John Donne, of Time imagery and Space: as in the loss of a dear  compass by which he set his bearings, North, South, West, noon and midnight.

jlh97 | Student

'Funeral Blues' primarily illustrates the unaccepting attitudes to homosexuality in 1930s Britain and the possibly of such ideas changing with a more liberal society forming in the wake of contextual historical events