What are the three literary techniques in the poem "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden exemplifies the poet's use of structure and sound and rhythm as it conveys a poignancy and deep meaning. 


The first stanza of W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" contains a number of hyperbolic, or exaggerated requests for silence. The speaker exaggerates because he asks that all clocks be stopped, all telephones turned off, no dogs bark, no pianos played, and the drum that is to mark the funeral procession should be muffled. In the second stanza, the speaker asks that "crepe bows" be put around "the white necks of the public doves" as part of the funeral decorations.

In the last stanza, the second and third lines are hyperbolic, as well, since it is not possible to "dismantle" the sun or "Pour" out all the water of the ocean.

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;


In the second stanza, there is visual and auditory imagery. The "airplanes circle" and "moan" above the people. These planes "scribble on the sky" a message: "He is Dead." The traffic policemen should wear "black gloves."


In "Funeral Blues" there are metaphors (i.e. unstated comparisons between two unlike things). For example, in the third stanza, the speaker indicates his or her deep love for the deceased by stating that this person was what made up his/her world--"my North, my South, my East and West," and his/her very life--"My working week and my Sunday rest, / My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song."

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Personification.  This is where you give inanimate object human-like characteristics and traits.  In the second stanza, Auden describes having airplanes "circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky" about how this person's loved one had died.  Airplanes can't moan or scribble; but giving an airplane the ability to do so adds depth to the poem.  It makes it feel as if the airplane itself is mourning the death too.

2.  Imagery.  This is where you use the five senses to convey emotion, and help the reader to feel like they are right there.  In the first stanza, there is a lot of imagery that conveys a feeling of grief, sadness and muted emotion.  Auden says that we must "stop the dog from barking," "silence the pianos," and bring out a "muffled drum."  All of these sensory references indicate sadness.  The piano cannot play its joyous music, the dog cannot bark and be happy, and even the drums themselves are muffled and diminished.  This enhances the theme of grief.

3.  Metaphors.  Metaphors compare two different things that have similar traits.  In the third stanza, Auden uses metaphors to convey how much the deceased meant to the narrator.  The deceased was their North, South, East and West.  Here, Auden uses a metaphor to say that the deceased gave the narrator direction, guidance and purpose.  Other metaphors:  working week, Sunday rest, noon, midnight, talk and song.  Each one of those comparisons has different layers that could be discussed, all adding depth and symbolism to the relationship between the narrator and the deceased.

I hope that helps a bit; good luck!