Stop the Clocks

26 Oct 2023 | Humankind | 0 comments


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, my 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 (1907-73)


Notes from the Compiler

'Lament' was the word that Archbishop Justin Welby used to describe what should have been our first response to news of the war in Gaza in October 2023. It was not mine, but I have been drawn to the most evocative poem I can think of, as an expression of human grief. Apart, that is, from the Bible's 'man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief... and we esteemed him not' (Isaiah 53:3). Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-73) grew up in Birmingham before he moved to America in 1939, the year after he wrote this poem, 'Funeral Blues'. He described the 1930s as the "Age of Anxiety". It is no less true of the 2020s.


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