Both of these poems are about losing a loved one and the pain and suffering felt after the loss. Both poems talk about the things which were taken for granted that now seem so significant; in ‘Four years’, “there never will be a hair of his in a comb” and in ‘Funeral Blues’, “my working week… Sunday rest”. Four years is about expressing everlasting love for a deceased lover and the person’s desperate attempt to hold on to any remaining memories of him, “… I want to believe… minute presences still drift”.
The title of the poem itself suggests that a time period of four years have passed since the person passed away, and yet the voice of the poem is still touched by his presence and remembers him. Funeral Blues on the other hand is also about losing a loved one but is more complex. Unlike ‘Four Years’ the voice of the poem is speaking about the time straight after the loss i. e. the funeral (as given away in the title). The voice of the poem stresses the fact that they must grieve in “silence” suggesting their love was a secret or even an affair.
It is a well known fact that Auden was a homosexual and unlike ‘Four Years’ I think this poem was written about a homosexual love, this can be conveyed in the impossible mourning described in the poem, ” pack up the moon and dismantle the sun”, the voice cannot openly grieve for fear that people may judge him so is slightly bitter and devastated. There is a feeling that he will not recover from the pain, “nothing… can ever come to any good”. In ‘Four Years’ the voice feels that even though she has been able to grieve openly over time it hasn’t helped as she still holds on to her lover dearly.
The voice in ‘Funeral Blues’ stresses the fact that his life is not worth living without this man and that they meant everything to each other (lines 9-11). The vanished man was so important that the voice of the poem believes that everyone should know about him, “let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead scribbling… he is dead”. This implicitly implies that the entire world should share his pain because the sky covers everything as is seen by everybody.
Both these poems have a lonely, sad tone as they are reflecting the loss of a lover. The tone of ‘Four Years’ expresses these feelings of hurt in a calm and understanding way, this is shown in Gillian’s use of language, “nothing left… never will be”, showing that the voice of the poem recognises the fact that her husband/boyfriend is gone forever yet admitting that she still misses him and longs for his presence, “want to believe… ” ‘Funeral Blues’ on the other hand has quite a drastic change in tone.
The first two verses of the poem show a harsh and instructional tone, ordering the world around to stop as the death of this man is mourned, “stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,” whereas the last two verses are more reflective as the voice remembers his life with his deceased love and how his life seems dead without him. The repetition of the word “my” in verse 3 shows how crucial the departed man was to the voice of the poem. The last verse conveys a depressing tone of losing true love and how life cannot go on and can be expressed as dead without this person. Four Years’ does not have any rhyming nor does it seem to use any sound patterning or non-literal writing.
The poem is built up of long simple sentences and doesn’t use any complex language, which makes the content of the poem very explicit to the reader. This compliments the way in which the person in the poem feels about their life; it is simple and she just has to take things as they come even though she struggles to let go of reminders of her husband. The irregular rhythm of this poem also expresses how the last four years have been very hectic and that the person has experienced little normality in their life. Funeral Blues’ is the total opposite.
There is a lot of rhyme in this poem. The repetition of sounds makes the poem appear more collected. Each line reminds the reader of the last line, the same way each hour, day and moment reminds the person in the poem of their last and the way in which they are constantly reminded by the memories of their lover. The regular rhythm shows the need to hold everything together to stop life from falling apart. The imagery in ‘Four Years’ is linked with everyday occurrences and things that would otherwise go unnoticed, ” a hair from his comb.
These minor details are now missed. The second sentence of the first verse struck me with a vivid image as it reminds me of the clichi?? expression ‘to put yourself in their shoes’ The shoes are kept unlike any of his other clothes because they “held more of him” showing the fact that a person’s life can be held in a pair of shoes because they travelled with him. ‘Four Years’ also implicitly portrays the death as a ‘closed book’.
The “covers” of the book being the start and end to a persons life; has been read from cover to cover and only memories remain, “minute presences… ‘Funeral Blues’ uses more imagery and I think it is more interesting. Some of the images are harsh and cruel, for example, “cut off the telephone… ” suggests the need for killing noise and interruption in the same way the person’s life was taken, rather than postponing it (turning it down). The imagery in verse two is very prevailing. Auden uses the idea of writing in the sky with aeroplanes to express the need for the whole world to share in the pain of the death as all in the world sees the sky.
The funeral seems to be the most significant thing as even peace “doves” must be ignored and all society should pay respect “policemen wear black… gloves. ” In the last verse Auden uses some strong imagery related with destroying nature, this shows that the love was natural yet did not “last forever” so the voice of the poem does not see the need for guidance “sun” or any other essential elements in life any more seeing as his most essential component has been taken.
In my opinion both these poems are very different when studied closely although they appear to be about the same thing. ‘Funeral Blues’ is overall showing a more distorted and distressed approach to the death of a loved one where as ‘Four Years’ shows the acceptance of death even though physical reminders still exist which may have caused pain.
I prefer ‘Four Years’ because I think it is easy to relate to and it illustrates how time eases the pain of a death gradually and on going suffering is not such an issue. ‘Funeral Blues’ gave the impression that the death of a lover was not only the end for the deceased person but also for the person left and that life had no meaning after. This is a very emotional, touching poem but it is not easy to relate to, as its meanings are very intricate in my opinion.