Comparison Of Funeral Blues By W. H Auden And Long Distance (ii) By Tony Harrison

Both W. H Auden and Tony Harrison in their poems Funeral Blues and Long Distance (II) describe the impact of losing a loved one in their individual way. Tony Harrison uses the lost of his parents to illustrate how some may cope with grief irrationally. Where as W. H Auden vocalises his grief by remembering the love he once had with his spouse. Both poems show a different understanding with handling grief, however they both come together with losing a loved one. 

Grief can be coped with in many different ways, in the opening two stanzas of Long Distance (II) Tony Harrison uses his father to illustrate how denial is a common way of coping with grief. In the first stanza Harrison starts of with “two years dead” referencing how time has passed on and accepted the mother’s death where as the father has not. The stanza continues mirroring the feeling of denial through the father’s actions, “kept her slippers” by using the pronoun “her” in present tense the tone is introduced. The phrase “renew her transport pass” goes to show how the father is trying to keep the memory of his wife valid and realistic. Harrison uses the words “transport pass” to metaphorically talk about his mothers journey to the after life however with the “renew” his father does causes a barrier for her memory to move on. In the first line of the second stanza Harrison talks about the shame and embarrassment his father had to go through due to his denial to show emotions, in lines two and three of the stanza Harrison described his fathers disbelief in a different tone, talking about ties between societies exceptions of men hiding emotions to prove their masculinity “look alone”, his father denies the emotion of grief “clear away her things” to avoid the humiliation in the public eye, Harrison reflects that in the line by giving it a tone of unimportance masking the “raw love” which society sees as a “crime”. 

In the last two stanzas of Long Distance (II), Tony Harrison discusses the methods his father used to cope with grief, and how Tony Harrison himself learned to understand his father’s journey. The first line of the third stanza introduces the “disbelief” his father had. His father avoided accepting the loss of his wife even though he was aware of it, “he’d hear” this indicates how Harrison’s father was still waiting for “her key” even after “two years” of her death, describing the lock as “rusted “ highlights how time has passed by and the lock was not used. The “disbelief” his father had was attached to hope and certainty thinking his wife just “popped out”, regardless of his narrated thoughts he’s aware about the death of his wife however he chooses to be in “disbelief”because he “couldn't risk” living in a world without having her presence around him. In the last stanza the perspective of the poem shifts, as the narrater describes his own thoughts about grief “death, and that is all”. Harrison believes after death there is nothing more to expect using a full stop in the first line emphasises the end of something. In the second line he uses “both”which gives a clear understanding that this time he's talking about both the mother and the father, “new black leather” the word “new” implies on a new chapter in his life without his parents. In the last line he goes to describe an action he does“disconnected number i still call” in the previous stanzas he described the actions of grief his father did singing how it made no use, in the last line of the poem he ends it with a grief copying action similar to his fathers knowing he will gain nothing realistically from it, “I still call”. But comes to terms with what his father felt implicating the actions in order to gain his inner peace. 

In the poem Funeral Blues, uses his experience of losing his soulmate to interpret the feeling of despair, anger and acceptance. The opening tone in the poem is devastation and heartache, Stanza one Auden uses imperative verbs such as “stop” and “cut” to prevent all noise promoting silence, wanting to gain control over something when he feels the most vulnerable and hopeless, however the only sound present is the “muffled drum” which could reference his heart beating or pallbearers walking carrying the “coffin” signalling a funeral “mourners come”. In the second stanza Auden uses “moaning” to reflect the sound of grief and sadness, contrasting the first stanza the poet starts to express his despair publicly, “overhead”where in the first stanza he wanted it to be private “cut of the telephone” -which are a private communication device- however he does keep some privacy in the rest of the poem by not providing a name for his lover but simply capitalises “He Is Dead”. As the stanza continues he's wanting his lovers death to be announced to the public, “public doves” the “doves” represent peace, freedom and happiness indicating how his lover is now free from any pain he had and is free to go and move one. 

In the last two stanza of funeral blues, Auden vocalises the love he once had, starting of by describing the love globally, in a sense of showing how his lover was with him through life “My North….. and West”, then he moves on describing the inseparability and connection they had, by using the pronoun “my” it gives a more personal, private and lovable tone. Contrasting tone of calm grieving in the previous line to a harsh ending and astonishment, as he questions “I thought” the ways about the never ending love he once believed he had. After the mood change in the previous line, the poem remains with a depressing tone, as he describes the beauty of life as “not wanted” using hyperbolic to command the “dismantle” of what was bright and happy in his world but after the death he cannot handle viewing the world as a place of happiness.

In conclusion, both poems convey the themes of grief and denial, however they differentiate on how the cope with it, Harrison and his father were secretive and irrational preforming small daily activities to provide them with inner peace and calmness, however Auden expresses his love globally and public wanting everyone to understand and mourn with him on his loss, he refuses to look at life the same. They both reunite talking about the aftermath and grief of losing a loved one, explains how it is not easy nor compatible although in the end it is a reality which they are forced to accept and live on having an imprint of their loved one. 

10 Jun 2021
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