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"Stop the Clocks" W.H Auden.

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IB English Commentary "Stop the Clocks" W.H Auden "For nothing now can ever come to any good" In Auden's mournful poem "Stop the Clocks," there is very much a sense of hopelessness and world-weary cynicism following the death of a close friend, companion and lover. The speaker seems to condemn himself and the world to a life emptied of beauty, music, light and indeed love as he commands: "dismantle the sun" and "silence the pianos," leaving an empty grey world to mirror his state of mind. Time is presented as utterly interminable, despite the speaker's efforts to 'stop the clocks,' which perhaps embody the basic clockwork of humanity- our patterns and conventions. Composed in 1936 and following the first world war - a time when loss was mandatory - the speaker is so sunken in the deep pit of depression he wishes the whole world to mourn with him: "Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves." Auden is perhaps suggesting that living with a broken heart is the ultimate punishment- that without love, life is just not worth living. ...read more.


In the first stanza, the tone is melancholic and the speaker seems somewhat lost and lonely as he cuts off all sounds and means of communication: "cut off the telephone." Throughout the second stanza the speaker appears to become more desperate as the hyperbolic demands continue, yet we still hear the weariness and apparent lack of concern through the repetition of passive verbs such as "let." During the third verse the tone becomes more frantic as the speaker seems frightened, highlighted through the repetition of "my, my, my," and we are forced to speed up then stop suddenly: "I was wrong." The tone shifts again in the fourth stanza back to melancholic, perhaps mirroring the speaker's thoughts circling endlessly round and round his head. There is a feel of anger established early; perhaps the speaker cannot accept that "death did not stop" for his lover. Throughout the poem the tone seems somewhat arrogant as the speaker utters God-like commands and demands the whole world 'stop,' yet it becomes clear that this is due to the speaker's lack of care as death and life merge, chillingly, into sameness. ...read more.


Auden also employs repetition of words to mirror the "muffled drumming" in the psyche of the speaker: the repetition of "my, my, my" demonstrates his devotion to his lost lover. This is also highlighted in the use of geographic imagery- "he was my North, my South, my East and West" suggests his life now has no direction, he is condemned to a meaningless existence- his "future is mapped out for him." Verbs in this poem essentially betray the speaker's feelings and expose the lack of purpose in life. In the first stanza, ("stop, cut off, prevent, silence") the speaker seems to be despondent and the negative 'command' words used give a dark, foreboding mood. The speaker then seems to lose any last trace of concern he had, apparent through the repetition of "let." He appears to be tired with the everyday functions of life- everything and anything bleed into nothingness. In the last verse the verbs continue to infuse an ominous, somewhat angry feel: "Put out... pack up.... dismantle... pour away." We are left feeling as totally exhausted and heartbroken as the speaker, and we are manipulated into believing that "nothing can ever come to any good," and a final realisation that indeed: "Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" ...read more.

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