There are apparently four stages of grief, elucidated upon by poets and writers, artists and filmmakers throughout the ages: denial, anger, guilt, acceptance. During a time of acute heartbreak after someone close to me was murdered in an act of “passion”- I was left to reassemble the meanings of what humanity actually entails, how we handle grief, and how we wake up in the morning and go about our day when everything appears to be meaningless and frustratingly normal.
It was at this time that I came across W. H. Auden’s poem about heartbreak and loss. The British-American poet, known for his poignant and prolific poetry, brings to us the ultimate poem about how grief works in its first stage, and gave me courage to realize that the range of human emotions we personally feel, have also been felt universally over time, and that there is always a series of events and people whose lack of hubris in our own loss plagues us, but eventually, a lack of universal catharsis, of pathetic fallacy, is precisely what allows us to move on.
In Auden’s own words:
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 crepe 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 and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: 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.