On Poems and Grief

Oh, Lord, that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral, when Matthew reads Auden’s “Funeral Blues.” I cried when I first saw it. I still cry every time I watch it:

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

[read the entire poem here]

When my father died unexpectedly, I thought of that scene.

The day after he passed, I pulled all my poetry books off the shelf and sat leafing through them, hoping to find one that could help me articulate the pain I felt. And, finally, I found “Dirge Without Music” and it seemed to say everything I wanted to say:

Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.

I don’t know why I thought of this today. It’s a gray, gray day, but the leaves are full of color, and autumn is my favorite season so I should feel happy. But for some reason, I thought of how my grandmother once said to me, “I hate Fall. It’s a season of endings. Everything is dying.”


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