Mar 08 2008

Poetry in Movies: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Published by at 4:21 pm under Movies,Poetry,Videos

This weekend I started asking myself, What are some of the best uses of poetry in the movies? I can think of a handful of movies about famous poets, and a few more that use poetry in a powerful way — though, when I started writing them down, the list was not very long.

One of the first movies that I wrote down was “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” I still find the movie to be very funny. How can you go wrong with an appearance by Rowan Atkinson as a stuttering priest performing his first wedding ceremony? But the emotional heart of the movie, the scene that stays with you longest, is John Hannah’s truly moving reading of W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” read for his dead partner…

Four Weddings and a Funeral (DVD)

Funeral Blues
by W. H. Auden

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 in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe 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 forever, 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.

The power of this mournful poem, and of John Hannah’s reading of it, can be found by doing a search on the Internet. Half the time you find reference to the poem, you’ll find reference to the movie as well.

What are your favorite uses of poetry in the movies?

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Poetry in Movies: Four Weddings and a Funeral”

  1. manas / akashon 08 Mar 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Ivan ,

    I want a happy song ,

    in tune with the

    soft melody

    of a purple shade

    in the sky .

    Smile ,


    (Purple shade is in my blog , " akash-smriti ' .)

  2. Ivan M. Grangeron 09 Mar 2008 at 2:29 am

    sometimes the heart

    must cry out

    with the wind

    beneath the violet sky

    – Ivan

    (I know, Auden's poem is a gloomy one isn't it, manas? But there's something soothing, even healing about it, giving voice to the ache we all feel in the echo between heartbeats. If we find the source of that empty pang, I think life can open up in amazing ways…)

  3. manas / akashon 09 Mar 2008 at 4:21 am

    If we see

    beyond seeing

    that there may or may not be a source ,

    the search for the source of empty pang

    may actually be futile ,

    the heart beats to it's own tune ,

    to it's own whim and fancy ,

    then probably

    even closed life

    may be soothing and

    healing .

    There are many ways to heal .

    Each different from other ,

    some opposite of the others .

    I agree with you on one point .

    "sometimes the heart

    must cry out

    with the wind

    beneath the violet sky '

    I liked these lines .

    Thank you , Ivan .

    Regards ,


  4. Ivan M. Grangeron 10 Mar 2008 at 2:47 am

    manas, you are raising a good question:

    Who can suggest a movie that uses poetry in an uplifting way?

  5. Joanneon 11 Mar 2008 at 9:17 am

    Hi manas and Ivan,

    Auden's poem beautifully expresses a moment of despair and loss. We all have them. It's not gloomy in my opinion-it's authentic and that is what I hear in it.

    Warm regards,


  6. Mary Jeanneon 12 Mar 2008 at 4:23 am

    One of my favorites in "Splendor in the Grass", based on William Inge's play of the same name. The title is taken directly from Wordworth's "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality."

  7. Ivan M. Grangeron 12 Mar 2008 at 5:16 am

    Mary Jeanne,

    I'll have to watch "Splendor in the Grass" again. It's been a long time since I've seen it. Wordsworth's "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality" has so many wonderful passages… I'll have to read that again too.

  8. Northern Michiganon 22 Jan 2009 at 1:38 pm

    What about that movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams.

  9. Ivan M. Grangeron 22 Jan 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Dead Poets Society – another good one. I did a post about it here:


  10. Peggyon 25 Aug 2012 at 8:30 am

    Biopic movie called “Black Butterflies” on Ingrid Jonker. You can hear Nelson Mandela read the poem on youtube.

    The Child

    The child is not dead
    The child lifts his fists against his mother
    Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath
    Of freedom and the veld
    In the locations of the cordoned heart

    The child lifts his fists against his father
    in the march of the generations
    who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath
    of righteousness and blood
    in the streets of his embattled pride

    The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga
    not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
    nor at the police station at Philippi
    where he lies with a bullet through his brain

    The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
    on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
    the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings
    the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers
    this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
    the child grown to a man treks through all Africa

    the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world
    Without a pass

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