The first, and less widely known, version of the poem, written and published in 1936, has five stanzas; the 1938 final version has four. Only the first two stanzas are the same in both versions. The 1936 version was a satiric poem of mourning for a political leader, written for the verse play The Ascent of F6, by Auden and Christopher Isherwood. The 1938 version was written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson in a setting by Benjamin Britten. This version was first published in the anthology The Year's Poetry, 1938, compiled by Denys Kilham Roberts and Geoffrey Grigson (London, 1938). Auden then included it in his book Another Time (New York, 1940) as one of four poems headed "Four Cabaret Songs for Miss Hedli Anderson"; the poem itself was titled "Funeral Blues" in this edition. (Auden never gave the poem any other title.) The text in the British edition of Another Time has a misprint, showing "woods" for the correct reading "wood"; this error does not occur in any other edition.
In Auden's Collected Poetry (1945) "Funeral Blues" is poem XXX in the section "Songs and Other Musical Pieces". In his Collected Shorter Poems 1927–1957 (1966), it is poem IX in the section "Twelve Songs" in Part II, "1933–1938"; the same numbering appears in his posthumous Collected Poems (1976, 1991, 2007).
Britten wrote a setting of the poem for chorus and instrumental group as part of his incidental music for the first production of The Ascent of F6 in 1937, and later arranged it for solo voice and piano in a collection of settings of Auden poems under the title Cabaret Songs. "Funeral blues" is copyrighted by the Estate of W.H. Auden. According to The W. H. Auden Society, only Random House, Faber & Faber, and Curtis Brown Ltd. can give permission to reprint the text.
It is the English contribution to the statue commemorating the Heysel Stadium disaster, where a retaining wall collapsed, resulting in 39 deaths on 29 May 1985, when Liverpool...
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