Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Auden's Poem to Humanity

Today is September 1 and The Nation very appropriately showcases Auden's poem to commemorate the event it lamented. A favorite of mine too if only because I might have frequented that same dive on 51st St.

"Seventy years ago today, the military might of Nazi Germany was thrown against the free state of Poland. Hitler's planes, troops and tanks swept across the northern, southern and western borders of the nation....World War II had begun"

Let us recall it again with Auden as our guide:

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
We must love one another or die

and the rest + a fine commentary

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