23 September 2011

Refugee Blues - W H Auden

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.


susan said...

It's a great poem. So many lost, so many who may have had solutions to what ails us now. I read this article yesterday about the Stolpersteine. It brought tears to my eyes.

jams o donnell said...

Wow Susan I had not heard of this before. Amazing and definitely moving

Sean Jeating said...

Yes. A good poem. Touching.
Let me install a written Stolperstein:
Does anyone know how s/he'd react, f.e. if being no refugee to but inhabitant of Lampedusa?

nursemyra said...

"Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours."

Very touching

jams o donnell said...

I do feel sorry for the people of Lampeduae. The Italian government has done them no favours

It is very touching eh Nursie?

Syncopated Eyeball said...

In that sad and beautiful poem they have at least eachother.
I followed Susan's link - tears to my eyes, too. That's a very well written, evocative, gentle, and stirring piece.

I feel for the refugees who currently (try to) come to Australia. A land of mostly migrants (myself included) and children of migrants that slams shut it's doors to people, some of whom risk their lives to get here. Shameful. SHAMEFUL!

I cringe and feel the same shame every year on 'Australia Day'. To celebrate a time of attempted genocide?

Is there a place on earth devoid of such shame?
I expect so: a place devoid of humans.

jams o donnell said...

It's a shame that most countries share SE. Britain's history is drenched in blood. It also angers me that some of the worst bigots I've met here are Irish (forgetting the irony that they are immigrants too!)