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 today, my dear, but where shall
we go today?
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’;
We were in his mind, my dear, 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
Went down to the station to catch the express,
Asked for two tickets to Happiness;
But every coach was full, my dear, every coach was
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.
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973) was a student and later a Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. One of the most important poets of the century, he has published several collections of poems noted for their irony, compassion and wit. Although a modern poem, ‘Refugee Blues’ uses the ballad form of narration.
The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.