First published in 1939 and appearing in his collection Another Time (1940), ‘The Unknown Citizen’ by W.H. Auden can still be considered relevant and stark in its satirical treatment of the ‘ideal’ member of modern society – the acceptable, unobtrusively conformist citizen.
The collection also includes, among other notable and well known pieces, ‘Funeral Blues’, ‘Spain 1937’ and this, read by Sheila Hancock for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017. Again, as moving and as relevant as it was nearly 80 years ago.
Despite the heartening reaction from so many quarters, it’s the incessant repetition of times like this that leave me with a bone-tired weariness and despair at the continued spinelessness and stupidity of ‘humanity’. That so many would accept the same fallacies, so often, by so few.
There is beauty in silence; but one should not confuse the silence of listening with the silence of inaction, acquiescence or appeasement. Ultimately, there comes a time when silence is submission. And with that thought I’ll leave you. In peace.
I am sewing. I wonder whether it will
be of some comfort to know years hence.
The hours spent by the stove till
this record is shepherded towards present tense.
First a sweatshirt, then a blanket to pullover
the broadening shoulders by the fire side.
Each stitch a tie that pricks our regret over
a loosening grip; each badge a source of pride.
And tomorrow’s tomorrow, will they see
the same pangs or remain blind in slumber
– just as their forebears be –
until loss and longing fuels their hunger.
A warmth upon my cheek
A light behind my eyelid
As I walk within my sleep
And wake beyond my twilight