W H Auden – “Refugee Blues”

Friday, October 16 — “So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt . . .” Matthew 2: 14

While driving around my neighborhood yesterday, I heard on NPR a set of stories hard to listen to; refugee stories.  Does it matter whether the stories arose in Mexico, as these did? or Syria? or Congo?   Does it matter that W H Auden’s “Refugee Blues” was written 70 years ago about European Jews? Women and men and children who must learn to live without toilets, live without a stove?  They live stories that need listening.   Yesterday afternoon NPR helped me pay attention.  So, this morning, does W H Auden.  Sometimes, it is a blessing to be still inside beauty; sometimes, to be still inside of violence.

Definition:  “Blues: a slow, sad son, traditionally with 3-line stanzas with 4 beats to each line.”

Blessings on your weekend.


john sj


Today’s Post – “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 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 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.



w h auden 1907 – 1973

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