Refugee Blues

In 2015 there were 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 21.3 million refugees and 10 million stateless people (source: UNHCR).

refugees

Photo credit: images.forbes.com

In some cases, only poetry can touch our souls in a way which leads us to compassionate action. We live in a world with constant refugee crises. Let us not live as if millions of people around the world are not suffering due to lost family, friends and homes.

 

Refugee Blues – W.H. Auden, March 1939

 

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.

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