Refugee Blues Essay
1013 WordsJan 18th, 20135 Pages
Refugee Blues W. H. Auden’s poem of despair, misery, and isolation, “Refugee Blues”, describes the hardships faced by two German Jewish refugees attempting to escape Hitler’s Germany. Published in autumn, 1939, Auden is surrounded by the anti-Sematic hatred that is growing in Germany six months prior to the outbreak of World War II. Auden utilizes this environment and the experiences of German Jews to express the abuse of human rights and the sentiments of refugees. For the near two thousand years that the Jewish people have lived in Europe, they have constantly battled anti-Semitism, having to defend themselves, physically and emotionally, time and time again. In 1920, Jewish people encountered anti-Semitism from the Nationalist…show more content…
Stanza seven focuses on Hitler’s horrific regime, expressed metaphorically. His command for all Jews to be killed is personified as the rumbling of thunder that can be heard just before lightning strikes, and the world descends into the chaos of a political storm. The last stanza of the poem describes Jewish people being hunted, either by death squads or by soldiers looking to put them into labor camps. Throughout the poem, Auden uses contrast to demonstrate the struggle of the inequality of Jewish people. He juxtaposes Jewish people with animals, displaying the disdainful perception of German Jewish refugees through the lines, “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” (22-23). The speaker reflects that cats were welcomed into open doors, yet they were not. Additionally, the refugee speaks of how he, “Saw the fish swimming as if they were free” (26), and how the fish in the quay are free, yet they were not. Auden shows that animals were treated with more compassion than Jewish refugees. Also, Auden considers one of the most prominent contrasting parts of the poem – the Jews’ condition of hanging between legal and biological death. The legal death that Auden refers to is depicted throughout the poem; describing loss of home (3), country (4), and documentation. In the fourth stanza he describes a consul, violently
Poet – Wynstan Hugh Auden, born as a doctor’s son in February 1907 in York, United Kingdom, counts as one of the greatest English poets of the twentieth century. Theme – abuse of human rights experienced not only by German Jews but by other Jews and by refugees anywhere. Structure – The poem contains twelve stanzas of three lines each. The first and second line of each stanza rhyme. The two rhyming lines of each stanza tell the story, while the third line contains a refrain (like a chorus) that develops the theme of the poem. Analysis – The use of the word blues also reinforces the musical theme of the poem as the sub-genre of jazz – this style of music was created by the slaves in slave communities in the Southern States of the USA. The origin and the modern meaning of this word tie in with the two purposes of the poem.
The repeated use of “my dear” suggests that the couple are married, but doesn’t give a clue as to whether it is the husband or wife speaking. The first stanza notes that the city they have fled to is full of people, both rich and poor, yet there is no space for them. With the use of word such as “souls” it suggest something valuable or holy about each and every one of the people within the city, it also implies that they are all the same. The tree is an interesting symbol in the next stanza. The tree can go through nature’s cycle but can. However, this is contrasted with man-made documents that, once lost, can never be recovered: ‘Old passports can’t do that, my dear’.