Epitaph on a Tyrant- a Critical Analysis

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Epitaph on a Tyrant

Wyston Hughes Auden, or WH Auden, was a British poet, often considered by critics to be one of the best England has ever produced. Auden’s work is known, not only for its remarkable poetic calibre and craftsmanship but also for his skilful portrayal of myriad themes- ranging from the political, social, ethical, to the moral and even the individual. One of Auden’s best known poems and written, interestingly when Adolf Hitler was at the peak of his power in Europe, is a short, six line piece entitled- “Epitaph on a Tyrant” The poem talks about a man- an anonymous “he”- a perfectionist whose poetry was understandable and who, himself, understood “human folly” and the human psyche like “the back of his hand”. He was most interested in “armies and fleets” and when he laughed “respectable senators” burst out in cackles of laughter. Then in a sudden drastic change of atmosphere, Auden says- “When he cried, little children died in the streets”. One of the significant factors that lends Auden’s poetry a rare kind of brilliance is its ability to appeal to the reader in different sorts of ways. Therefore, there are various different interpretations of this one short poem- the most obvious one being that of an allusion to Adolf Hitler- the Fuhrer of Germany, which rings true on almost every count. Hitler was a man yearning to establish a Pan German empire- a perfect pure Aryan race, he was man whose “poetry”- whose thoughts, beliefs, charisma, all reflected in his oratory which was considered brilliant and inspired millions to support him. It was, again through his understanding of human “folly” that Hitler managed to manipulate and delude an entire nation into turning their backs on their own humanity and follow him in his twisted, though well reasoned ideals. His primary interest was in the harsh physical manipulation of people and counties and therefore in “armies and fleets”. His power was so immense, so absolute that even “respectable”...
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