Refugee Blues analysis
The poem laments about the poor conditions the narrator, a German Jew, and his wife has to go through in order to survive from Hitler's anti-semitic policy. This poem is about how everyone denied to help the refugees. Refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, or persecution. Whereas blues means a song which laments an event that is depressing. Combined together the title talks about the state of sorrow in which a German Jew, who is now a refugee have to live. By combing these two words, the poem talks about the utter state of exile that was experienced by the German Jews during the Holocaust. The poem consists of many references to the same.
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.
In this stanza, the narrator describes the city they are currently taking refuge in. The narrator describes this city as huge, by using the phrase "ten million souls". He says that there are "souls" living in huge mansions, that is rich men live in luxurious homes, whereas, the poor men have to live in "holes", shabby houses. There is a pun intended on the word "holes", that people lived in shabby house and also under the ground, that is, in grave. The last line of the poem says the injustice the narrator has to go through. Auden has used the form of Blues to write thus poem, in which 3line stanzas are formed, the first two are descriptive, and the third is emotion, or the feeling. It is interesting how the narrator addresses to someone dear to him throughout the poem, but for some reason does not reveal his or her identity, we can assume that it is addressed to his wife. In the third line, the narrator tells to his wife that even though this city is home to ten million people, there is not a hole of a place for them to live. This line shows of the feeling of despair as the city refuses to provide shelter for the narrator and his wife, but is home to other ten million people. This entire stanza is written in present tense, showing that the narrator is talking about the current time and place they are taking refuge in. This stanza signifies that even if the city is home to ten million people, it doesn't provide a home as small as a hole for the narrator.
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.
The narrator, in this stanza, talks about the country they previously lived in, that is, Germany. This entire stanza is written in past tense, showing that the narrator is talking about the past, the time and place they previously lived in. The narrator doesn't reveal until the 8th stanza that they are German Jews. So, to make the reader believe that they really had a country, a country which didn't believe discrimination, he tells the reader that if you don't believe me, look on the map, you'll find the country. In the third line, the narrator addresses his wife saying that there may be a country which is theirs, but it is a country where they 'lived' in, they can't go there now because the Nazi soldiers will kill them, their fellow people are after their blood. Interestingly, only the last line of the stanza is in present tense, Auden brilliantly changes the tense of the stanza to depict the suffering of the narrator and other German Jews. This stanza signifies the previous and the present conditions of the narrator, how they lived in their country, and how now they can't go back there.
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 narrator then compares and contrasts the lives of an old tree which grows in the village to the old passports. The narrator says that every year, the tree sheds its leaves and withers, but it again...
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