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Refugee Blues – W.H. Auden Essay

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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.

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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’.

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