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September 1, 1939

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Aaron Dewhurst

on 27 July 2012

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Transcript of September 1, 1939

September 1, 1939 W. H. Auden I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
and darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again. Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong. Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
who have never been happy or good. The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone. From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow,
"I will be true to the wife.
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb? All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die. Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages;
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame. first person pronoun - sense of intimacy. Revelation of private thoughts. But, at the same time, the opening two lines adopts an American, reporter-like diction connotations of noun:
down-trodden, pessimistic
atmosphere. plural denotes
this is an growing issue. note
disconnect between a poet in
this context - an outsider proper noun pertaining to the NY
Jazz strip works to authenticate the
reality of the situation adjectives denote a climate of fear
and doubt... of?
pending doom? unknown outcomes?
The inability of leaders to resolve? ironic use of adjective/
pre-modifier "clever" is an
allusion to the hopes of peacetime?
Collapse of the Treaty of Versailles? verb: denotes finality;
all hope lost dissonant alliteration coupled
with personification of the decade
highlights disillusionment
and foreboding tone pre-modifiers:
low | dishonest
highlighting the fragility
of the populace in the context
of the "roaring twenties" which
collapsed into the Great
Depression and WWII metaphor of radio waves
illustrates the collective
and wide-spread experience culminating listing of abstract nouns with
foreboding tone creates a sense
of dead and builds upon the "uncertain
and afraid" notions of new media:
radio waves / newspapers
through the verb circulate contrast between bright
and darkened highlighting
the fear accessing the deep
recesses of all of humanity present participle illustrates that it is
inescapable in daily life 1914-1918 World War I 1916 Easter Uprising (Ireland) 1917 Russian Revolution 1905 first Russian Revolution 1922 Irish Home Rule Period of momentous social, politicial and historical change:

leading to disillusionment with society, fear, doubt... 1920s rise of Fascism Mussolini - Italy
Hitler - Germany (Nazi) 1930s The Great Depression aggressively nationalistic,
centralised, autocratic, government headed by dictator 1933 Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany
Enabling Act leads to him established as dictator The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) was passed by Germany's Reichstag and signed by President Paul von Hindenburg on March 23, 1933. It was the second major step, after the Reichstag Fire Decree, through which Chancellor Adolf Hitler legally obtained plenary powers and established his dictatorship. It received its name from its legal status as an enabling act granting the Cabinet the authority to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag for four years. 1935 German re-armament 1938 Anschluss - German union with Austria and
Czechoslovakia Austria was annexed to the German Third Reich on 12 March 1938. There had been several years of pressure from Germany and there were many supporters within Austria for the "Heim ins Reich"-movement, both Nazis and non-Nazis.[3] Earlier, Nazi Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist Party (Austrian Nazi Party) in its bid to seize power from Austria's Austrofascist leadership. September 1, 1939 - Germany invades Poland The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War (Polish: Kampania wrześniowa or Wojna obronna 1939 roku) in Poland and the Poland Campaign (German: Polenfeldzug) in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II. The invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and ended 6 October 1939 with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland. tone of shock, incredulity (disbelief),
sense of dread grotesque, graphic metaphor and olfactory imagery
to shock with the horror of this act and lasting
remnants of WWI verb offends personifies the night
and illustrates inhumane acts proper noun contextualises
the poem with reference to the
invasion of Poland by Germany diurnal symbolism of night
to suggest death? pre-modifier highlights the inaccurate/
unreliability of recorded history. irony?
shift to objective and dispassionate register.
relate to later reference to Thicydides. metaphor of archeology combined
with revelation | negative diction:
"whole offence" amplifies the shock proper noun alludes to Martin Luther
and his anti-Semitic beliefs which
exemplified with the Nazi policy preposition highlights the
continuum of thought present tense presents a
a sense of immediacy / urgency abstract noun 'culture' emphasises the
widespread ideologies and Luther's
anti-semitic beliefs. Condemning tone
established through post-modifier "mad" proper noun is allusion to
Hitler's birthplace (psychoanalysis) an idealised image of someone
(usually a parent/father) formed in childhood - irrational? inverted phraseology - personalised
tone but also universal allusion to the Treaty of Versailles and
the failed League of Nations inverted biblical reference (do unto others)
prophetic diction: foreshadowing the
negative outcomes which will soon unfold past tense verb highlights sense of alienation of those who are critical of acts of war: serves as a warning. Thucydides was exiled from Athens because he failed to prevent the Spartans from seizing a colony Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian and author. Thucydides has been dubbed the father of "scientific history" because of his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods.

He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right. He was one of the first to suggest that history should always be recorded for what it is and not for the glory of the country that records it. He was exiled as a result of such statements. indicative future tense
illustrates the potential of truth,
but lack of reality?? indicative present tense
demonstrates the reality common noun represents
criticism from persona of rhetoric pre-modifer denotes:
lack of feeling, emotion, concern noun emerges as a foreshadowing
metonym of the atrocities and death
to unfold which come as a consequence
of apathy of the populous allusion to Hitler's text:'Mein Kampf' high modality: recurring cycles of history |
human atrocities are inescapable?
emotive language of verb suffer
heightens the ramifications on all humanity Vaslav Nijinsky (1890 - 1950) was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent. He grew to be celebrated for his virtuosity and for the depth and intensity of his characterizations. A turning point for Nijinsky was his meeting Sergei Diaghilev, a celebrated and highly innovative producer of ballet and opera as well as art exhibitions, who concentrated on promoting Russian visual and musical art abroad. During World War I Nijinsky was interned in Hungary. Diaghilev succeeded in getting Nijinsky out for a North American tour in 1916. However, it was around this time in his life that signs of his schizophrenia were becoming apparent . He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1919. Some suggest he was driven to insanity by the pressures of his teacher. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He spent the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums. allusion to quote from Sir Edward Grey
(Foreign Secretary in British Government
spoken in 1914 "the lights are going out
all over Europe; we shall not see them lit
again in our lifetime" Eros in Greek mythology, was the god of sexual love and beauty. He was also worshipped as a fertility deity. His Roman counterpart was Cupid ("desire"), also known as Amor ("love"). He is also known to represent the desire for self-preservation and uninhibited enjoyment metaphor: creates a sense suspense and
anticipation. Represents US at this time present tense: immediate problem personification through
pre-modifier: urges
audience to realise their own
power and simultaneous ignorance.
False sense of reality common noun: highlights preoccupation with
materialism and the facade of power; denouncing imperialism Literary period: Modernism Literary Period: Modernism collective pronoun noun phrase embodies a distinct tone of criticism
oxymoron? allusion? euphemism? ironic? declarative statement suggests
such a reaction was inevitable allusion to Pericles who wrote a speech
on all the soldier who fell in the war Auden is urging us to draw parallels between Thucydides-Athens; Auden - modern democracy; against Sparta; Fascist dictatorships psychoanalytical term showing the
recurring patterns of humanity noun relates to the political economy allusion to King James Bible
Ecclesiastes 1:18:
"For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow" why capitalised? denote importance
of community? Marxist ideals? ironic use of noun -
if blind and neutral? return to objective register noun denotes competing forces, attitudes,
indifference and inertia to allow such tragedy
to unfold. condemning tone to promote the shame of
inaction from the international community adjective subtle criticism of
nature of capitalist doctrine? hyperbole of pre-modifier, reference to the falsehood
of the American Dream? the bliss of ignorance? symbol of true reflection and inescapable condemnation personification of Imperialism - suggesting the US is more imperialist than democratic/altruistic? symbolic of silence, inaction and inefficiency of the
international community both formally (through League of Nations) and informally through lack of intervention
Full transcript