Sun, 21 April 2024

Epitaph on a Tyrant

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Berlin, February 26 1939

by W.H. Auden

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973). The timeless tyrant fills a political void. Auden was in Berlin in the 30s and witnessed National Socialism replacing the Weimar Republic. This sestet was penned in 1939 but could equally have been datelined Ukraine 2021/2. Instead of Nazis, the Russian Mafia. The poem is driven by an unholy trinity: simple message, utter subservience and harrowing denouement. The ideological end justifies the sacrifice. No matter what. 



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