Friday, August 13, 2010

No Place For Us

Felix Nussbaum's The Refugee (1939)

Excerpts from Refugee Blues
by W.H.Auden

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...

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said:
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread";
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying: "They must die";
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind...

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

British poet W.H.Auden wrote this poem in 1939, the same year that Felix Nussbaum painted The Refugee (top). Nussbaum died in Auschwitz in 1944.

A high school lesson plan using this poem
Bio of Auden
Art by Felix Nussbaum

This week, Stenhouse is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up.


Ruth said...

Wow. I can't believe I've never heard this poem before! Thanks for sharing it.

Author Amok said...

It's new to me too. Thanks for sharing the painting. It makes me think of "The Scream" even though the two are very different.

B.C. said...

This poem is tremendous. Love the repeated "my dear," it adds such a feeling of tenderness.

There are some other Auden poems I really like. Of course, I can't think of any right now of course (hence my need for that poetry iPod). I will add this to that list for sure. Thanks for sharing it!

jama said...

A powerful and moving poem. Nussbaum's painting perfectly complements it! Thanks.

M Pax said...

Touching poem and full of power. The painting echos the mood perfectly. I feel the holes in their souls.

Mary Lee said...

This pairing is very powerful. This poem could be the voice of the families I teach. I'll write it on my heart.