On the occasion of W.H. Auden’s 100th Birthday

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint,

And all the reports on his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a

saint,

For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.

Except for the War till the day he retired

He worked in a factory and never got fired,

But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.

Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,

For his Union reports that he paid his dues,

(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)

And our Social Psychology workers found

That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.

The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day

And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.

Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,

And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.

Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare

He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan

And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,

A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content

That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;

When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.

He was married and added five children to the population,

Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his

generation.

And our teachers report that he never interfered with their

education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

For more see The Auden Society

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Posted on February 21, 2007, in Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Michael Weinstock

    Hey Yonah! I love this post. I am so glad that you are giving honor to one of the world’s greatest thinkers, poets, and writers. Auden’s poetry has affected me in so many ineffable ways. There is so much one can glean from works as monumental as his. I only wish more of us would “get back to basics,” and relive what made this universe unique–the way that humanity has shape-shifted the common, drone-filled existence. All one needs is to hop outside in the [now] fresh, Spring, air and sing; sing to oneself and look around with a smile. Far too many of us count their days as half empty, all the while overlooking life’s greatest moments. Every single modicum of time unfolds into the next and its withing this succession that we truly become Heavenly.
    Perhaps inspired by such giants as Auden, we all can finger a taste of this heaven we call the “daily grind.”

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