Say This City Has Ten Million Souls (W. H. Auden) – Analysis

Say This City Has Ten Million Souls by W. H. Auden Summary Analysis

In this touching poem “Say This City Has Ten Million Souls”, the poet has convincingly argued the case of Jew refugees, who were forced to leave their country as Hitler had ordered their genocide. They had taken refuge in a metropolitan city of ten million people, but they were given very cold treatment. The officers dodged them on false promises and the common public considered them the supplanters of their rights. Their existence was associated with a passport without which they were officially dead. Their plight was most miserable as they had no place to take shelter and no friend to fall back upon. The poet has compared their pathetic condition with dogs and cats that are patronized and provided with basic necessities. The birds and fish also enjoy the freedom and the blessings of life for neither they have politicians nor belong to human race.

The poem reflects effectively the sense of deprivation among the immigrants, especially the German Jews who were neither accepted by their own country nor provided refuge anywhere else. The poet has portrayed the miserable condition of the German Jews who were now wandering from pillar to post as refugees. They expected sympathy and co-operation at the international level on humanistic grounds, but instead, they were given cold treatment from high officials as well as common local inhabitants.

A representative refugee expresses his miserable condition in comparison to other citizens of an independent country. Pet animals, birds, fish, and all other creatures have a right to live with the basic necessities of life, but being the Jew refugees they have been deprived of all human rights. Thus they have become a slur in the name of humanity. They are wandering about the big city without shelter. There are people of different categories, rich as well as poor, living in splendid buildings as well as in slums and huts but they are not allowed to visit it. Hitler and his soldiers are after them like hunting dogs.

The representative refugee says that their sufferings are irremediable. For example, trees are revived in spring and are renewed afresh by new saplings, leaves, flowers, and fruits but refugees’ passports are not renewable. The attitude of government officials is unsympathetic and they just try to dodge them by their affected polished manners and false promises. The local inhabitants are also hostile as they think that refugees will usurp their rights and take possession of their resources. In short being refugees, they have been denied to right to live and are given the worst treatment when compared to other creatures of the world. The poet says Hiter is thundering in Europe by openly declaring that he will elimminate the Jews from the face of the earth.

In the face of all these disappointing conditions, the poet sees a gigantic building in a fanciful dream, which has thousands of stories and many thousands of doors and windows. He laments the bad luck of the Jews that even in a dream he could not see a door, marked for refugees to accommodate them. Again, he saw another dream and found himself in the vast plain of wilderness where he had no shelter in a snowfall. He saw that ten thousand military men were in their search to catch and kill them.

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