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BA ADP English Poem Say this city has ten Million Souls (W. H. Auden) Summary & Introduction

English Notes Poem Say this city has ten Million Souls

Say this city has ten Million Souls (W. H. Auden) Introduction

The poem brings out very aptly the fact that man today stands imprisoned in numberless shackles or chains, such as the chains of race, color, nationality, passports, visas etc. This is a poem of estrangement and alienation. Basically it was written by the poet to describe the poor and humiliating conditions of the German Jews who fled from their country afraid of Hitler’s persecution but the poem may describe any other immigrants in an equally suitable way.

Say this city has ten Million Souls (W. H. Auden) Summary

The poem is, in fact, a song supposed to have been sung by the German Jews who migrated to the U.S.A. afraid of the persecution by Hitler during the period of the Second World War. They say that according to the people the city of New York has a large population of one crore (ten million). Some of the people are rich and some are poor. Still there is no place for poor immigrants. They used to have a country of their own once but they cannot go there although it is still there. Even the yew trees growing in the village churchyard bring new blossoms every year in the spring season but their passports, once old, never grow new. On the other hand, there is a need for a passport as a person without a passport is treated as a non-entity in the official records.
They went to a committee but they were asked to return after one year for the solution of their problems. What will they do in the meantime? They heard a political leader speaking against them in a public meeting. They heard Hitler talking against them on the radio in Europe. They were miserably helpless.
The dogs, cats, birds, and even fishes are free there to move as they like but they (the immigrants) are not free to move as they like. They see dreams about thousand storeyed houses but there is no floor or even a room for them there. Even if they move to snow-covered open areas, they are hunted there by the soldiers and brought back (perhaps to their camps). They are passing a horribly miserable life which is even at a lower level than animal life. Still other human beings do not bother about them at all and do not realize that the immigrants too, are human beings like them.

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