Auden’s September 1, 1939

If asked to name my favourite poem by WH Auden, I would probably say In Memory of WB Yeats though I like any number of his poems: The Unknown Citizen, Lay Your Sleeping Head My Love, O Tell Me the Truth about Love, Funeral Blues, Refugee Blues, Night Mail

See, the list doesn’t include one of his most famous poems, September 1, 1939, marking the day when Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II, when he was in America.

To be honest, I never particularly liked the opening lines, which are the ones most often quoted. But, while reading an article on him in the Guardian, I looked up the poem again and was moved by the way it rose from despair to anger to the ringing affirmation of faith in humanity in the last lines. 

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World War II , Vera Lynn and Auden

This was the day Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia 70 years ago, marking the start of the Second World War. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later, on September 3.

Those wartime memories have now made Vera Lynn the oldest artiste to hit the charts. At the age of 92, she is back on the British album charts with a collection of her wartime songs, We’ll Meet Again, entering at No 20. We’ll Meet Again is a lovely song.

But just as sweet is the German wartime song, Lili Marlene. Here Vera Lynn sings it in English.

The poet WH Auden marked the day with this poem.



September 1, 1939

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