SAY THIS CITY HAS TEN MILLION SOULS
Q.l. What does Auden say about the life of plants, animals and birds and the life of human beings?
Or The poet has very successfully presented the case of refugees. Discuss.
Or Bring out the misery and plight that was faced by the migrating German Jews in the U.S.A.
In this poem, the bitter feelings of immigrants have been conveyed in a light vein. We come to know that man today stands imprisoned in numerous limits and chains such as race, color, nationality, and passports, etc. The poem especially presents the case of immigrants from Germany to the U.S.A. But in this city, they have even lost their identity. Passport has gained more importance than they themselves. Without new passports, they are officially dead. They go from door to door, from one office to another to seek shelter to no avail.
The rich live in mansions and the poor live in the holes. A number of flats and houses with thousands of doors and windows are there in the city. But no one is for the poor. They are oppressed and miserable. The politicians spread venom against them and look down upon them. They urge the government to deport them. Animals, cats, dogs, birds, and fishes are free to move about because there is no politician among them. Men are treated on such a sub-human level. They think of returning to their country. But Hitler has announced a death sentence against them. His soldiers are searching for them to kill them.
But the poet wishes that there should be no restriction of the passports rather everyone should be allowed to go anywhere he likes.222
Q.2 What is the Theme of the poem?
The theme of the poem is the miserable condition of the refugees as a result of the war. It deals with alienation, estrangement, and isolation of the immigrants in the new land. The poet tells us about the degradation of man by man.
The poet compares the miserable condition of refugees with that of birds and animals and concludes that birds are better than men. The German Jews have to flee from their country. No government is ready to accept them rather it is trying to arrest and send them back. The politicians and the public hate them and are afraid of their existence. The dogs and cats are invited to the houses but not the refugees. Without renewed passports, they are considered dead. Contrary to it, birds, animals, and fish are free to move about and to sing happily. The message is that we should have love and sympathy for all. No government should ban the movements of the people throughout the world. The description of the friendless, penniless, helpless, and shelterless immigrants arouses feelings of pity in the reader. The tone of the poem is pathetic, ironic, and tragic. The reader is also involved in their sad plight and shares their miserable condition. 203
Q.3. The poet has used several numeral images to produce contrast in the poem. What effect does this convey?
The poet has used numeral images in this poem to describe the miserable plight of the Jews. These images arouse sympathy for the refugees and create an effect of contrast. There is good contrast between the rich living in mansions and the poor living in slums and holes. ii. Millions of people live in New York, but there is no room for the refugees. iii. The natives live the life of luxury while the refugees lead a sub-human life. iv. There are thousands of buildings with thousands of doors and windows. But the refugees are refused to step foot in New York. v. The birds, animals, and fish move about freely but the refugees are banned to go to certain areas. They cannot even return to their country. Hitler has announced a death sentence against them and the soldiers are after them to put them to death.
Q.4. What are some of the typical urban elements of the poem?
It is a typical urban poem as the life of a big city has been described here. There are many things in the poem which relate to city life. The very title of the poem gives the idea of urbanity. It deafly shows a big city. Millions of souls live in “mansions”, many others live in “holes”. The poet talks about an outdated passport, the “Consul” banging the table, “Committee” that offered a chair but did not pay heeds to his problems. He talks about Hitler’s address proclaiming that the Jews must die. They must be killed. He talks about a public meetings” in which the “speaker” was talking jacket”, “the harbor” and “quay” and a “building with thousand floors” but “no one” is for the refugees. All such details hint at the urban element.