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Partition -- W H Auden

A poem for India's indepedence day, submitted by Vikram Doctor:
(Poem #868) Partition
 Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
 Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
 Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
 With their different diets and incompatible gods.
 "Time," they had briefed him in London, "is short. It's too late
 For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
 The only solution now lies in separation.
 The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
 That the less you are seen in his company the better,
 So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
 We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
 To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you."

 Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
 Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
 He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
 Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
 And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
 But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
 Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
 And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
 But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
 A continent for better or worse divided.

 The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
 The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
 Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.
-- W H Auden
 From the Collected Poems, 1976, p. 604, poem dated May 1966.

A good example of how while poets are normally thought of as estranged from
daily life, they can comment on news events in illuminating ways. This poem
says as much or more about the impossible nature of Radcliffe's job that any
thing I've read on the subject. The only thing perhaps to add in Radcliffe's
defence is that he refused the fee he was offered for his services.


31 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Gerry Rowe said...

What I like about this poem is how Auden puts all his
large poetic know-how into presenting clearly some
bare facts that speak eloquently for themselves. It
reads almost like a newspaper account, but rhymes and
scans beautifully. The narrative skill and the
concentration on sound seem to co-exist without
tension. The remarkable synthesis is an engaging
account of one man's extraordinary role in some very
large events.


الفيسبوك said...

The remarkable synthesis is an engaging
account of one man's extraordinary role in some very
large events.

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Yamaha V-IXION 2013 said...

Matur suwun atas kabaripun...
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