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Response to Nevilledog (Original post)

Wed Nov 11, 2020, 12:15 PM

2. If anybody is unfamiliar with the Auden/Thucydides reference...

(I had to look it up)

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave ...

Thucydides was unjustly exiled from democratic Athens for a military failure, at which he point he wrote his great history of the Peloponnesian War that contains Pericles’ paean to democracy (the strongest pro-democratic statement of ancient times). Thucydides probably presents Pericles’ speech ironically. He implies that it is propaganda; in fact, self-interest explains all politics. Thucydides, Auden thinks, “analyzed all in his book … / The habit-forming pain, / Mismanagement and grief.”

In stanza 4, we are back in New York, where “blind skyscrapers” reach into the “neutral air.” One sense of “neutral” may be political: the United States is neutral in the war, hence at peace, but also complicit because we do nothing to stop Hitler. Auden is a citizen of a combatant nation who is guiltily safe in neutral Manhattan. Neutrality had been a characteristic failure of the “low dishonest decade” that Auden invoked in the first stanza. The Western democracies chose to be neutral in the Spanish Civil War, which made them complicit to fascist rule. Most of New York’s “blind skyscrapers” house private enterprises, ostensibly free and private, but Auden compares them to the grandiose structures of Berlin and Moscow. New York’s buildings, too, “use / their full height to proclaim / The strength of Collective Man.” The ideology that drives them is presumably “imperialism,” a mirror for the ideologies of Europe.

An essay here:


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Nevilledog Nov 11 OP
LakeArenal Nov 11 #1
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Mike 03 Nov 11 #2
2naSalit Nov 11 #3
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