Epitaph On A Tyrant
Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
Research and Questions for Reflection: “Epitaph On A Tyrant”
- Define the use of the word “epitaph” and “tyrant” as used in the title of this poem.
- What type of perfection might the tyrant be seeking?
- How is the tyrant in the poem seen as being human?
- Why is tyranny so frightening?
- How is a tyrant absolute?
- In another poem, Auden wrote: “But time is always guilty. Someone must pay for
our loss of happiness, our happiness itself." How might these lines pertain to war? How do they reflect life in general?
- Auden wrote in his poem Shorts: “When Statesmen gravely say 'We must be realistic', The chances are they're weak and, therefore, pacifistic, But when they speak of Principles, look out: perhaps Their generals are already poring over maps.” How might these words reflect current reality? How would you interpret the word “pacifistic” used in the poem?
- Research Auden’s life and prepare a report on his life and words. Provide examples of his writings to inform your report.