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This poem is about the abuse of human rights and
the suffering of all refugees. Write down three
reasons this picture links to these ideas.
Do you know what a refugee is?
'Refugee': a person who goes to another
country to escape being mistreated for their
religion or politics, or to escape war.
'Blues': a slow, sad song. First sung by
African Americans working as slaves in USA.
These melancholy ballads expressed the
unhappiness of the slaves' lives.
Task: Label the title of this poem with these
meanings and explain why you think the poet
might have chosen these words.
SELECTING EVIDENCESELECTING EVIDENCE
At the top of your poem write the following
This poem is about the abuse of humanThis poem is about the abuse of human
rights and the suffering of all refugees.rights and the suffering of all refugees.
Skim and scan the poem and HIGHLIGHT 6
PIECES OF EVIDENCE that support this
statement. Explain why these lines capture
suffering by zooming in on words and
techniques used by the poet to present these
TASK: READ THE FACTS BELOW &
CHOOSE THREE YOU DID NOT KNOW.
RECORD THEM BESIDE YOUR POEM.
Jews have lived in Europe for nearly 2,000 years.
They experienced racist hostility and persecution.
In the 1920s, German Jews began to face poor treatment
from a group, led by Adolf Hitler.
1933 Hitler introduced laws which deprived German Jews
of their human rights and their lives.
Death squads hunted down Jews in order to kill them.
In the 1930s many German Jews looked for refuge - became
refugees - abroad.
At first they were received kindly, but as war approached
many countries became reluctant to take them, at least in
1. W.H. Auden was born in 1907 (one of
the top poets in England- when he was
2. In the late 1920s he lived in Germany
observing Hitler’s rise to power.
3. In 1939- lived in the USA -met his
lifelong companion (a Jewish person) with
whom he had an on-going relationship
with until his death in 1973.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE POETKEY FACTS ABOUT THE POET
Use these notes to
The poem is structured by having 3 lines in each
The first two lines of every stanza talks about a
situation and the third/last line is about him breaking
the news gently to his “dear”
The rhyme scheme is A-A-B
Blues was considered sad/slave music and therefore
the general structure shows the grim reality of the
situation, where a beautiful world fails to provide and
STANZA 1STANZA 1
“Say this city has ten million souls” the phrase “ten
million” shows how huge this city is (hyperbole). Also
the word “souls” adds a spiritual/religious aspect to it.
“Some are living in mansions, some are living in
holes” This line shows the contrast between the
different people and their living conditions. The word
holes has connotation of death and being buried.
“Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s
no place for us” The repetition used projects the
difficulty faced by the couple. As well as this, it
suggests that no amount of searching for a home will
STANZA 2STANZA 2
“Once we had a country and we thought it fair”
shows how they had their rights and ideals like
belonging to a country abandoned. This is due to
Nazi occupation. The use of the collective ‘we’ shows
that once they had an identity and a place.
“We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go
there now” This shows how helpless they as even
though they belong to a country they once called
home and the country still exists, they still have no
place to go to. The repetition of the word dear
reminds the reader that the refugees have loved ones
and families to protect which makes the poem even
STANZA 3STANZA 3
“In the village churchyard there grows
an old yew/Every spring it blossoms
anew” Shows contrast between nature
and the refugees as there is always a new
hope for natural life – it renews – unlike
the refugees. This is a metaphor that
captures new life, opportunity and
“Old passports can’t do that, my dear,
old passports can’t do that” Once again
the repetition is used to show how helpless
the couple are. The repetition also creates
a lyrical flow to the poem that sounds like
someone trying to comfort a loved one
who is suffering.
STANZA 4STANZA 4
““The consul banged the table and said”The consul banged the table and said”
The word “banged” shows anger.
“‘“‘If you’ve got no passport, you’re officiallyIf you’ve got no passport, you’re officially
dead’“dead’“ Shows that even people with authority
refuse to help and that the state doesn’t really
care. It also shows how without their passport
they are simply nobodies.
““But we are still alive, my dear, but we areBut we are still alive, my dear, but we are
still alive”still alive” Shows the confusion by the couple
as they’re not actually dead.
STANZA 5STANZA 5
““Went to a committee; they offered me aWent to a committee; they offered me a
chair;/Asked me politely to return next year”chair;/Asked me politely to return next year”
Shows that that despite or their current situation,
the committee still doesn’t care and asks them to
come in a year’s time.
““But where shall we go to-day, my dear, whereBut where shall we go to-day, my dear, where
shall we go to-day?”shall we go to-day?” Their problem needs
immediate attention and also portrays their
desperation. This question is aimed at many
people, like a cry for help which again captures
the helplessness of the refugees.
STANZA 6STANZA 6
““Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up andCame to a public meeting; the speaker got up and
said:/’If we let them in, they will steal our dailysaid:/’If we let them in, they will steal our daily
bread’”bread’” Shows how people are afraid of the couple.
The term “daily bread” gives a Christian reference
which shows a Jew vs Christian idea. The impersonal
language ‘them’ also captures the hostility towards the
This stanza emphasizes on how most
of the people are unwilling to help the
couple and feel threatened by them.
STANZA 7STANZA 7
““Thought I heard the thunderThought I heard the thunder
rumbling in the sky”rumbling in the sky” The use
of the word “thunder” to create a
threatening atmosphere. The
word rumbling emphasizes the
power of this threat.
““It was Hitler over Europe,It was Hitler over Europe,
saying: ‘They must die’”saying: ‘They must die’”
shows how the couple are in
danger and under the threat of
death and that this threat hangs
STANZA 8STANZA 8
““Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened withSaw a poodle in a jacket fastened with
a pin”a pin” shows the contrast between the
couple and the animals as the poodle is
cared for, unlike the couple.
““Saw a door opened and a cat let in”Saw a door opened and a cat let in” this also
shows contrast between the couple and the
animals as, unlike the couple, cats are let in
anywhere they want.
““But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, butBut they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but
they weren’t German Jews”they weren’t German Jews” shows that they are
the only people (German Jews) that are under the
threat of death
STANZA 9STANZA 9
““Went down to the harbor and stood upon theWent down to the harbor and stood upon the
quay,/ Saw the fish swimming as if they werequay,/ Saw the fish swimming as if they were
free”free” this shows once again the contrast
between the couple and nature as the fish are
swimming so freely and are able to go any place
they wish. Alternatively, the ‘as if’ makes us
believe at the same time that even though the
fish may look free, they actually are not.
““Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feetOnly ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet
away”away” shows how frustrating it is as the sense of
freedom is so close yet so far.
STANZA 10STANZA 10
““They had no politicians and sang at theirThey had no politicians and sang at their
ease”ease” this shows that the couple blames
politicians for their situation
““They weren’t the human race, my dear,They weren’t the human race, my dear,
they weren’t the human race”they weren’t the human race” shows a
wildlife vs humanity idea.
STANZA 11STANZA 11
““I dreamed of a building with a thousandI dreamed of a building with a thousand
floors”floors” Shows contrast between other people
and the couple as it seems like everyone has
a place to live except them.
““Not one of them was ours, my dear, notNot one of them was ours, my dear, not
one of them was ours”one of them was ours” Shows the reader
the hopelessness faced by the couple.
STANZA 12STANZA 12
““Stood on a great plain in the falling snow”Stood on a great plain in the falling snow”
gives an image of coldness and death, but also of
survival in challenging situations.
““Ten thousand soldiers marching to and fro”Ten thousand soldiers marching to and fro”
Here the writer uses hyperbole to show the
immense number of soldiers after them and how
they are outnumbered.
““Looking for you and me, my dear, looking forLooking for you and me, my dear, looking for
you and me”you and me” Makes a beautiful yet dangerous
ending. The soldiers are not looking for them
particularly but they are looking for German Jews.
Here the speaker wants to highlight the tragedy and
fear of the personal experience as well as the
Find and label the line in the poem that
relates to each statement:
Our country is not what it used to be.
I am envious of the fish in the sea who are free to move.
We are being wiped out of existence- we have no identity.
They expect me to sit and wait- no action is taken.
We are victims under attack.
Our city is divided- it is not a welcoming place of equality.
We are unable to have a fresh start and move on.
Animals are treated with more respect.
The human race is corrupt!
Even in my dreams, I see no place for us in the world.
We are hunted down and tormented; we will always live in fear
of being found.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALLMAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
COMPLETE THE FOLLOWINGCOMPLETE THE FOLLOWING
UNFINISHED SENTENCES…UNFINISHED SENTENCES…
1. The most powerful line in this poem is…
2. The way the speaker addresses the reader as ‘my
dear’ makes us feel…
3. The speaker says that ‘Once we had a country
and we thought it fair’. This means that…
4. The speaker uses ‘we’ and ‘us’ in stead of ‘I’
5. ‘They will steal our daily bread’ refers to/means…
6. The birds are able to sing at ‘ease’ because …
7. The speaker starts lines with: ‘saw’, ‘went’ and
‘walked’. He does not say ‘I saw’ or ‘I walked’
v=Mq0ZZkeuXjI (Online Lesson)
v=krubUqbYslc (Refugee Blues song)
v=eZhaRQjbYWI (Annotation & Analysis)
REFUGEE BLUES VIDEO LINKSREFUGEE BLUES VIDEO LINKS
SAMPLE ESSAY QUESTIONSAMPLE ESSAY QUESTION
How does the writer try to make the readerHow does the writer try to make the reader
sympathize with the refugees in the poem?sympathize with the refugees in the poem?
In your answer you should write about:In your answer you should write about:
the challenges the refugees face
the reactions of the narrator to their situation
the contrasts in the poem
the use of language.