The scene has all the signs of a facetious culture,

Publishing houses, pawn-shops and pay-toilets;

August and graeco-roman are the granite temples

Of the medicine men whose magic keeps this body

Politic free from fevers,

Cancer and constipation.

The rooms near the railroad stations are rented mainly

By the criminally-inclined; the Castle is open on Sundays

There are parks for plump and playgrounds for pasty


The police must be large, but little men are hired to Service the subterranean

Miles of dendritic drainage.

 A married tribe commutes, mild from suburbia,

Whom ritual rules protect from raids by the nomad

Misfortunes they fear; for they flinch in their dreams at the scratch

Of coarse pecuniary claws, at crying images,

Petulant, thin, reproachful,

Destitute shades of dear ones.

Well, here I am but how, how, asks the visitor

Strolling through the strange streets, can I start to discover

The fashionable feminine fret or the form of insult

Minded most by the men? In what myth do their sages

Locate the cause of evil?

How are these people punished?

How, above all, will they end? By any natural

Fascination of frost or flood? Or from the artful

Obliterating bang whereby God's rebellious image,

After thousands of thankless years spent in thinking about it,

Finally finds a solid

Proof of its independence?

W.H. Auden (1907-1973) was a British poet and writer. 

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