The Diaspora: by W. H. Auden || Summary and Analysis

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Introduction:

      Diaspora is a sonnet constituting a part of The New Year Letter, published in 1941. Later it found its place in the Collected Shorter Poems 1950. It is a poem of fourteen lines. But it does not follow either the Petrarchan or the Shakespearean model. In a Petrarchan sonnet, there are two stanzas, one of eight lines known as octave, and other of six lines, known as sestet. In a Shakespearean sonnet, there are four stanzas of four lines each, known as quatrains, and a couplet of two lines. Diaspora means the dispersion of the Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian captivity. In his sonnet, Auden has treated the theme of the scattering and the mythological wandering of the Jews consequent of the curse of God on them. The theme has been dealt with a clever and oblique gloss. Besides the theme of the dispersion of the Jews there is also an important strand of thought that the Jews have suffered all these ages from a sense of guilt which seems to infect the whole mankind. Auden has brilliantly expanded the idea of the guilt of the Jews to the sense of the guilt of mankind in general - a sense of guilt which has led man to self sacrifices and also vengeance from time to time.

      The Jews who crucified Christ could never understand how the message and teachings of Christ would ever live after him. They had never imagined the consequences of the crucification. They lost their land under the curse of God. They tortured and beggard Christ to prove it themselves that they needed the religion and their land to exist.

Diaspora is a sonnet constituting a part of The New Year Letter, published in 1941. Later it found its place in the Collected Shorter Poems 1950. It is a poem of fourteen lines. But it does not follow either the Petrarchan or the Shakespearean model. In a Petrarchan sonnet, there are two stanzas, one of eight lines known as octave, and other of six lines, known as sestet. In a Shakespearean sonnet, there are four stanzas of four lines each, known as quatrains, and a couplet of two lines.
Diaspora

Summary

      Christ is alive till today. The jews tried to kill Christ but they failed. The torturing of Christ proved the fact that those who had money and property could do everything. The priests were the worshippers of Mammon, and Christ was the lover of fellow-men of God. The oppressors of Christ were oppressed by Hitler.

      Christ came to the world with a definite mission, and he did that for which he was designed. He spoke against the corrupt and selfish priests, their dogmas, their superstitions, and this made the Jews excited with fear, lest he should wreck their world; their social order. The tyrants always feel insecure. Hitler also felt insecure about the Jews, and this made him kill them. Christ was sent by God to serve and love the lowest of mankind.

      The Jews did all that they could to Christ-crucified him and destroyed him. Then such in the nature of guilt and vengeance that it causes a chain of reaction which run through human history.

      The tyrants were not satisfied with crucifying Christ. They felt envious of the position he and his preachings had; the Jews preached their own doctrines and conjured up a idea of an unreal world, 'a land of mirrors'. Having done all this the only thing left for them to do was to outrage humanity itself, to negate and degenerate human nature.

Critical Appreciation

      Diaspora means dispersion or scattering, and the sonnet is Auden's comment on the Nazi oppression of the Jews, as a result of which they were compelled to leave Germany, and were scattered over Europe and other parts of the world. This condemnation of Nazi brutality is, however, oblique and indirect and brings out the cyclic process of history.

      Auden finds Objective Co-relative, for the contemporary situation in what happened to Christ 2000 years ago. Ages ago, the jews had oppressed Christ. They had beggard him, persecuted him.

      They were not satisfied with this. They distorted and falsified his teachings. On the one hand they presented a false image of Christ to the people and, on the other hand, they deceived the people by holding up to them false hopes of a heaven, of a Utopia, which had no existence in reality.

      In the modern age they have been paid back for their own misdeeds. The Nazis have oppressed the Jews - the oppressors of Christ in the past - who have been compelled to run away from Germany. Thus they have been dispersed, scattered far and wide. They have been called treacherous. The German people have been deceived by the romantic notion of German Conquest of all Europe. Thus the oppressors of the past become the oppressed of today.

      Auden employs the technique, of compression successfully in Diaspora. The sense in the poem is somewhat strained due to the compression. The style taken by Auden for this sonnet is economic and increases the beauty of the poem. Auden also shows a sensitive understanding of history in recognising the forces at work behind the Catastrophic events.

      The poem conveys the impression of abstractness since it is bare of imagery. Auden has chosen a religious and Biblical theme for the poem. This gives a trifle tone to the poem.

Conclusion:

      There are two layers of meaning in the poem. On one level, the poem is about Christ, the oppressed and the Jews, the oppressors. On another level, the oppressed are the jews, and the oppressor is Hitler. The Jews killed Christ and Hitler killed the jews. The jews killed Christ, because they felt insecured before his teachings, Christ exposed the jews, their selfishness, greed, corruption and superstitions. By killing Christ, they thought they would establish the superiority of their dogmas, thereby concealing their sins. But they did not succeed in their dirty game. On the other hand Hitler killed the Jews to establish the superiority of the Arians. The dogmas of Hitler were the economic reasons, which provoked him to kill the jews. The oppressors, of Christ were oppressed by Hitler. Hence history repeats itself. The idea of the oppressor and the oppressed is conveyed through irony. The sonnet can be taken as a warning to the oppressors; and thus it seems to be ethical in intention, reflecting Auden's Christian concerns.

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