Texts are subjective constructs which, in order to explore political ideologies and their impacts on the individual, represent composers’ differing perspectives on political motivations. Composers seek to effectively convey their perspectives and ideas, and deliberately select the textual form that can most concisely represent this desire, so as to demonstrate how political acts impact individuals and the wider society. Auden’s poems ‘The Unknown Citizen’ and ‘September 1st 1939’ effectively explore these ideas as well as acknowledging their differing contexts, illustrating the impact of political acts and constructing social and political commentaries as they critique and reject their individual political systems to reflect the complex interplay between people and politics.
In ‘September’, Auden scrutinises the impact on individuals of political acts, prompted by the contextual surroundings of America’s apathy towards Germany’s invasion of Poland, representing a society whose detachment stems from ignorant optimism and wilful blindness. Auden emphasises the need for universal action and our shared responsibility, denouncing the state of public misconception and lack of action as a loss of common humanity, through the metaphor ‘proclaim strength of collective man… pours its vain competitive excuse.’ Auden highlights these constructs as a demonstration of the immense power, technology, and modernity that the capitalist US possesses. Moreover, the adjective ‘competitive’, is viewed as a direct criticism towards capitalist social orders that believe wealth equates to influence and are ironically less likely to resist. This satirical portrayal encourages the responder to feel aversion at the lack of concern such states have. ‘Who can release them now, who can reach the dead, who can speak for the dumb?’ This is instantly juxtaposed with the gentle tone of ‘All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie, the romantic lie in the brain’. This use of first person and the metaphor of the ‘folded lie’ explains the power of the voice of the poet and emphasises its continual value within a contemporary society as a form of action to impact individual lives. Thus Auden’s unrestrained voice demolishes dreams and propaganda and confronts the audience with the cruel impacts of war on individuality.