W.H Auden’s poem “August 1968” captures the spirit of its time:
“The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master Speech.
About a subjugated plain,
Among the desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.”
The poem is a critique of war. The Ogre is a representation of the militaristic: the rockets and the tanks. And the title of “August 1968” is a reference to the Vietnam War.
But Auden is wrong. The Ogre is not some physically, vile creature. He’s not an ugly monster, a la Shrek. He’s not a deformed soldier, running through the jungles with a rifle in his hand. He’s not strong.
The Ogre is a broken person. He (or she) is debased and jealous. He despises the happiness of others – he wants to destroy the beautiful. He want to soil the healthy marriage, or the profitable business.
The Ogre is a weakling.
6 thoughts on “Poetry Review: A Critique of “August 1968” by W.H. Auden”
August 1968 is not about the Vietnam war. It was written at the time the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Read about the Warsaq Pact Invasion of Czechoslavakia. August 1968
The wrinkle in your shirt has been duly noted.
When Babe Ruth would hit a home run, he often had a small wrinkle in his shirt. Yet it mattered little, since he was circling the bases of GLORY, being applauded by a stadium of appreciate admirers.
I am like this Ruth fella´…