How Do The Poems ‘Refugee Blues’ And ‘Disabled’ Present The Impacts Of War?

Ian Dos Santos 11M

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‘Refugee Blues’ and Disabled are both poems written before the first half of the 20th century, which was a period of pure hatred from all over the world. Both ‘Refugee Blues’ and ‘Disabled’, have been influenced by the writers’ own personal experiences as they both in their own ways replicate the atrocity behind both the first world war and second.’Refugee Blues’ by W. H. Auden is a poem about the severe realities of war with themes such as: loss,discrimination,selfishness,hardship, and change. ‘Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen is similar in this aspect and it also addresses the same message Auden is trying to convey; the extravagance of war. The definition of the word ‘refugee’ is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster so therefore the use of the word ‘refugee’ implies that the poem is about a person or a group of people attempting to escape their country (Nazi Germany in the poem) but cannot, due to the fact that they do not own a passport. The word ‘blues’ is a reference towards the sub-genre of jazz which originated by the African-American communities during the periods of discrimination so it symbolises discrimination and sadness. ‘Disabled’ conveys the impact of war on those who had the luxury-or not- to live through it by analysing the present life of an injured soldier to his past life.

Both poems convey discrimination and the selfishness of people in different ways. In ‘Disabled’ The man feels as if he is discriminated against and treated differently to other people.This is shown when he says ‘all of them touch him like some queer disease’.The word ‘them’ isolates the people as different to him and the simile ‘like some queer disease’ shows how they are scared of him as they would be of a disease.The lack of care for a war veteran is reinforced as ‘some cheered him home but not as crowds cheer goal’.The word ‘some’ states there aren’t very many, and that he feels ignored.Another point to highlight how ungrateful the people are is ‘only a solemn man who brought him fruits thanked him’.The adjective ‘solemn’ demonstrates the emotion of the disabled man.

Both poems explore the theme of loss in order to portray the wastefulness of war through the use of: repetition, imagery and emphasis.In ‘Refugee Blues’, Auden uses repetition when it says,’We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there’. The repetition makes it more touching as it emphasises their problem of not being able to leave their country as they lack passports which is later shown when it is said ‘Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that’ leaving them homeless. ‘Disabled’ contains imagery which amplifies the theme of loss such as, ‘he will never feel again how slim girls’ waists are’ and ‘he noticed how the women’s eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole’ making the war veteran isolated. An example of emphasis in ‘Refugee Blues’ is when it states ‘Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors…not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours’ a hyperbole is used to illustrate their situation creating sympathy for the reader. Owen uses sensitive language such as, ‘his back will never brace’, when he refers to the present in order to show that he is now weak and defenceless. The juxtaposition of the strong and manly language when he refers to the past such as, ‘he’d look a god in kilts’, suddenly makes the reader realise that he can never be the man he once was.

The theme of hardship is visible throughout the two poems in the way that the ‘disabled’ ex-soldier is struggling to live in the present and come to reality with his fate. This is obvious in the beginning when it is said, ‘Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn, voices of play and pleasures after day’. He is dressed formally in a ‘ghastly suit of grey’ which is cut at the waist illuminates that he has lost his legs and he listens to the voices of young children which reminds him of something he can never have again.In ‘Refugee Blues’ suffering is undeniable as the whole poem is about a male Jew and his partner desperately trying to find a new place to emigrate, but unfortunately cannot as ‘Old passports can’t do that’.in the last line of ‘Refugee Blues’ it is personified that ‘Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro: looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me’, once again laying out the repetition that has been used in order to underline that there is a whole army looking for just two people. Furthermore, the repetition could also reference towards the blues rhythm. The final line of ‘Disabled’ states,’he will spend a few sick years in institutes’, implying that he will spend a few bedridden years attending institutes before he passes away. Furthermore, in the last line, it claims, ‘how cold and late it is! Why don’t they come and put him to bed? Why don’t they come?’ This is an example of a double meaning as it references towards the nurses not coming ‘and putting him into bed’, and it also refers to death not coming soon enough to take his life as he cannot handle the suffering anymore.

In addition, the message of change has been thoroughly examined in ‘Disabled’ and ‘Refugee Blues’. The rhyming pattern in ‘Disabled’ is shown to have rhythm for example in the first line the words ‘dark’, ‘park’, ‘grey’, ‘day’, ‘hymn’ and ‘him’ all rhyme, however, the rhyming pattern in the last paragraph becomes more irregular. This is done to prove how the war veteran’s lifes used to be perfect and regular but has now changed after going to war.This is in contrast to ‘Refugee Blues’, which contains a regular rhyming pattern. In ‘Refugee Blues’ the status of Jews were completely diminished as animals were being treated more humane than the Jewish people when it states, ‘Saw a door opened and a cat let in’. Also nature is being proved to be free unlike the Jews as in one point it is said ‘Saw the fish swimming as if they were free…walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees; they had no politicians and sang at their ease’, this shows how all this freedom is extremely close and that they are stopped by laws and oppressed by Hitler’s commands. At the beginning of the poem ‘Disabled’ the man is portrayed to be an attractive young and passionate man. Later on, he is left crippled and can no longer use and appreciate what once gave him comfort.

The idea in the poem ‘Refugee Blues’ shows how hollow intellect is, especially in the mass extermination of Jews during the second world war. This idea has doubtlessly been put across. Likewise, the idea of ‘Disabled’ is to show the true colours behind war and the impotence of it. Owen has plainly justified this concept. Like each other, ‘Refugee Blues’ and ‘Disabled’ are both dark and chilling poems. They distress the reader in order to present the true meaning behind war.