Theo Coggin

A blog on communications

Refugee blues in 2016

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me. - WH Auden


I heard this poem read at a Christmas Carol concert this past Sunday. By W H Auden, I had not heard Refugee Blues for many a year.


And then, last night, I watched another appalling “episode” of the refugee crisis stalking our world. It is 2016; almost 2017. Christmas with its own story of the refugee child, Jesus, is around the corner, and all the shopping malls of the cities scream at us again… and again, and again.

And the refugee story remains as apt as 2000 years ago. The difference is that this year, last year, next year… well, the difference is that story simply invades our comfortable living rooms via TV and social media.

I find it good to read again these words written in 1939 just before World War II when thousands of Jews were starting their flight from Germany and newsreels told the story. I find it instructive to read as contemporary media floods our homes, when it deems it newsworthy, of stories of people bloodied and bruised by the big Herods of the modern world, running away from their homes. It is as stark and eerie as the story of that little Jewish family that ran from Bethlehem so long ago.

We just never learn to accept everyone as we wish ourselves to be loved.



Single Post Navigation

One thought on “Refugee blues in 2016

  1. Christopher Coggin on said:

    Good reading Theo. I have forwarded it to my own network

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: