The Unknown Citizen
(To JS/07/M/378, This Marble Monument Is Erected By The State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to beOne against whom there was no official complaint,And all the reports on his conduct agreeThat, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.Except for the War till the day he retiredHe worked in a factory and never got fired,But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,For his Union reports that he paid his dues,(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)And our Social Psychology workers foundThat he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every dayAnd that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declareHe was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment PlanAnd had everything necessary to the Modern Man,A phonograph, a radio, a car, and a frigidaire.Our researchers into Public Opinion are contentThat he held the proper opinion for the time of year;When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.He was married and added five children to the population,Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,And our teachers report that he never interfered with their educationWas he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:Had anything been wrong we should certainly have heard.
-W. H. Auden
This could almost have been yesterday, except for the Instalment Plan, which lost out to credit cards, and five children, which would nowadays be a statistical anomaly, but Auden (1907-1973) wrote this in March of 1939. (Oh, and newspapers are going...)
This was the first Auden poem I ever knew, and for a long time while I remembered half the poem, I didn't know it was by him.