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Please scan the poem "The Unknown Citizen."

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apuccio | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:53 AM via web

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Please scan the poem "The Unknown Citizen."

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:12 AM (Answer #1)

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The politicians of every nation express their respect and honor perfunctorily to the memories of the martyrs who had laid down their lives in safeguarding the country by building an impressive monument dedicated to the 'Unknown Soldier,' and visiting this monument occasionally to place a wreath on it. This is a charade which became popular especially after World War I.

Auden's ironic poem "The Unknown Citizen" sarcastically suggests that the anonymous ordinary citizen also deserves a similar monument for conforming exactly to the rules and regulations of a mediocre modern civilization. Just like how the monument of the 'unknown soldier' will never reveal the true feelings of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in serving their country, the modern state will never know, leave alone care whether the 'unknown citizen' was free and happy:

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

The poem is a bitter satire against  modern forms of government whose only aim is that all its citizens conform to its sterile norms. The  'unknown' citizen who is only given a number - JS/07 M 378 - sacrifices his unique personality  by abiding by the norms of the state to 'serve the Greater Community.'  By doing so he is canonized by the state which honors him with a marble monument!

The rhyme scheme of "The Unknown Citizen" is irregular and it alternates between a few different, simple rhyme schemes.

The poem begins with an ABAB pattern, but then changes to a rhyming couplet (AA, BB,) after which it becomes very irregular. Some of the rhymes are sandwiched between other rhymes. For instance lines 8-13, which follow the pattern ABBCCA ; and Auden very erratically rhymes 'Inc' with 'drink' five lines later:these two words are so far away that one might not even realize he was rhyming.

Finally, the rhythm of the poem roughly centers on the anapest, a metrical foot that has two unstressed beats followed by a stressed beat:

"He was FOUND by the BUReau of STAtistics to BE"

So the rhythm of the poem can be characterized as largely Anapestic Tetrameter.

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