Auden's first several stanzas draw contrasts between the Europe of yesterday and the conflict-ridden Europe of the present day. A "counting-frame" (similar to an abacus) is a mathematical instrument, and a "cromlech" is a proto-religious monumental tomb (similar to England's Stonehenge). Auden's first stanza remarks that the world in days gone by was reverential to "angels" and "gargoyles" and replete with "navigators." This is all ultimately compared to "the struggle" of the Civil War (the refrain of stanzas 4–6, 22, and 23). In service of this comparison, Auden adduces "the counting-frame" and "the cromlech" to stand in for mathematical and scientific pursuits and religion, respectively.
The "fairies" represent paganism and other mythical religious folklore, and the "carving of angels" symbolizes the replacement of this folkloric religion with Christianity.
"The trial of heretics among the columns of stone" (stanza 4) is an allusion to the Spanish Inquisition of the mid-fifteenth...
(The entire section contains 641 words.)