"Our Fathers And Ourselves Sowed Dragon's Teeth"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This poem is a dedication to all who have suffered at the hands of dictatorial governments, and an acknowledgment of the failure of the modern century to prevent the oppressions of such governments. Most of the poem constitutes a cataloguing of atrocities done in the name of the "Perfect State." The poem begins: "For all those beaten, for broken heads,/ The fatherless, the simple, the oppressed,/ The ghosts in the burning city of our time. . . ." It then proceeds to name the various agonies–public and private, physical and mental–of people under oppression. After these atrocities are named and partially described, the poet makes an indictment against his own society and age for its failure to achieve a lasting and secure peace. "We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong," he says. Alluding to the myth of Cadmus, who sowed dragon teeth, out of which armed men sprung up and killed each other with the exception of five, he vivifies the impending disaster of the world situation during the thirties:

Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon's teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.