W.H. Auden is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. The old poet with his ubiquitous cigarette passed away forty years ago this month.
What follows is one of Auden's best known works. September 1, 1939 was his reflections on the day that World War II began - the day Hitler's forces invaded Poland. The most memorable and quoted line in the poem is the last one of the next to the last stanza: "We must love one another or die." It is a line that Auden deleted at one time, and changed at another - but history - and publisher's - have chosen to preserve it for its startling clarity and important message.
The novelist, E.M. Forster, famously commented about Auden, "Because he once wrote 'We must love one another or die' he can command me to follow him."
September 1, 1939
by W.H. Auden
I sit in one of the dives