"In Memory of Ernst Toller
(d. May 1939)
"The shining neutral summer has no voice
To judge America, or ask how a man dies;
And the friends who are sad and the enemies who rejoice
"Are chased by their shadows lightly away from the grave
Of one who was egotistical and brave,
Lest they should learn without suffering how to forgive.
"What was it, Ernst, that your shadow unwittingly said?
Did the small child see something horrid in the woodshed
Long ago? Or had the Europe which took refuge in your head
"Already been too injured to get well?
For just how long, like the swallows in that other cell,
Had the bright little longings been flying in to tell
"About the big and friendly death outside,
Where people do not occupy or hide;
No towns like Munich; no need to write?
"Dear Ernst, lie shadowless at last among
The other war-horses who existed till they'd done
Something that was an example to the young.
"We are lived by powers we pretend to understand:
They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end
The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.
"It is their to-morrow hangs over the earth of the living
And all that we wish for our friends: but existence is believing
We know for whom we mourn and who is grieving."
- Wystan Hugh Auden (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), May 1939, originally published in Another Time (1940), excerpted from Collected Poems: W. H. Auden