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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

WH Auden's unsparing poem on the partition of India

Auden's 1966 poem 'Partition' is a caustic criticism of the five weeks Cyril Radcliffe spent in the subcontinent drawing up the borders between India and Pakistan.

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partitionBetween two peoples fanatically at odds,With their different diets and incompatible gods.'Time,' they had briefed him in London, 'is short. It's too lateFor mutual reconciliation or rational debate:The only solution now lies in separation.The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,That the less you are seen in his company the better,So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.

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