From the Archives: ‘Crisis,’ a Poem by W. H. Auden

On the day the Germans marched into Poland and began World War II, The Atlantic published Auden’s meditation on fascism and the dread of invasion.

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This poem was published in The Atlantic’s September 1939 issue, shortly after W. H. Auden immigrated to America, on the day that German troops marched into Poland and World War II began. First printed alongside an account of life inside an early Nazi concentration camp and a timely story on the Polish military, “Crisis” is a meditation on the creeping horror of fascism and the dread of invasion.

It acted as an unofficial prologue to Auden’s famous poem on the beginning of the war, “September 1, 1939,” and as an introduction of his writing to The Atlantic. In the ensuing 35 years, 12 more of his poems and two prose pieces appeared in the magazine. — Annika Neklason