I spotted this on Facebook on December 14, 2012. It was posted a few hours after a devastating mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Browning wrote “The Cry of the Children” in 1844 to give voice to a different form of social suffering–the plight of child laborers in the coal mines and factories of Victorian England. “The country of the free” had a different referent and a different connotation from those evoked today. Many poems have proven to be symbolically, therapeutically, or ironically prescient, seeming to cast a needed light on circumstances the poet could not have imagined. W. H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and “September 1, 1939,” for example, were widely circulated after 9/11.
Why do you suppose the editors at the Poetry Foundation selected this poem (which they had previously earmarked for Labor Day)? Would you have chosen a different poem or emphasized different lines from this one? What does a Facebook user express by sharing it?
Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print. Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. "The Cry of the Children." Poetry Foundation. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. McHenry, Eric. "Auden on Bin Laden." Slate 20 Sep. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.