‘The refugees born for a land unknown’ – a poem by Edwin Muir

We live in a time when there are more refugees from war than at any time in history. 1% of the earth’s population is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. That’s more than the entire population of the UK and more than were displaced after WWII, which was the previous most devastating event in history. Orcadian poet Edwin Muir wrote this powerful poem about refugees, which I love. The rhythm in his language is wonderful when he says “I have fled through land and sea, blank land and sea, Because my house is besieged by murderers.” It’s even more relevant today than it ever was.

‘The refugees born for a land unknown’

The refugees born for a land unknown
We have dismissed their wrongs, now dull and old,
And little judgment days lost in the dark.

‘I have fled through land and sea, blank land and sea,
Because my house is besieged by murderers
And I was wrecked in the ocean, crushed and swept,
Spilling salt angry tears on the salt waves,
My life waste water drawn down through a hole,
Yet lived. And now with alien eyes I see
The flowering trees on the unreal hills,
And in an English garden all afternoon
I watch the bees among the lavender.
Bees are at home, and think they have their place,
And I outside.
Footsteps on the stairs, two heavy, two light,
The door opens. Since then I remember nothing,
But this room in a place where no doors open.
I think the world died many years ago.’

I still treasure my copy of Edwin Muir’s Selected Poems. Here’s a link:

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