The Guilt of Human Action

In 1936, Louis McNeice and W.H. Auden, two English poets, spent time in Iceland, where they wrote a book, Eclogue From Iceland. Near the end of the book, they expressed their despair at what they perceived to be happening in Europe: The rise of fascism and the faltering response from Britain, France and the other democratic governments. The Spanish Civil War was just beginning. They wrote a lengthy free verse poem entitled “last Will and Testament” It ended with this prayer:
“And to the good, who know how wide the gulf, how deep,
Between Ideal and Real, who being good, have felt
The final temptation to withdraw, sit down and weep.
We pray the power to take upon themselves the guilt
Of human action, though still as ready to confess
The imperfectiion of what can and must be built,
The wish and power to act, forgive and bless.”

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