What ogres can

W. H. Auden wrote a poem titled August 1968 in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring.

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master Speech.
About a subjugated plain,
Among the desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

Cody Walker wrote at Kenyon Review in September 2016:

We depend on poets for this kind of expression, of course. A totalitarian regime communicates through jargon and claptrap; a poet (or a poet like Auden, anyway) fires back with rhyme and tetrameter. At the time, the fight doesn’t feel fair—but history has a way of declaring surprising victors. Jump forward to 1989: the occupation ends. As Christopher Hitchens remembers it, “Not a shot was fired, and not a skull was broken, but the system farcically evaporated in the face of a wave of literate and humorous and ironic and defiant words, uttered by novelists like Milan Kundera, playwrights like Vaclav Havel, and singers like the Plastic People of the Universe. Velvet has always struck me as a vapid word for this cultural revolution. If we must have a V, then verbal would be preferable.”

Poets, novelists, playwrights, singers…and comedians.

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