In and on "September 1, 1939," Auden wrote of how the "clever hopes expire of a low dishonest decade." The clever hopes of another low, dishonest decade expired a few hundred feet away before the eyes of my wife and me as we walked our 3-year-old son to his first day of preschool.
The sophisticated view that striped-pants diplomacy, economic sanctions and pinprick military strikes could subdue a ruthless enemy backed by and residing in many countries is now as much rubble as the Twin Towers. We face a protracted fight of uncertain direction, tactics, weapons and fronts.
The world view in and around TriBeCa, where we live less than a mile from ground zero, has turned upside down. A neighborhood that twice overwhelmingly gave its vote to a candidate who boasted that his generation "loathe[d]" the military now welcomes hundreds of uniformed reservists and Military Police.
People who last week weighed which candidate for mayor to support based on who could more venomously impugn the motives and methods of the New York Police Department now bring food and flowers to the First Precinct and ask with trepidation how many officers the precinct has lost. (Miraculously, the answer is zero.)
Almost from the first moments after the attack came the questions. Are you going to move out of New York City permanently? Doesn't the dust at ground zero mean you should evacuate your family? Won't you leave because something else might happen?
The answer, of course, is "No."
If there is a particular danger of another attack, all here would take the proper measures. But we can no more abandon our home and our city before the general threat of terrorists than do the residents of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Some, for the moment, cannot be here: Rescue authorities have barred from their homes some whose proximity to the blasts is such that smoke, soot and the crush of rescue vehicles would be a health and safety hazard. But those of us who can stay, do. And we must.
Rescue and aid teams from all over the United States have converged on our neighborhood. How can we seek or accept such extraordinary assistance if those of us right here turn tail and run at the first chance?
Many Americans know that Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, at 101 the last surviving member of the Allied leadership from World War II, is a revered figured in country. But few today understand why.
In 1940, the woman now known as the queen mother was, as wife of King George VI, queen of England. She was also the mother of two small daughters, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth the latter, the heir to the throne, just 14.
As the Battle of Britain saw Hitler's planes rain bombs down on London for more than a year, the queen was asked whether she would remove her daughters from the capital. Her reply, which she made good on, won her the deserved and undying love of free people everywhere: "The girls will not leave London unless I do. I will not leave London unless the king does. And the king will not leave under any circumstances whatsoever."
Hitler, like the present enemies of our country, struck at the most visible symbols: The House of Commons was bombed into rubble. Their Parliament in ruins, Londonders might well have made a panicked exodus from their city.
But led by a patriotic and determined spirit in both their king and queen and in Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Britons stayed in their capital.
We have no way of knowing whether we have seen the last of the attacks on our city or whether there will be a Battle of New York in which the enemy carries out more strikes against the innocent. But in the months and years ahead, many of our countrymen will be called to hard duty to make the world again safe for civilization.
We owe it to our country to prove that we, too, have faith in our national cause. We have no choice but to, again in the words of Auden, "show an affirming flame."