"A Healthy Spot"

This poem, written in 1944, captures Auden's views on small-town life in Swarthmore. Indeed, according to Edward Mendelson, in Later Auden (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999), a typescript version of the poem is simply entitled "Swarthmore" (Mendelson 253).

They're nice - one would never dream of going over
Any contract of theirs with a magnifying
Glass, or of locking up one's letters - also
Kind and efficient - one gets what one asks for.
Just what is wrong, then, that, living among them,
One is constantly struck by the number of
Happy marriages and unhappy people?
They attend all the lectures on Post-War Problems,
For they do mind, they honestly want to help; yet,
As they notice the earth in their morning papers,
What sense do they make of its folly and horror
Who have never, one is convinced, felt a sudden
Desire to torture the cat or do a strip-tease
In a public place? Have they ever, one wonders,
Wanted so much to see a unicorn, even
A dead one? Probably. But they won't say so,
Ignoring by tacit consent our hunger
For eternal life, that caged rebuked question
Occasionally let out at clambakes or
College reunions, and which the smoking-room story
Alone, ironically enough, stands up for.

--from W.H. Auden: Collected Poems, edited by Edward Mendelson (New York: Random House, 1976, 254).