Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright into the ground.

“The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others: they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes liked to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish: they lost their pride
And dies as men before their bodies died.

– W.H. Auden, from “The Shield of Achilles” (1952)

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