“Ballad of the Ideal Citizen”

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Years ago I came upon W. H. Auden’s poem “The Unknown Citizen” in preparation for my AP English Literature course. I had been an Auden fan ever since I read “Musee des Beaux Arts” (another worthy read). Ironically, though I teach “Musee” nearly every year in at least one of my courses, I have rarely given class time to “The Unknown Citizen.” That has to change! The poem inspired me to transfer the essence of Auden’s message to our modern era, at least what was “modern” nearly a decade ago. The fruit is “Ballad of the Ideal Citizen,” the opening track on my 2012 album At the In Between. In a time when asking questions or not towing the party line is so offensive, I’ve found myself drawn to many classic dystopian novels (1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451) and films, the most recent on our list The Matrix and I, Robot. Part of deepening is questioning, as questioning fosters thought, and thought, especially contrary thought, is dangerous (ever hear of the thought police?) With that, I present “Ballad of the Ideal Citizen” with special thanks to Treebeard Brown for giving this song a platform locally and performing with me on the album.

“Ballad of the Ideal Citizen” – Track 1 from At the In Between by Vincent H. Anastasi 2012

Ballad of the Ideal Citizen

Vincent H. Anastasi 2011 – Inspired by W. H. Auden

The greater city council pronounced him to be
A “model citizen” with a capital “C” –
He was a “Who’s Who” hero who gave his life for community.
He earned an honest man’s wage for an honest man’s life,
Never balked when his boss asked for more of his time:
A satisfactory rating tucked into the company file.

Bought a coffee everyday – gave to charity,
Loved his friends and made time to visit family;
He was civil in his actions and reactions no matter the case.
Wasn’t flashy in the way that he spent his cash
Yet had the things you’d expect among the upper class:
An iPhone, Hummer, GPS and house in the Keys.

Who was he? Was he happy?
The question just doesn’t relate
To the ideal citizens of the human race.

So stack us up, one by one,
every father’s daughter, every mother’s son, mmm mmm
Come and gaze upon the grave
where the citizens of excellence are laid, tucked away
In the glorious tradition of the souls who do their livin’ on the safe


Investigations have proved he held the proper views
Accepting change when it came and yet traditional too:
Always ready, always steady, never clinging to impossible dreams.
Had a wife and two children – perfect number for our time,
Never raised an objection, never spoke his own mind
And our teachers declare that his kids are all just the same.

Who was he? Was he happy?
The question just doesn’t relate
To the ideal citizens of the human race.

So stack us up, one by one,
every father’s daughter, every mother’s son, mmm mmm
Come and gaze upon the grave
where the citizens of excellence are laid, tucked away
In the glorious tradition of the souls who do their livin’ on the safe

Published by thedeepened

I am a lover of words - the way they sing together in neat or sprawling lines upon the page, conducted by the great wordsmiths of all time. The way a sudden turn of phrase or surprising combination of sounds resonates with the deep within me, causing pause: moments of reflection and appreciation that transcend the superficial babblings and paltry visions of the infantile. Here at the deepening ground, it is my intent to make time and space for the reflection, appreciation, and creative imaginings that sustain the human soul.

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