Saturday, September 04, 2004

A poem from the past - a poem for our times

"From a German War Primer"

by berthold brecht

Amongst the highly placed,
It is considered low to talk about food
The fact is they have already eaten

The lowly must leave this earth
Without having tasted any good meat
For wondering where they come from and where they are going
The evenings find them too exhausted
They have not yet seen the mountains and the great sea
When their time is already up

If the lowly do not think about what is low, they will never rise
The bread of the hungry has all been eaten
Meat has become unknown, useless
The pouring out of the people's sweat
The laurel groves have been locked down
From the chimneys of the arms factories
The house painter speaks of great times to come
The forests still grow
The fields still bare, the city still stands
The people still breathe
On the calendar the day is not yet shown
Every month, every day, lies open still
One of those days is going to be marked with a cross
The workers cry out for bread, the merchants cry out for markets
The unemployed were hungry,
The employed are hungry now

The hands that lay folded are busy again, they are making shells

Those that take meat from the table, teach contentment
Those for whom the contribution is destined demand sacrifice
Thoese that take their fill speak to the hungry of wonderful times to come
Those who lead the country into the abyss, call ruling too difficult for ordinary men

When the leaders speak of peace, the common folk know that war is coming
When the leaders curse war, the mobilization order is already written out

Those at the top say, peace and war are of different substance
But their peace and their war are like wind and storm,
War grows from their peace, like son from his mother
He bears her frightful features,
Their war kills whatever their peace has left over

On the wall was chalked
They want war
The man who wrote it has already fallen
Those at the top say, this way to glory
Those down below say this way to the grave
The war which is coming is not the first one
There were other wars before it
When the last one came to an end
There were conquerors and conquered
Among the conquered, the common people starved
Among the conquerors,
The common people starved too

Those at the top say
Comradeship reigns in the army
The truth of this is seen in the cookhouse

In their hearts should be the self-same courage
But on their plates are two kinds of rations
When it comes to marching
Many do not know that their enemy is marching at their head
The voice which gives them orders
Is their enemy's voice
The man who speaks of the enemy is the enemy himself
It is not the married couples who lie in their beds
The young women will bear orphans

General your tank is a powerful vehicle
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men
But it has one defect
It needs a driver
General your bomber is powerful
It flies faster than a storm
And carries more than an elephant
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic
General, man is very useful,
He can fly and he can kill but he has one defect:

He can think

6 comments:

vrangel said...

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.



Sorry TWD, but I prefer Rudyard Kipling for our times.

91ghost said...

Very universal, yet it definitely has a German ring to it...and again, it reminds me of the lack of dirt on so many flag wavers' boots--which, in a sense, is why I have my doubts as to whether we will ever truly resolve the current global situation...

91ghost said...

Aftermath by S. Sassoon.

"HAVE you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget."

leftyjones said...

TWD, vrangel, 91 Ghost,

Great posts....truly inmportant things to think about...even if it's not pleasant. The German poems you wrote reminded me of a quote I heard a long time ago....you just inspired me to post it on my blog and I thought I'd share it here with you. Is it poetic...no., but timely and intense....you decide.

"Of course the people don't want war.
But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.
That is easy.
All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."


-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

MickeyMe said...

Buggie, If ever I can figure out how to add a link on my blog http://mickeyswonderfulworld.blogspot.com/ yours is one that will be shown. I are a vey gud riter, just not technologically or mechanically inclined. And, if your e-mail was here, I'd have sent you my copy I wrote: "Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Four Years Ago?"

Seriously, I do want someone to help me add a link. Yes, I've read the instructions. Give an old broad a break.

this we'll defend said...

Mickeyme, thank you for the kind words.

I don't know how to talk you through adding links. I copied and pasted and fiddled. It took me a while.