A Poem a Day: Brecht

I knew today’s poet wrote polemic German plays, and that there is a style of drama sometimes named after him. I learned about him from a modern drama class, and from the documentary Theater of War (2008) (which I wrote about here: here is the film’s trailer, watch it right now). It was in that documentary that the artistic director of the Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, recited this poem.

A.N. 5/22/13: Actually, lies and slander, if I recall, Eustis recites the poem “Years ago when I“, so it was either Tony Kushner (who translated the script used for the Public Theater 2006 production) or author Jay Cantor who references this selection. It is also read in German by Brecht’s assistant director Carl Weber, featured in the film.

Today’s selection is from the genius German playwright, Bertolt Brecht:

To Those Born After

I

To the cities I came in a time of disorder
That was ruled by hunger.
I sheltered with the people in a time of uproar
And then I joined in their rebellion.
That’s how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

I ate my dinners between the battles,
I lay down to sleep among the murderers,
I didn’t care for much for love
And for nature’s beauties I had little patience.
That’s how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

The city streets all led to foul swamps in my time,
My speech betrayed me to the butchers.
I could do only little
But without me those that ruled could not sleep so easily:
That’s what I hoped.
That’s how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

Our forces were slight and small,
Our goal lay in the far distance
Clearly in our sights,
If for me myself beyond my reaching.
That’s how I passed my time that was given to me on this Earth.

II

You who will come to the surface
From the flood that’s overwhelmed us and drowned us all
Must think, when you speak of our weakness in times of darkness
That you’ve not had to face:

Days when we were used to changing countries
More often than shoes,
Through the war of the classes despairing
That there was only injustice and no outrage.

Even so we realised
Hatred of oppression still distorts the features,
Anger at injustice still makes voices raised and ugly.
Oh we, who wished to lay for the foundations for peace and friendliness,
Could never be friendly ourselves.

And in the future when no longer
Do human beings still treat themselves as animals,
Look back on us with indulgence.

brecht

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Literature, National Poetry Month. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s