Bertolt Brecht

(10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956 / Augsburg)

From A German War Primer - Poem by Bertolt 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 fine 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's 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
Lopped down.
From the chimneys of the arms factories
Rises smoke.

THE HOUSE-PAINTER SPEAKS OF
GREAT TIMES TO COME
The forests still grow.
The fields still bear
The cities still stand.
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 WHO TAKE THE MEAT FROM THE TABLE
Teach contentment.
Those for whom the contribution is destined
Demand sacrifice.
Those who eat 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 selfsame 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 their orders
Is their enemy's voice and
The man who speaks of the enemy
Is the enemy himself.

IT IS NIGHT
The married couples
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.


Comments about From A German War Primer by Bertolt Brecht

  • Gold Star - 12,947 Points Rajnish Manga (1/22/2015 9:47:00 PM)

    Apart from the exquisite poetic beauty that it has, the poem delivers a blow to the war machines active in any part of the world. Yes, the man can think. (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 14,101 Points Kim Barney (1/22/2015 7:27:00 PM)

    I would like to know when the poem was written, before of after Hitler invaded Poland. My guess would be just before. It would be interesting to find out. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,322 Points John Richter (1/22/2015 7:24:00 AM)

    Makes me wonder. Picasso's paintings are so abstract - that they have always made me wonder two things: did he really see the world that way - ie, when looking at people's faces did he really see their features as jumbled as they are depicted in his paintings? Secondly, did his interpretation of that vision affect the way he depicted it on canvass? Was his problem not with people's faces but rather with painting them on geometric shapes, such as canvass? There have been studies of people who had the bridge area between the two halves severed. It's called the corpus collossum. The blindfolded subjects could hold an apple in their left hand while simultaneously describing it by writing the word 'apple' with their right hand. But when asked to describe verbally the object held in their left hand the subjects verbally could not - usually saying they could not determine what it was. The brain is a powerfully ordinate thing that can bring vision, feel, taste and touch in so many different varieties dependent upon such simple little things as serotonin or vitamin deficiencies. One could spend his entire life devoted to the study of such anomalies. But what a waste, for in the long run we only come to the conclusion that Picasso's art is crap. And so is this poem. Yes, I get that he is attempting to animate the belief that we are all just peons to our governments. But I just did that in 20 words. I don't have to try and decipher what he is trying to say with every other abstract line. So the day is marked on the calendar. And one of them will be marked with a cross. Probably has something to do with a date of war - but I don't care. Reading this poem was a waste of my time. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 7,665 Points Jayatissa K. Liyanage (1/22/2015 6:52:00 AM)

    One of those few characters who could make an impact on thinking towards humanity. He is immortal and his creations are not time bound. I like the poem, which very clearly reflects a true picture of an existing ground situation. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 84 Points Pankhuri Sinha (1/22/2015 3:52:00 AM)

    I love Bertolt Brecht (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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