POEMS AND SONGS OF

BERTHOLT BRECHT

 

 

- POEMS -

 

 

 

 

"In Praise of Communism"

It's quite straightforward, you'll understand it. It's not hard.
Because you're not an exploiter, you'll easily grasp it.
It's for your own good, so find out all about it.
They're fools who describe it as foolish, and foul who describe it as
foulness.
It's against all that's foul and against all that's foolish.
The exploiters will tell you that it's criminal,
But we know better:
It puts an end to all that's criminal.
It isn't madness, but puts
An end to all madness.
It doesn't mean chaos
I just means order.
It's just the simple thing
That's hard, so hard to do.

Bertolt Brecht

 

 

THE SOLUTION

 

After the uprising of the 17th June [ 1953 - GDR]

The Secretary of the Writers Union

had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another ?

 

Bertolt Brecht

 

 

United Front Song

And because a man is human
He'll want to eat, and thanks a lot
But talk can't take the place of meat
or fill an empty pot.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there's a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

And because a man is human
he won't care for a kick in the face.
He doesn't want slaves under him
Or above him a ruling class.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there's a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

And because a worker's a worker
No one else will bring him liberty.
It's nobody's work but the worker' own
To set the worker free.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there's a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

 

 

  QUESTIONS FROM A WORKER WHO READS
       

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
        In the books you will find the names of kings.
        Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
        And Babylon, many times demolished
        Who raised it up so many times?  In what houses
        Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
        Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
        Did the masons go?  Great Rome
        Is full of triumphal arches.  Who erected them?  Over whom
        Only palaces for its inhabitants?  Even in fabled Atlantis
        The night the ocean engulfed it.
        The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

        The young Alexander conqured India.
        Was he alone?
        Caesar beat the Gauls.
        Did he not have even a cook with him?
        Philip of Spain wept when his armada.
        Went down.  Was he the only one to weep?
        Frederick the Second won the seven Years’ War.   Who
        Else won it?

        Every page a victory
        Who cooked the feast for the victors?
        Who paid the bill?

        So many reports.
        So many questions.
                                                  

Bertolt Brecht
 

 

 

SONG OF THE MACHINES

Hullo, we want to speak to America
Across the Atlantic Ocean to the great cities
Of America, hullo!
We wondered what language to speak
To make sure they
Understand us
But now we have got our singers together
Who are understood here and in America
And everywhere else in the world.
Hullo, listen to our singers singing, our black stars
Hullo, look who is singing for us…

The machines sing

Hullo, these are our singers,our black stars
They don’t sing sweetly, but they sing at work
As they make your light they sing
As they make clothes, newspapers, waterpipes
Railways and lamps, stoves and records
They sing.
Hullo, now that you’re all here, sing one more time
Your little number across the all understand.

The machines repeat their song

This isn’t the wind in the maples, my boy
No song to the lonely moon
This is the wild roar of our daily toil
We curse it and count it a boon
For it is the voice of our cities
It is our favourite song
It is the language we all understand
It will soon be the world’s mother tongue.


Bertolt Brecht

 

 

 


Solidarity Song

Peoples of the world, together
Join to serve the common cause!
So it feeds us all for ever
See to it that it's now yours.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

Black or white or brown or yellow
Leave your old disputes behind.
Once start talking with your fellow
Men, you'll soon be of one mind.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

If we want to make this certain
We'll need you and your support.
It's yourselves you'll be deserting
if you rat your own sort.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

Workers of the world, uniting
Thats the way to lose your chains.
Mighty regiments now are fighting
That no tyrrany remains!

Forward, without forgetting
Till the concrete question is hurled
When starving or when eating:
Whose tomorrow is tomorrow?
And whose world is the world?

 

 

THE DOUBTER


Whenever we seemed
To have found the answer to a question
One of us united the string of the old rolled-up
Chinese scroll on the wall, so that it fell down and
Revealed to us the man on the bench who
Doubted so much.

I, he said to us
Am the doubter.  I am doubtful whether
The work was well done that devoured your days.
Whether what you said would still have value for anyone if it
  Were less well said.
Whether you said it well but perhaps
Were not concvinced of the truth of what you said.
Whether it is not ambiguous;each possible misunderstanding
Is your responsibility.  Or it can be unambiguous
And take the contracdictions out of things; is it too
  Unambiguous?
If so, what you say is useless.  Your thing has no life in it.
Are you truly in the stream of happening?  Do you accept
All that develops? Are you developing?  Who are you? To
  Whom
Do you speak?  Who finds what you say useful?  And , by the
  Way:
Is it sobering?  Can it be read in the morning?
Is it also linked to what is already there?  Are the sentences
  That were
Spoken before you made use of, or at least refuted?  Is
  Everything verifiable?
By experience?  By which one?  But above all
Always above all else: how does one act
If one believes what you say?  Above all: how does one act?

Reflectively, curiously, we studied the doubting
Blue man on the scroll, looked at each other and
Made a fresh start.

Bertolt Brecht

 

 

THE BREAD OF THE PEOPLE


Justice is the bread of the people
Sometimes is plentiful, sometimes it is scarce
Sometimes it tastes good, sometimes it tastes bad.
When the bread is scarce, there is hunger.
When the bread is bad, there is discontent.

Throw away the bad justice
Baked without love, kneaded without knowledge!
Justice without flavour, with a grey crust
The stale justice which comes too late!

If the bread is good and plentiful
The rest of the meal can be excused.
One cannot have plenty of everything all at once.
Nourished by the bread of justice
The work can be achieved
From which plenty comes.

As daily bread is necessary
So is daily justice.
It is even necessary several times a day.

From morning till night, at work, enjoying oneself.
At work which is an enjoyment.
In hard times and in happy times
The people requires the plentiful, wholesome
Daily bread of justice.

Since the bread of justice, then, is so important
Who, friends, shall bake it?

Who bakes the other bread?

Like the other bread
The bread of justice must be baked
By the people.

Plentiful, wholesome, daily.
                                        

   Bertolt Brecht

 

 

“For the trials”

(1936-1937)

“Concerning the trials:

it would be totally erroneous to take a position against the soviet government that conducts them. Because, such a position, by itself, would be very soon transformed to opposition against the Russian proletariat threatened with war by the world’s fascism, opposition against socialism that this proletariat builds. According to the opinion of the most fanatical enemies of the USSR and the soviet government these trials clearly showed the existence of active conspiracies against the regime, demonstrated that the conspirators’ nests had proceeded not only to wrecking activities inside the country but also to negotiations with fascist diplomats regarding their governments’ attitude to a potential governmental change in USSR”. 

 “The trials is an act of preparation for the war …Initially, Trotsky saw the crushing of the workers state by means of war as a danger – but later it was precisely this possibility that became the prerequisite of his practical activity. Let’s see how: the war breaks out, the superstructure in defense is crushed, the apparatus is alienated from the masses, USSR is forced to concede Ukraine, Eastern Siberia etc, in the interior is forced again to concessions, the return of the capitalist forms, the strengthening of the kulaks (or to tolerate such a strengthening) – yet all these are, at the same time, the conditions of the new era, the return of Trotsky” (Bertolt Brecht: “For philosophy and Marxism”, p. 71 and p. 75, Athens 1977).

To Posterity

1.

Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
And he who walks calmly across the street,
Is he not out of reach of his friends
In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living
But, believe me, it is only an accident.
Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.
By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me
I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.
The old books tell us what wisdom is:
Avoid the strife of the world
Live out your little time
Fearing no one
Using no violence
Returning good for evil --
Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness
Passes for wisdom.
I can do none of this:
Indeed I live in the dark ages!

2.

I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger ruled.
I came among men in a time of uprising
And I revolted with them.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.
The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.
And when I loved, I loved with indifference.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

In my time streets led to the quicksand.
Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

3.

You, who shall emerge from the flood
In which we are sinking,
Think --
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of the dark time
That brought them forth.

For we went,changing our country more often than our shoes.
In the class war, despairing
When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do no judge us
Too harshly.

translated by H. R. Hays

 

To the Students of the Workers' and Peasants' Faculty

So there you sit. And how much blood was shed
That you might sit there. Do such stories bore you?
Well, don't forget that others sat before you
who later sat on people. Keep your head!
Your science will be valueless, you'll find
And learning will be sterile, if inviting
Unless you pledge your intellect to fighting
Against all enemies of all mankind.
Never forget that men like you got hurt
That you might sit here, not the other lot.
And now don't shut your eyes, and don't desert
But learn to learn, and try to learn for what.

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.

 

What Has Happened?

The industrialist is having his aeroplane serviced.
The priest is wondering what he said in his sermon eight weeks ago
about tithes.
The generals are putting on civvies and looking like bank clerks.
Public officials are getting friendly.
The policeman points out the way to the man in the cloth cap.
The landlord comes to see whether the water supply is working.
The journalists write the word People with capital letters.
The singers sing at the opera for nothing.
Ships' captains check the food in the crew's galley,
Car owners get in beside their chauffeurs.
Doctors sue the insurance companies.
Scholars show their discoveries and hide their decorations.
Farmers deliver potatoes to the barracks.
The revolution has won its first battle:
That's what has happened.

On the Critical Attitude

The critical attitude
Strikes many people as unfruitful
That is because they find the state
Impervious to their criticism
But what in this case is an unfruitful attitude
Is merely a feeble attitude. Give criticism arms
And states can be demolished by it.

Canalising a river
Grafting a fruit tree
Educating a person
Transforming a state
These are instances of fruitful criticism
And at the same time instances of art.

 

On Reading a Recent Greek Poet

After the wailing had already begun
along the walls, their ruin certain,
the Trojans fidgeted with bits of wood
in the three-ply doors, itsy-bitsy
pieces of wood, fussing with them.
And began to get their nerve back and feel hopeful.

O Germany, Pale Mother!

Let others speak of her shame,
I speak of my own.


O Germany, pale mother!
How soiled you are
As you sit among the peoples.
You flaunt yourself
Among the besmirched.

The poorest of your sons
Lies struck down.
When his hunger was great.
Your other sons
Raised their hands against him.
This is notorious.

With their hands thus raised,
Raised against their brother,
They march insolently around you
And laugh in your face.
This is well known.

In your house
Lies are roared aloud.
But the truth
Must be silent.
Is it so?

Why do the oppressors praise you everywhere,
The oppressed accuse you?
The plundered
Point to you with their fingers, but
The plunderer praises the system
That was invented in your house!

Whereupon everyone sees you
Hiding the hem of your mantle which is bloody
With the blood
Of your best sons.

Hearing the harangues which echo from your house,
men laugh.
But whoever sees you reaches for a knife
As at the approach of a robber.

O Germany, pale mother!
How have your sons arrayed you
That you sit among the peoples
A thing of scorn and fear!

Not What Was Meant

When the Academy of Arts demanded freedom
Of artistic expression from narrow-minded bureaucrats
There was a howl and a clamour in its immediate vicinity
But roaring above everything
Came a deafening thunder of applause
From beyond the Sector boundary.
Freedom! it roared. Freedom for the artists!
Freedom all round! Freedom for all!
Freedom for the exploiters! Freedom for the warmongers!
Freedom for the Ruhr cartels! Freedom for Hitler's generals!
Softly, my dear fellows...
The Judas kiss for the artists follows
Hard on the Judas kiss for the workers.
The arsonist with his bottle of petrol
Sneaks up grinning to
The Academy of Arts.
But it was not to embrace him, just
To knock the bottle out of his dirty hand that
We asked for elbow room.
Even the narrowest minds
In which peace is harboured
Are more welcome to the arts than the art lover

Who is also a lover of the art of war.

My young son asks me...

My young son asks me: Must I learn mathematics?
What is the use, I feel like saying. That two pieces
Of bread are more than one's about all you'll end up with.
My young son asks me: Must I learn French?
What is the use, I feel like saying. This State's collapsing.
And if you just rub your belly with your hand and
Groan, you'll be understood with little trouble.
My young son asks me: Must I learn history?
What is the use, I feel like saying. Learn to stick
Your head in the earth, and maybe you'll still survive.

Yes, learn mathematics, I tell him.
Learn your French, learn your history!

Mack the Knife

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear
And he shows them pearly white.
Just a jack knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows start to spread.
Fancy gloves, though, wears Macheath, dear
So there's not a trace of red.

On the side-walk Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life;
Someone's sneaking 'round the corner.
Is that someone Mack the Knife?

From a tugboat by the river
A cement bag's dropping down;
The cement's just for the weight, dear.
Bet you Mackie's back in town.

Louie Miller disappeared, dear
After drawing out his cash;
And Macheath spends like a sailor.
Did our boy do something rash?

Sukey Tawdry, Jenny Diver,
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown
Oh, the line forms on the right, dear
Now that Mackie's back in town.

I'm not saying anything against Alexander

Timur, I hear, took the trouble to conquer the earth.
I don't understand him.
With a bit of hard liquor you can forget the earth.

I'm not saying anything against Alexander,
Only I have seen people who were remarkable,
Highly deserving of your admiration
For the fact that they were alive at all.

Great men generate too much sweat.
In all of this I see just a proof that
They couldn't stand being on their own
And smoking and drinking and the like.
And they must be too mean-spirited to get
Contentment from sitting by a woman.

How Fortunate the Man with None

From the play "Mother Courage"

You saw sagacious Solomon
You know what came of him,
To him complexities seemed plain.
He cursed the hour that gave birth to him
And saw that everything was vain.
How great and wise was Solomon.
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's wisdom that had brought him to this state.
How fortunate the man with none.

You saw courageous Caesar next
You know what he became.
They deified him in his life
Then had him murdered just the same.
And as they raised the fatal knife
How loud he cried: you too my son!
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's courage that had brought him to that state.
How fortunate the man with none.

You heard of honest Socrates
The man who never lied:
They weren't so grateful as you'd think
Instead the rulers fixed to have him tried
And handed him the poisoned drink.
How honest was the people's noble son.
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's honesty that brought him to that state.
How fortunate the man with none.

Here you can see respectable folk
Keeping to God's own laws.
So far he hasn't taken heed.
You who sit safe and warm indoors
Help to relieve our bitter need.
How virtuously we had begun.
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's fear of god that brought us to that state.
How fortunate the man with none.

From A German War Primer

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.

 

 

 

Bertolt Brecht, commenting in his diary on the moral content of his play,

LIFE OF GALILEO


"It had always worried me, just because I was trying to follow the historical story, without being morally concerned, a moral content emerged and I am not happy about it. g. can no more resist stating the truth than eating an appetising dish; to him, it’s a matter of sensual enjoyment. And he constructs his own personality as wisely and passionately as he does his image of the world. Actually he falls twice. The first time is when he suppresses or recants the truth because he is in mortal danger, the second when despite the mortal danger he once again seeks out the truth and disseminates it. He is destroyed by his own productivity. and it upsets me to be told that I approve of his publicly recanting so as to be able to carry on his work in secret. that’s too banal and too cheap. G., after all, destroyed not only himself as a person but also the most valuable part of his scientific work. The church (i.e. the authorities) defended the teachings of the bible purely as a way of defending itself, its authority and its power of oppression and exploitation. The sole reason why the people became interested in G.’s ideas about the planets was that they were chafing under church domination. G. threw all real progress to the wolves when he recanted. He abandoned the people, and astronomy once again became an affair for specialists, the exclusive concern of scholars, unpolitical, cut off."



The Book of Lenin’s Discipline

A Bolshevik describes the great authority which Lenin had acquired through his thirty years’ revolutionary work for the party. In order to carry through the peace treaty with the Germans, a threat of his resignation proved to be enough. The effect of his threat on the Bolsheviks was described by the narrator with the following sentence: It was as if the tree said to its leaves: I am going.

About 1928
From: Proletarian Anecdotes from the Reader for City-dwellers.

(The commentary from the Prose Volume of the Works notes: ‘The story refers to the controversy inside the Bolshevik Party about the acceptance of a special peace with the German Reich in the first world war. As on 23rd February 1918 the German answer to the peace proposals of Lenin and Trotsky of 18th February was received, the Central Committee advised against the signing that treaty. At the sitting Lenin threatened his exit from the government if the central committee decided against the peace treaty. Thereafter the immediate approval for signing the peace treaty was given by the central committee and on the next day by the central executive committee of the Soviets. On March 3rd the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty was signed.’ Translator.)

 

 

Besides a man with the name Ulyanov called Lenin
Living in exile in Zuerich
Socialist and agitator, a destructive element
On his request to be allowed to pass through our region
In a sealed wagon, so that in the east
Just like a bacterium
Could decompose the shapeless body of our eastern enemy
So unknowingly taking care of our work.

Fatzer (a projected play) 1928-29


The Carpet Weavers of Kuyan-Bulak Honour Lenin

Often he was honoured and profusely
The Comrade Lenin. Busts there are and statues.
Cities were named after him and children.
Speeches are made in numerous languages
Rallies there are and demonstrations
From Shanghai to Chicago, in honour of Lenin.
But thus they honoured him
The carpet weavers of Kuyan-Bulak
A small village in southern Turkistan:

Twenty carpet weavers stand there in the evening
Shivering with fever, in front of their humble loom.
Fever runs riot: the railway station
Teeming with buzzing mosquitoes – a thick cloud
Arising from the swamp behind the old camel cemetery.
But the train, which
Once in two weeks brings water and smoke, brings
Also the news one day
That the day for honouring Lenin lies ahead
And so decide the people of Kuyan-Bulak
Carpet weavers, poor folk
That for the Comrade Lenin also in their village
A gypsum bust would be installed.
But as the money is collected for the bust
All of them stand
Trembling with fever and contribute
Their hard earned kopecks with wobbling hands.
And the Red Army soldier Stepa Jamal, who
Carefully counts and meticulously watches,
Sees the readiness, to honour Lenin, and is filled with joy.
But he also sees the uncertain hands.
And all of a sudden he makes a proposal
To buy petroleum with the money collected for the bust
In order to pour it on the swamp behind the camel cemetery
From where the mosquitoes come, which
Cause the fever
Thus to combat the fever in Kuyan-Bulak, and indeed
To honour the late, but
Not to be forgotten
Comrade Lenin.

This was agreed to. On the day of paying respect to
Lenin they carried
Their battered buckets, filled with black petroleum
One behind the other
Over there and spread it on the swamp.

So they benefited themselves, in paying homage to Lenin and
Paid homage to him, in that they benefited themselves and had
Therefore understood him well.

                        2

We have heard how the Kuyan-Bulak folk
Paid their respect to Lenin. As now in the evening
The petroleum had been bought and discharged over the swamp
Stood up a man in the assembly, and he demanded
That a commemoration stone be erected at the railway sStation
Reporting these events, containing
The altered plan and the exchange
Instead of Lenin’s bust the fever eradicating petroleum barrel,
And all this in honour of Lenin
And they did that too
And mounted the slab.

(Note: Kuyan-Bulak is the railway station of Ferghana in Uzbekistan. The Slab had the text: ‘In this place there should have been a memorial to Lenin, but instead of the memorial, petroleum was brought and poured over the swamp. Thus Kuyan-Bulak, in memory of Lenin and in his Name smothered malaria’. Translator.)


Tirelessly Praises the Thinker

Tirelessly praises the thinker
Comrade Lenin, because he
Considering the possibilities of a great new order
Went to the market, bargaining
And bribed the corruptible
For getting the right to speech

And treat with contempt those
Who turned up with clean hands
Hands that are empty, and when asked, what
They had preserved, answered: only our own Self.

(about 1931)


The Brown Shirt

            1.

You and I run round with our hands in the pocket
But a walking-stick a lame man needs in fact
We need a jacket, as also a shirt
Still a shirt is nearer to us than is the jacket.
And if you fond men perishing in pole’s icy waste
With a half-chewed shoe:
They do not chew the leather, because they like its taste
As little do I and you.

            2.

Haffner Karle and I were without a job
We were on our feet from early in the morning till late, busy.
He wrote for the party-organ and I pulled out the sheets
There was nothing to eat, we shared a cigarette
About the Red Front we were well aware
And enough of the German Social-Democratic Party
And thoroughly we must take care, as the Russians had taken care
And learn Ilyich’s ABC.

About 1933


The Unconquerable Inscription

During the war
In a cell of the Italian prison in San Carlo
Full of imprisoned soldiers, drunks and thieves
A socialist soldier, with an indelible pencil, scratched on the wall:
Long live Lenin!
High above, in the semi-dark cell, hardly visible, but
Written in large letters.
As the warders saw it, they sent for a painter with a bucket of lime.
And with a long stemmed brush he whitewashed the threatening inscription.
Since, however, with his lime, he painted over the letters only
Stood above in the cell, now in chalk:
Long live Lenin!
Next another painter daubed over the whole stretch with a broad brush
So that for hours it disappeared, but towards morning
As the lime dried, the inscription underneath was again conspicuous:
Long live Lenin!
Then dispatched the warder a bricklayer with a chisel against the inscription
And he scratched out letter by letter, one hour long
And as he was done, now colourless, but up above in the wall
But deeply carved, stood the unconquerable inscription:
Long live Lenin!
Now, said the soldier, get rid of the wall!

(1934)

(Based on facts, as narrated by Giovanni Germanetto, imprisoned in 1917, in a publication in Zuerich in 1930 after his release. The soldier was an Alps climber – Translator).


The Hole in Ilyich’s Boots

You, who are sculpting a statue of Ilyich
Twenty metres high, at the Palace of the Trades Unions
Do not forget that in his boot
There was the hole, attested by many, a sign of poverty.
I hear to be sure, he faces
The West, where many live, who in the hole in the boot
Will recognise Ilyich as
One of their own.

(1935)


Cantata on the Day of Lenin’s Death

            1

The day Lenin passed away
A soldier of the death watch, so runs the story, told his comrades: I did not want to
Believe it. I went inside, and
Shouted in his ear: ‘Ilyich
The exploiters are on their way!’ He did not move. Now
I knew that he has expired.

            2.

When a good man wants to leave
How can you hold him back?
Tell him why he is needed.
That holds him.

            3.

What could hold Lenin back ?

            4.

The soldier thought
When he hears, the exploiters are coming
He may be ever so ill, he will still get up
Perhaps he will come on crutches
Perhaps he will let himself be carried, but
He will get up and come
In order to confront the exploiters.

            5.

The soldier knew, that is to say, that Lenin
Throughout his life, had carried on a struggle
Against the exploiters.

            6.

And the soldier who had taken part
In the storming of the Winter Palace wanted to return home, because there
The landed estates were being distributed
Then Lenin had told him: stay on!
The exploiters are there still.
And so long there is exploitation
One must struggle against it.
So long as you exist
You must struggle against it.

            7.

The weak do not fight. The stronger
Fight on perhaps for an hour.
Those who are stronger still fight for many years
The strongest fight on all their life.
These are indispensable.

            8.
In Praise of the Revolutionary

When exploitation is on the rise
Many get discouraged
But his courage grows.

He organises his struggle
For wage-pennies, for tea-water
And for taking over power.

He asks property:
What is your origin ?
He asks the viewpoints:
Whom do you serve ?

Wherever there is a hush
He will speak out
Wherever there is oppression, and the talk is of fate
He will call things by their right names.

Where he sits down on the table
There sits also dissatisfaction
The food is perceived to be awful
And the room too narrow.
Wherever they chase him away
Turmoil follows, and at the hunting place
Unrest remains.

            9.

When Lenin passed away and was missed
The victory had been won, but the land lay waste
The masses had set out, but
The way was dark
As Lenin passed away
Soldiers, sitting on the footpaths, wept
And the workers went away from their machines
And clenched their fists.

            10.

As Lenin went, it was
As if the tree said to its leaves
I am off.

            11.

Since then fifteen years have passed away
One sixth of the globe
Is freed from exploitation.
At the call: the exploiters are coming!
The masses, as ever, stand up anew.
Ready for the struggle.

            12.

Lenin is enshrined
In the large heart of the working-class,
He was our teacher.
He carried on the struggle along with us.
He is enshrined
In the large heart of the working class.

(1935)

The music for this cantata was given its final shape by Hans Eisler in Denmark in August 1937. The eighth part ‘Praise of the Revolutionary’ was first written by Brecht for the 1933 version of the play, based on Gorky’s ‘Mother’. The first three lines were, however:

‘Many are too much
When they leave, it is better so
But when he goes, he is missed’.

These three lines were changed- as given above. Then in the 1938 revision of ‘The Mother’ the cantata version was retained – Translator).

 

 

            1.

Comrade X has there something said
Recently Comrade X read Stalin and look
When you the page 200 of Stalin’s book have read
You will find all that Comrade X says is also there in Stalin’s book!
Exactly, as he had thought
Exactly, as one could foresee!
Exactly, the way he does it, the same way did Lenin adopt!
What was clear to him now, Lenin had seen very clearly!

            2.

There Comrade X made a mess
Recently Comrade X drove down to Moscow
As he came back he said, he was there a big success
That somebody made a big mess there, oh, never, no….
Exactly, as one had thought!
Exactly, as one could foretell!
Exactly, as he does it, the same way there they adopt!
That what he had seen clearly, he now sees very clearly!

            3.

About Comrade X there is something one hears:
Recently Comrade Z drove down to Moscow
He asked about Comrade X and he swears
He saw him wallowing there in an abyss down below
Exactly, as we had thought!
Exactly, as one could foresee!
Exactly, as we laugh here, the same way laugh they there, that lot!
What was already clear to us, they now also see clearly!

            4.

Comrade X is a filthy rogue.
Comrade X drove down to Moscow, and oh heck
As he came back he told us, filth is there the vogue
And nobody there ever washes his neck!
Exactly, as he had thought!
Exactly, as one could foretell!
Exactly, as he does it here, the same way there they adopt!
What was already clear to him, is now clear to him all too well.

(About 1935)


Great October

For the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution

O the great October of the working class!
At last stand upright those
So long bent down. O soldiers, who at last
Point their rifles in the right direction!
Those who tilled the land in spring
Did it not for themselves. In summer
They bent down lower still. Still the harvest
Went to the barns of the masters. But October
Saw the bread, at last, in the right hands!

Since then
The world has hope.
The Welsh miner and the Manchurian coolie
And the Pennsylvanian worker, leading a life worse than a dog
And the German, my brother, who
Envies them all
Know, there is
An October.

Even the aeroplanes of the Fascists, which
Fly up attacking him, are seen
By the soldier of the Spanish militia therefore
With less anxiety.

But in Moscow, the famous capital
Of all the workers
Moves over the Red Square yearly
The unending march of the victors.
They carry with them the emblems of their factories
Pictures of tractors and bales of wool of textile works.
Also the ears of corn of the grain factories.
Above them their fighter planes
Darken the sky and in front of them
Their regiments and tank squadrons.
On broad, cloth banners
They carry their slogans and
The portraits of their great teacher. The cloth
Is transparent, so that
All this can be seen on both sides.
Narrow, on thick sticks
Flutter the high flags. In the far off streets
When the march comes to a halt
There are lively dances and competitions. Full of joy
Progresses the march, many besides each other, full of joy
But to all oppressors
A Threat.

O the great October of the working class !

(1937 )


Truth Unites

Friends, I would wish you should know the truth and say it!
Not like the tired fleeing Caesars ‘Tomorrow we get the rations!’
But like Lenin: Tomorrow evening
We are done for, UNLESS…
As the little nursery rhyme has it:
Brother, to the solution
Of this problem now I turn
No way out of our precarious position
No way we can cut and run’.
Friends, a robust confession
And a robust UNLESS !

(1953)


Song of the Rivers

Old Man Mississippi wreaks havoc
Our cattle it drags away, even our lands disappear.
Send to the devil the riffraff its masters
Who unleash it on us year after year

We, whose fields are gone
Nothing will be forgiven –
When its masters are undone
We will tame it then.

Our Ganges flows in India
And when it flows, everything can grow
And where it flows, there is hunger.
But it will not always be so.

We who built the fields
And watered the valley
Know that the day is near, when
There will be food in our belly.

Our Nile flows in Egypt
Temples and palace look on
And slavery is six thousand years old
Still its time is finally done.

We, who built the houses
And piled stone upon stone
Know that the day is near, when
All this we’ll own.

Our China! Our Chang Jiang(1)
Where it flows, we own the land till the sea
Merrily we work where it flows
And it also does its work merrily.

And it always was not ours
A bitter struggle had to be waged
The banner fluttered in front of the shovel
And its colour is red.

Dear Volga, our mother!
Lenin was your son, hesitation was not his style
The slave song of the barge haulers is now over
There now soars the song of the turbine all the while.

Stalingrad was the name our city
World’s enemy was there laid low.
You, wherever you find him
Like us, give him a blow.

Our Amazon no doubt flows in
Brazil, but the American flag there flies
Huge and powerful it is, and works for
The master, whom it never saw with its eyes.

Still one day, which is approaching fast
We have this solemnly sworn
It will work full blast
For us, who in this land are born.

(1) The Yangtze.

(1954)

Translator’s note: The song was written at the request of Joris Ivens, in whose film it was reproduced in the taped voice of Paul Robeson . The following passages were not included in the Song, but are given in the commentary to the Poetry Volumes of the Works:

In this star, where we have our hearth
Ores and coal and other riches are plentiful
The earth and the rivers that water the earth
Make it liveable and beautiful.

Hard working heads has this earth
And many hands that are versatile
On this star to secure now
Our domicile

Mighty rivers has the earth
Fine and bountiful fruit they deliver
But we, the proletariat are
This earth’s most fruitful river.

Friends it also is the mightiest
And for it there is no barrier:
Bathing the earth it goes on
Its irresistible career.


The Murder

For a word comrade-ship
For the border of a field
Unploughed for thousands of years
For Lenin’s science:
As he wanted to pluck out the roots
Gripped by the earth’s thousand claws
He was killed on the tractor
As you others in tanks
With you he too fell down

In order that behind the mountain ranges of the Urals
The first city of land-workers comes into being
In order that electricity works at Volga
Become the driving force of crop factories
Pounced from behind
Hit with a flail
With a consecrated bullet, shot
The kulak-pack

You from Lenino
You from Warsaw
When you make the count, count him as one of your own
Like your fallen comrades, he too fell down.

(1956)

Source: Bertolt Brecht, ‘Werke’, volumes 10, 12, 14. 15, 18, 30, Grosse kommentierte, Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, 1988-1998. Translated from the German.