Bertold Brecht--German



Bertold Brecht


Born in Augsburg, Germany in 1898, Brecht studied philosophy and medicine at university. During the First World War he worked in a German army hospital, where his beliefs and convictions begun to lean to leftist causes. His first play, Baal, was produced in 1923, and a volume of poems appeared in 1927. One of his most famous works, The Threepenny Opera was written in collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill in 1928. Prior to the Second World War, Brecht went into exile, first in Denmark and then the U.S. While in the U.S. he wrote a collection of poems, Svendborger Gedichte, and his most famous plays, Mother Courage, The Life of Galileo, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and The Good Woman of Setzuan. While in the U.S. Brecht was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He left the country in 1947.


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.


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.