Monday, April 30, 2012

To Posterity by Bertolt Brecht


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 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!


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.

Men’s strength was little. The goal
Lay far in the distance,
Easy to see if for me
Scarcely attainable.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.


You, who shall emerge from the flood
In which we are sinking,
Think –
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of that 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 hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas we
Who wished top lay 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 not judge us
Too harshly.

1 comment:

  1. The most catastrophic quality of God was his greatness. Whether or not he is dead: it is impossible to keep silent about him who was there for so long. It could be, after all, that God is not sleeping but hiding from us out of fear?- Elias Canetti