"To those born later", by Bertolt Brecht


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)






To those born later


I

Truly I live in dark times ! Frank speech is naïve. A smooth forehead Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs Has simply not yet heard The terrible news.

What kind of times are these, when To talk about trees is almost a crime Because it implies silence about so many horrors ? When the man over there calmly crossing the street Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends Who are in need ?

It’s true that I still earn my daily bread But, believe me, that’s only an accident. Nothing I do gives me the right to eat my fill. By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I'm lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it ! But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat From the starving And my glass of water belongs to someone dying of thirst ? And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise. In the old books it says what wisdom is: To shun the strife of the world and to live out Your brief time without fear Also to get along without violence To return good for evil Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them Is accounted wise. All this I cannot do. Truly, I live in dark times.



II


I came to the cities in a time of disorder

When hunger reigned.

I came among men in a time of revolt

And I rebelled with them.

So passed my time

Given metoon earth.

I ate my food between battles

I lay down to sleep among murderers


I practiced love carelessly

And I had little patience for nature’s beauty.

So passed my time

Given to me on earth.


All roads led into the mire in my time.

My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.

There was little I could do. But those is power

Sat safer without me: that was my hope.

So passed my time

Given to me on earth.


Our forces were slight. Our goal

Lay far in the distance

Clearly visible, though I myself

Was unlikely to reach it.

So passed my time

Given to me on earth.



III


You who will emerge from the flood

In which we have gone under

Bring to mind

When you speak of our failings

Bring to mind also the dark times

That you have escaped.


Changing countries more often than our shoes,

We went through the class wars, despairing

When there was only injustice, no outrage.


And yet we realized:

Hatred, even of meanness

Contorts the features.

Anger, even against injustice

Makes the voice hoarse. O,

We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship

Could not ourselves be friendly.


But you, when the time comes at last

When man is helper to man

Think of us

With forbearance.


[1940]


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