The recent election results showed a stunning level of support for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’s anti-austerity policies. Working people are clearly starting to ask more questions about who exactly produces the wealth in class-divided societies, including our own. Jenny Farrell’s father made this brilliant translation of one of Brecht’s most famous poems.
A worker reads and asks questions
by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Jack Mitchell
Who built seven-gated Thebes
In the books you’ll find the names of kings.
Was it the kings that lugged those hunks of rock?
And what of Babylon, so often demolished?
Who rebuilt it time and again? In which
Of golden Lima’s houses lived its builders?
On the day the Chinese Wall was finished where
Did the masons go in the evening? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who raised them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium of the songs
Palaces only, for its inhabitants? Even in fabulous Atlantis,
The very night the sea swallowed it,
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Didn’t he have so much as a cook with him?
Phillip of Spain wept when his fleet
Sank. Did no others shed tears?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year War.
A victory on every page.
Who cooked the victory feast?
A great man every ten years.
Who paid the bill?
So many accounts.
So many questions.
Jenny Farrell was born in Berlin. She has lived in Ireland since 1985, working as a lecturer in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. Her main fields of interest are Irish and English poetry and the work of William Shakespeare.