questions from a worker who reads

Bertolt Brecht

who built thebes of the seven gates?
in the books you will find the names of kings.
did the kinds 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
did the caesars triumph? had byzantium, much praised in song
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 conquered india.
was he alone?
caesar beat the gauls.

did he not have even a cook with him?
philips 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?
every ten years a great man.
who paid the bill?

so many reports.
so many questions.

(The illustration is a painting entitled ‘Man Reading’ by John Sargent)

Bertolt Brecht 10 February 1898–14 August 1956) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. He was born to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father and in his late twenties became a life-long committed Marxist who explored the theatre as a forum for political ideas and the creation of a critical aesthetics of dialectical materialism. Brecht’s modernist concern with drama-as-a-medium led to his refinement of the ‘epic form’ of the drama.

Courtesy AHRC