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Die Maske des Bösen (“The Mask of Evil”)
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A Japanese woodcarving hangs on my wall—
the mask of an ancient demon, limned with golden lacquer.
Not unsympathetically, I observe
the forehead’s bulging veins,
the strain
such malevolence requires.

Original German text:

Die Maske des Bösen

An meiner Wand hängt ein japanisches Holzwerk
Maske eines bösen Dämons, bemalt mit Goldlack.
Mitfühlend sehe ich
Die geschwollenen Stirnadern, andeutend
Wie anstrengend es ist, böse zu sein.

Bertolt Brecht [1898-1956] was a major German poet, playwright, novelist, humorist, essayist, theater director and songwriter. Brecht fled Germany in 1933, when ****** assumed power. A number of Brecht's poems were written from the perspective of a man who sees his country becoming increasingly fascist, xenophobic and militaristic. Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust, poem, Japanese, carving, mask, demon, evil, malevolence, sympathy, compassion, understanding, feeling, forehead, veins, swollen, bulging, effort, strain, exhausting, concentration, suggest, suggesting, suggestive, demonstrating, revealing, showing, wall, gold, golden, lacquer, paint, woodwork, totem, malice, hatred, enmity, spite, spitefulness, animosity, anger, maliciousness, malignancy, venom, spleen, viciousness
Bertolt, Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust, poem, Japanese, carving, mask, demon, evil, malevolence
The Mask of Evil
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A Japanese carving hangs on my wall –
the mask of an ancient demon, limned with golden lacquer.
Not altogether unsympathetically, I observe
its forehead’s bulging veins, noting
the tremendous effort such malevolence requires.

Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust poem, mask, evil, Japanese, carving, demon, totem, forehead, veins, bulging, effort, concentration, focus, malevolence, malice, hatred, enmity, spite, spitefulness, animosity, maliciousness, malignance, venom, spleen, viciousness
Radio Poem
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You, little box, held tightly
to me,
while escaping,
so that your delicate tubes do not break;
carried from house to house, from ship to train,
so that my enemies may continue communicating with me
on land and at sea
and even in my bed, to my pain;
the last thing I hear at night, the first thing when I awake,
recounting their many conquests and my cares,
promise me not to go silent all of a sudden,
unawares.

Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust, poem, radio, tubes, valves, transmission, communicate, communication, communicating, land, sea, bed, night, sleep, dawn, morning, awake, awakening, conquests, victories, triumphs, cares, losses, silence, silent
Der Abschied (“The Parting”)
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We embrace;
my fingers trace
rich cloth
while yours encounter only moth-
eaten fabric.
A quick hug:
you were invited to the gay soiree
while the minions of the "law" relentlessly pursue me.
We talk about the weather
and our eternal friendship's magic.
Anything else would be too bitter,
too tragic.

German text:

Der Abschied

Wir umarmen uns.
Ich fasse reichen Stoff
Du fassest armen.
Die Umarmung ist schnell
Du gehst zu einem Mahl
Hinter mir sind die Schergen.
Wir sprechen vom Wetter und von unserer
Dauernden Freundschaft. Alles andere
Wäre zu bitter.

Published by Poetry on Demand, The HyperTexts and Ghani Project

Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, parting, farewell, ****, law, minions, henchmen, thugs, pursuit, chase, embrace, hug, rich, cloth, threadbare, soiree, dinner, meal, event, eternal, friendship, bitter, weather, exile
Die Bücherverbrennung ("The Burning of the Books")
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When the Regime
commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.

Then a banished writer, one of the best,
scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
became enraged: he’d been excluded!

He rushed to his desk, full of contemptuous wrath,
to write fiery letters to the incompetents in power —
Burn me! he wrote with his blazing pen —
Haven’t I always reported the truth?
Now here you are, treating me like a liar!
Burn me!

German text:

Die Bücherverbrennung

Als das Regime befahl, Bücher mit schädlichem Wissen
Öffentlich zu verbrennen, und allenthalben
Ochsen gezwungen wurden, Karren mit Büchern
Zu den Scheiterhaufen zu ziehen, entdeckte
Ein verjagter Dichter, einer der besten, die Liste der
Verbrannten studierend, entsetzt, daß seine
Bücher vergessen waren. Er eilte zum Schreibtisch
Zornbeflügelt, und schrieb einen Brief an die Machthaber.
Verbrennt mich! schrieb er mit fliegender Feder, verbrennt mich!
Tut mir das nicht an! Laßt mich nicht übrig! Habe ich nicht
Immer die Wahrheit berichtet in meinen Büchern? Und jetzt
Werd ich von euch wie ein Lügner behandelt! Ich befehle euch:
Verbrennt mich!

Published by Poetry Super Highway, The Hindu, The Tory, Chicago Sun-Times (excerpt), Poemist, Poetry on Demand and Convivium

Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, burning, books, banned, harmful, unlawful, ****, regime, fires, bonfires, oxen, carts, cartloads, Adolph ******, writer, writers, excommunicated, exiled, burn, truth, pen, blazing, fiery, liar

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