Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Apposite 'Addressing Millionaires', by Erich Kaestner, around 1930


First the shock of Brexit, then the rebellion of the ignored blue collar workers in the US. It all reminds me of a brilliant political poem by Erich K√§stner (of Emil and the Detectives fame), written around 1930, Ansprache an Million√§re. I've roughly translated it  - I'm sure others could do better. Here it is:

Why is it that you are waiting,
Till they give your painted wives
And you, and the painted floozies,
A hefty blow upon your skulls.

Why don't you want to better yourselves?
Soon they'll be storming the outside stairs
And with kitchen knives they'll stab you
And hang you from the window sills.

They will chase you into the rivers.
Cries and prayers will be in vain.
They will knock your very heads off.
Then it will be all too late.

Then the fountain jets will redden.
Your backs against the garden walls,
They will come in silence, killing
And no-one else for you will mourn.

How long will you still gather riches.
How long do you want to amass the hoards
Of bars, rolls, stacks of gold and papers,
'Cos you are going to lose them all.

You are the masters of machines and countries.
You took the money and the power.
Why don't you want to change the world
Before they’re knocking at your door?

You don't have to act from kindness.
You're not good and nor are they.
It's not you, the world needs changing.
That’s your duty, your task today.

Man is bad and will remain so.
You don't have to put on wings,
Need not be good, instead be rational,
We are talking about business things.

Your assistance, if provided,
Doesn't help just you alone.
Even when you give to others,
A reward is earned that is your own.

Make the world a better place
Whilst benefiting yourself too.
This is truly, think about it,
Something worth aspiring to.

Make plains fertile, lead, lay tracks.
Organise the world's rebuild.
Oh, were there just a dozen sages
With the means, the cash, the gilts.

But you're not bright, still hesitating.
We're sorry, this you will regret.
Send us a postcard when you're in heaven,
Looking forward to receiving it!

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