Thursday, March 18, 2021






 Translated by David Constantine and  Tom Kuhn

On that day in the blue month of September
Quietly under a young plum tree
I held her like a sweet dream in my arms
My pale love, and she was quiet with me.
And above us in the fair heavens of summer
There was a cloud, some while I saw it there
It was very white and high, so high, above
And when I looked again it was there no more.


Since that day many many moons have gone
Swimming quietly down, down and away
No doubt the plum trees have been felled by now
And if you ask, And what about love? I say
In answer I cannot now remember
But I do know what you mean, of course I do
But her face, in truth, I wouldn’t know it now
I kissed it once upon a time, that’s all I know.


And even the kiss I’d have long since forgotten
Had it not been that the cloud was also there
The cloud I do remember and always will
It was very white and high when it came over.
Who knows, perhaps the plum trees do still blossom
And that woman by now, perhaps, has seven children
But only a few minutes did that cloud blossom
And vanished in the wind when I looked up again.

The Marxist German dramatist Bertolt Brecht is internationally known for his anti-bourgeois plays such as "The Good woman of Szechwan" and "The Threepenny Opera" . He was a gifted and original poet too. In fact, even when he writes his dialogues with his acid humor and cynicism about contemporary society, one can always detect his penchant for poetic interludes.

Brecht, the ruthless and cynical unmasker of life with a soft spot in his heart is evident in this poem. At first one may think this a sentimental elegy on young and lost love. But abruptly the poet jolts us with his characteristic Brechtian twist: his coldly cynical confession that he cannot remember what love is nor the face of the girl. (Or has he suppressed it because the thought of her now being a dowdy matron with seven children would spoil his memory?) Even the kiss would be long forgotten were not for that cloud,"so very white and so immensely lofty". Yet, beneath this pose of oddly-combined sentimentality and cynicism, we sense the deeper Brecht, the human being and poet, whose image of the cloud, winging its way over the transitory, lends permanence and lasting beauty to the recollection of Marie. There is a
sense of naughty playfulness towards the whole business of love in this poem.


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