Home > History, Literature > Questions From a Worker Who Reads

Questions From a Worker Who Reads

While studying for my historical theory class during my lunch hour today, I came across this treasure from Bertold Brecht (1898-1956). Brecht was a Marxist poet, playwright, and theatre director, who often used poetry and the theatre to express his political ideology. This poem, written in 1935, is a wonderful example of not only Marxist history, but of People’s history as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Questions From a Worker Who Reads.

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings 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 its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great 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 that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

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  1. July 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Wonderful. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  2. July 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I really did like that. Poetry and Marxism are both under-rated.
    May I share a favorite?
    http://kansasmediocrity.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/manifesto-the-mad-farmer-liberation-front/

    Like

  3. July 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    How quickly history forgets the little people.

    Like

    • July 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      I think that’s why many historians over the last 150 years have made such a concerted effort to document “history from below” or “people’s history.” They’re trying like hell to make up for lost time 😉

      Like

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