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Bertolt Brecht: Wherein a holy war differs from other wars

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Bertolt Brecht: Selections on war

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Bertolt Brecht
From Mother Courage and Her Children (1939)
Translated by Eric Bentley

bertolt-brecht-1898-1956-granger

CHAPLAIN: [To] fall in this war is not a misfortune, it’s a blessing. This is a war of religion. Not just any old war but a special one, a religious one, and therefore pleasing unto God.

COOK: Correct. In one sense it’s a war because there’s fleecing, bribing, plundering, not to mention a little raping, but it’s different from all other wars because it’s a war of religion. That’s clear. All the same, it makes you thirsty.

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The Fraternization Song

When I was almost seventeen
The foe came to our land
And laying aside his saber
He took me gently by the hand.

First came the May Day Rite
Then came the May Day night.
The pipes played and the drums did beat.
The foe paraded down the street.
And then with us they took their ease
And fraternized behind the trees.

Our foes they came in plenty.
A cook was my own foe.
I hated him by daylight
But in the dark I loved him so.

First came the May Day Rite
Then came the May Day night.
The pipes played and the drums did beat.
The foe parades down every street.
And then with us they took their ease
And fraternized behind the trees.

The heavens seemed to open
Such passion did I feel.
But my people never understood
The love I felt was real.

One day the sun rose slow
On all my pain and woe.
My loved one, with the other men,
Presented arms and stood at ease
Then marched away past all those trees
And never did come back again.

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