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After the Anschluss and Sudetenland,

before the invasion of Poland,

Bertholt Brecht, in exile from the Third Reich

in a thatched cottage on a Danish island,

posed a question in a short poem –

‘When the dark times arrive will there still be songs?’

As poets tend to do Brecht answered himself.

‘Yes, there will even then be singing – about

the dark times that have come’.


After the arms manufacturer’s profits

have returned to normal, and democratic

politicians’ have devised new distractions

for their electorates, and cheerleaders

who would send other people’s sons and daughters

to war have found new enthusiasms,

and the defeated have been punished,

the pacifists admonished, the victors

exonerated, and much of Africa

and the so-called Middle East has been unpeopled

by famine, and the world continues

to be consumed by fire, drought and flood,

will there still be singing?



Note: For a translation rather than an imitation of Brecht’s ‘In den finsteren Zeiten…’ see Edwin Morgan’s:


© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Mary Clark
    June 24, 2022

    In the dark times we need singing more. Think of the slaves in the U.S. and the Caribbean singing as they worked and in their brief times of rest. Famine and illness, though, can silence people. As long as we can find a bite to eat and keep walking or crawling, some will be singing about the end of the dark times. Even when it seems insane to hope for that end.

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