Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 118

The war was not quite over yet, it caused the kaiser vain to have his soldier
die: it seemed ahead of time....
And they immediately took the soldier along, the night was blue and
You could see,
you wore no helmet, the stars at home.
They poured a fiery schnaps into the rotten body and hung two nurses on
his arm and his half-naked wife.
And because the soldier stinks of decay, a parson limps to the fore who
swings a censor over him so that he can stink no more.
In front the music with ching da-da-da plays a merry march. And the sol·
dier, as he's been trained to do, flings his legs from his arse.... )
The seeming crudeness of the meter, the dry, banal idiom
the economy of details are the setting against which the ballad pro–
jects its horror, intensified by the contrast. This is really parody
.reverse, for what Brecht does is to raise the ballad form to a dignity
it has not enjoyed for a long time, even in Germany. Nevertheless,
it is parody. The humor, savage as it is, results largely from the
contrast between the situation and the accumulated habitual
responses provided by tradition-it is not simply that Brecht uses
a certain formal pattern: he uses everything historically connected
with that pattern-and what that situation and those responses
develop into. The ballad style of understatement is over-extended
and, in a way, criticized, by being forced to understate grotesque
and ludicrous horror....
Brecht is a consummate parodist because he is above all
playwright and dramatic poet, and by instinct puts on a mask
before speaking. He is a satiric poet, but down at bottom not a
lyricist. He has to cast himself in a role before the poetry cau
come. All the poems, save for a few, in the
or Homi·
lies for the Home, are parodies in some way or other. Everythins
is grist for Brecht's mill: the Lutheran hymn, Bible versicles,
waltz song, nursery rhymes, magic spells, the prayer, ' even jazz
songs-which last he succeeds in converting to his purpose only
because colloquial German hasn't the banality of its English coun–
terpart and is much less remote from literary language-and at
that, even the jazz song tends to become a ballad when Brecht
it, especially in the handling of the refrain. Because most of these
forms are closely connected with music and because Brecht himsell
is very much interested in music, he was able to collaborate with
composers-something rare in modern poetry-and quite a few
his ballads have been set to music, in addition to the librettos
wrote for Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler.
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