Guest poem sent in by Priscilla Jebaraj This one's not really a war poem, but it struck me as being relevant to the times:
(Poem #1185) Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Our Thoughts Are Free)
Die Gedanken sind frei My thoughts freely flower, Die Gedanken sind frei My thoughts give me power. No scholar can map them, No hunter can trap them, No man can deny: Die Gedanken sind frei! I think as I please And this gives me pleasure, My conscience decrees, This right I must treasure; My thoughts will not cater To duke or dictator, No man can deny-- Die Gedanken sind frei! And if tyrants take me And throw me in prison My thoughts will burst free, Like blossoms in season. Foundations will crumble, The structure will tumble, And free men will cry: Die Gedanken sind frei! Neither trouble or pain Will ever touch me again. No good comes of fretting, My hope's in forgetting. Within myself still I can think as I will, But I laugh, do not cry: Die Gedanken sind frei!
(Old German song, translation by Arthur Kevess and Gerda Lerner) I first discovered this poem in what was my favourite book as a child: 'From Anna' by Jean Little. It tells the story of a German family in the 1930s who are digusted with Hitler and Nazism and leave the Fatherland for Canada. This song was apparently very popular immediately before and during World War II. At a time when all freedoms were being attacked, Germans clung to the fact that their thoughts were still free. It was a source of hope in the concentration camps and an weapon of defiance to the resistance. (In fact, I found this translation on a website about the student protest group, The White Rose). The poem has a long history of protest. It can be traced back to the 12th Century when the minstrel (!) Dietmar von Aist sang "Die Gedanken, die sind ledig frei". It appeared in its current form during the Peasant Wars of 1524-5, a series of rural uprisings directed against unbearable taxation. Both Lutheran and Catholic landlords cut the rebels down: Martin Luther himself condemned the peasants. But they didn't really care -- after all, their thoughts were still free. I guess it's still the same today. The manipulation of ideas and thoughts, whether in Baghdad or Washington, will ultimately fail, because "Die gedanken sind frei!" Priscilla PS: Interestingly, there are several fairly different versions and translations of this song. If you want to read it in the original German, or listen to the song set to music, check out this site: http://members.aol.com/masksfaces/whiterose/free.html And here's a not-so-popular version that some people say is more authentic: Thoughts are free! Who can guess them? They fly along like nightly treasures. No man can know them No hunter can shoot them With powder and lead Thoughts are free! I think about what I want and what makes me happy But everything quietly, and just how it comes. To my wish and desire Nobody can oppose, It stays this way: Thoughts are free! And if they lock me in a dark dungeon That is something that can be forgiven 'Cause my thoughts tear up the bars and walls. Thoughts are free! I think about what I want and what makes me happy ... And if they lock me in a dark dungeon ... I love wine, my girl most of all, Only me she pleases best I am not alone With my glass of wine My girl is with me: Thoughts are free! That's why I will never worry anymore And I will never tease myself with whims anymore Because in one's heart One can keep laughing and joking While thinking Thoughts are free! Priscilla