Posts Tagged ‘Francis Wheen’

Desmond Painter. Marais & Engels in Bremen

Friday, August 13th, 2010
Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels

Het jy gedink Danie Marais was die eerste ou wat in Bremen oor die ekspat-ervaring en ekonomiese nomades uit Afrika aan die dig geraak het? Dink dan weer! Meer as ‘n 150 jaar voor hom het Friedrich Engels ook vir ‘n wyle in Bremen gewoon (hy was ‘n klerk by ‘n uitvoeronderneming), en sy eerste gepubliseerde skryfsel, ‘n gedig met die titel ‘The Bedouin’, het op 16 September 1838 in die Bremisches Conversationsblatt verskyn. Hier is die gepubliseerde weergawe:

The Bedouin – deur Friedrich Engels

Now the bell rings, and suddenly
The silken curtain swift ascends.
And all in hushed expectancy
Wait for the evening to commence.

No Kotzebue commands the scene
To set the merry audience roaring.
No Schiller of the earnest mien
Steps forth, his golden words outpouring.

Sons of the desert, proud and free,
Walk on to greet us, face to face;
But pride is vanished utterly,
And freedom lost without a trace.

They jump at money’s beck and call
(As once that lad from dune to dune
Bounded for joy). They’re silent, all,
Save one who sings a dirge-like tune.

The audience, amazed and awed
By what these acrobats can do,
Applauds them, just as it applauds
The trumperies of Kotzebue.

Fleet nomads of the desert lands,
You’ve braved the sun’s fierce noontide rays
Through harsh Morocco’s burning sands,
Through valleys where the date-palms sway.

And through the garden paradise
Of Bled-el-Djerid once you swept.
You turned your wits to bold forays.
Your steeds to battle proudly stepped.

You sat there, where moon lustres spill
By rare springs in a palm-tree grove,
And lovely lips with gracious skill
A fairy-story garland wove.

Sleeping in narrow tents you lay
In love’s warm arms, with dreams all round,
Till sunrise ushered in the day
And camels made their bellowing sound.

They jump at money’s beck and call,
And not at Nature’s primal urge.
Their eyes are blank, they’re silent, all,
Except for one who sings a dirge.

*** 

Volgens Marx se biograaf Francis Wheen was hierdie gedig Engels se eerste gepubliseerde werk, maar ook sy eerste kennismaking met ‘the censoriousness of bourgeois editors.’ Inderdaad: die laaste strofe was nie deur Engels self geskryf nie, maar ‘n plaasvervangende invoegsel geskep deur die redakteur van die tydskrif! Volgens Wheen het die oorspronklike gedig ‘began by lamenting that the Bedouin – “sons of the desert, proud and free” – had been robbed of that pride and freedom, and were now mere performing exhibits for the amusement of tourists. It ended with a stirring battle-cry:

Go home again exotic guests!

Your desert robes do not belong

With our Parisian coats and vests,

Nor with our literature your song!

Die stanza waarmee die gepubliseerde weergawe eindig was sonder Engels se medewete of toestemming ingevoeg, en sy oorspronklike weggelaat. “Thus an angry exhortation was reduced to nothing more than a melancholy, rueful shrug of the shoulders. Engels was understandably displeased: in his primitive fashion he had already noticed that society is shaped by economic imperatives, but the editor would not allow him to name or condemn the culprits” (Francis Wheen, Karl Marx, 1999, Fourth Estate, London, pp. 77-78).

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