Julian Tuwin: The Common Man

   

 

Julian Tuwim (1894–1953) was a Polish poet, born in Łódź, Congress Poland,  Russian Empire, of Jewish parents, and educated in Łódź and Warsaw where he studied law and philosophy at Warsaw University. In 1919 Tuwim co-founded the Skamander group of experimental poets with Antoni Słonimski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. He was a major figure in Polish literature, and was also known for his contribution to children's literature.

Initially, Tuwim's poetry was characterized by an expression of vitality, optimism, and praise of urban life. His poems celebrated introduction to the everyday life in a city, with its triviality and vulgarism. In his poems, Tuwim often used vernacular language and slang as well as poetic dialogue.

From the very beginning and throughout his artistic career, Tuwim was satrirically inclined. He supplied sketches and monologues to numerous cabarets. In his poetry and columns, he derided obscurantism and bureaucracy as well as militaristic and nationalistic trends in politics. His best satiric poem is regarded to be the burlesque, "Bal w Operze" (The Ball at the Opera, 1936).

In 1939, at the beginning of World War II and Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland, Tuwim emigrated first through Romania to France, and after France's capitulation, to Brazil, by way of Portugal, and finally to the USA, where he settled in 1942. In 1939-41 he collaborated with the émigré weekly "Wiadomosci Polskie", but broke off the collaboration due to differences in views on the attitude towards the Soviet Union. In 1942-46 he worked with the monthly "Nowa Polska" published in London, and with leftist Polish-American newspapers. He was affiliated with the Polish section of the International Workers Organization from 1942. He was also a member of the Association of Writers From Poland (a member of the board in 1943).

During this time he wrote "Kwiaty Polskie" (Polish Flowers), an epic poem in which he remembers with nostalgia his early childhood in Łódź. In April 1944 he published a manifesto, entitled "My, Żydzi Polscy" (We, Jewish Poles).Tuwim returned to Poland after the war, in 1946, but did not produce much after the war. 

Source: adapted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Tuwim 

 

The Common Man

When plastered billboards scream with slogans 
'fight for your country, go to battle' 
When media's print assults your senses, 
'Support our leaders' shrieks and rattles... 
And fools who don't know any better 
Believe the old, eternal lie 
That we must march and shoot and kill 
Murder, and burn, and bomb, and grill... 

When press begins the battle-cry 
That nation needs to unify 
And for your country you must die... 
Dear brainwashed friend, my neighbor dear 
Brother from this, or other nation 
Know that the cries of anger, fear, 
Are nothing but manipulation 
by fat-cats, kings who covet riches, 
And feed off your sweat and blood - the leeches! 
When call to arms engulfs the land 
It means that somewhere oil was found, 
Shooting 'blackgold' from underground! 
It means they found a sneaky way 
To make more money, grab more gold 
But this is not what you are told! 

Don't spill your blood for bucks or oil 
Break, burn your rifle, shout: 'NO DEAL!' 
Let the rich scoundrels, kings, and bankers 
Send their own children to get killed! 
May your loud voice be amplified 
By roar of other common men 
The battle-weary of all nations: 
WE WON'T BE CONNED TO WAR AGAIN!