The "Sound" (Sund), a strait south of the island of Funen (Fyn) Kleiner Belt - Little Belt - Lillebælt
Frühling 1938 (Spring 1938) was probably written in 1938 but was not included in the already completed collection entitled Svendborger Gedichte (Svendborg Poems). The poem subsequently became the opening piece in a collection called simply Gedichte (Poems), which Brecht's collaborator Margarete Steffin compiled in 1940 and hectographed in Helsinki in 1941. Brecht gave it to his Finnish friends and helpers as a parting gift in May 1941 and renamed it - following Steffin's death in June - the Steffinische Sammlung (Steffin Collection).
Frühling 1938 is a triptych comprising three independent poems, the second of which is presented here. The poems making up the Steffinische Sammlung were printed the first time in 1967 in volume 9 of the 20 volumes of collected works published by Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt am Main.
When in August 1938 Brecht gave his planned anthology of “Poems in Exile” the title Svendborger Gedichte (Svendborg Poems), he signalled a clear turn towards the concrete environment of the countries in which he spent his Scandinavian exile. The poems us.e the concrete details of his own everyday emigrant experience to illuminate the prevailing circumstances of National Socialist expansion across Europe. The house on Funen and his garden, the Stockholm island of Lidingö, and the natural environment of the Marlebäck estate are named and presented in the poems. In his Marlebäck sonnet Finnische Landschaft (Finnish Landscape) Brecht achieves a highpoint in terms of sensual, synaesthetic comprehension of the Nordic landscape.
Yet here too, the natural motifs retain their emblematically referential character. Nature poems based purely on an interest in particular locations and the feelings they evoke are not something we can expect from Brecht. And it is therefore hardly surprising to find both poems ending with an emphatically political punch line.
Hans Peter Neureuter
Bertolt Brecht: Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. Hg. Von W. Hecht, J. Knopf, W. Mittenzwei, K.-D. Müller, Band 12: Gedichte 2 (Sammlungen 1938-1956), Berlin, Weimar, Frankfurt am Main 1988 (Bearbeitet von Jan Knopf), S. 95
Overall views of life and work: Jan Knopf (ed.): Brecht Handbuch, 5 vols, Stuttgart 2001-2003. Jan Knopf: BB, Stuttgart 2000, Günter Berg, Wolfgang Jeske: BB, Stuttgart 1998, Werner Mittenzwei: Das Leben des BB oder Der Umgang mit den Welträtseln, 2 vols, Berlin, Weimar 1986-87.