Result of Perspectives
by Gottfried Benn
The German poet Gottfried Benn has a vision of the White race’s decline in this text from 1930, which is presented here in its first English translation.
Result of perspectives. The world power heads debate. In Central Europe unite steel works from Bengal, barrages from the Amazon River, mercury from Hungary, Korean coal. The changing hall glows in the ornament of flags of fifty nations, from the ceiling of the round room hang banners in green, purple, orange, pink, blue, and red, the emblems of the five continents. The president beats the silver gong with the silver hammer.
The White man is in parts of the Earth. Niggers, hired from the kraal hidden deep in the bushes, a pumpkin full of drink on his back, he drifts through regions without water between lions and dog-hyenas in the washed-out sand of the silver mine, at night in the tin huts on the cemented mass banks intoxication breaks out with fecal pleasure and sodomy. Through slaves, bought cheap at the Congo, in the Confederate States sold for whisky and guns, on the way back plundering a Spanish silver ship in the name of the Virgin Queen, he established his immense wealth; with the Palmadorra in the hands, the whip with holes in it, which produces blisters, he becomes biblical: who has got something, is given, therefore the cross on the mission houses and the coconuts in the storage shed. Wherever he sets his foot, it becomes green: fire water, patent leather shoes, aluminum pottery for the children of the wilderness; the Hindu women, liberated from the widow burnings, he sends to regulated work with their children for sixteen hours in the mines; the soft peach bloom he leads to life: in the bar of the Majestic Hotel in Shanghai he teaches them to drink the cocktail with the elegance of a small bird.
On top of the old castles of the Grand Moghuls, antennas clap; destruction of space: on the slopes of the Himalayas, on the edge of Tibet, in view of Mount Everest stands the eight-tube-apparatus and here Grimsby and Königswusterhausen dictate. First the pirates, then the military, now the scientists. Magic of technology: the Atlantic is being led into the Kalahari, new skies, new rainfalls, new climates, and from the Sudan to Nyassaland the cotton trusts from Lancashire plant their own Malvaceae.
Bicycles to Uganda! In the Punjab, in turn, his view encompasses the forests, the maiden-like silence. These are views, these are deep views, these are downright transpiration views: there the palms are sweating margarine and the acacias rubber — of the two thousand eight hundred different trees of the Indian forests, five hundred are in the world trade, sixty in high demand, this view rests on leaf-roof amortizations, bamboo mortgage bonds, the children of Flora, dreamily out of the soil pounds and guineas grow.
The evening sets. On Nanking Road, Shanghai, the most pompous shopping street in Asia, the parade of limousines floats, splendor of enamel, the dreams of women. The bully dog matches the armchair shade after shade, the gramophone covered in the leather of the cushions, purse-like folding boat in the native embrace of the Yellow River, tarnished silk scarfs, newly embroidered: the Dragon of Manchu and the Leopards of the King.
Another Empire: the English-Chinese diarchy, headquarter Delhi, Imperial Delhi: Australia not much further than South Africa, Cairo as close as Singapore — the evening sets, the White race still rules, but it taught the Yellow one, already it is above it, already high-rises on the Brahmaputra, already vines are blooming on the Ganges, another fifty years and the Unceasing sways back. A new Khan, a new flag, a new green flag of the prophet, Vishnu awakes, Asia colonizes, through the ruins of the Indian campagna, over the yellow earth, from the white flowers of the tea fields, over the Great Wall, rises, surrounded by the ghosts of the Mingh graves, a yellow God.
The White race is finished. Technical magic, a thousand words of Rebbach, text standardized, score of numbers, that was its last dream. Import from Asia: bicycles to Ulster, lollipops to Halberstadt, beer warmers for the union house. Farewell, opportunism from the stock market to psychiatry! Grainless land, exhausted shafts, empty docks. Who cried for the fallen family — Iliads to and fro! The Unceasing visits the Pole, sprinkles earth on Scott’s grave, soon people of the fire lands are growing roses there. The Unceasing, from sea to sea, moonless worlds too early, here, down.
(translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister)