Sonntag, 1. Oktober 2017

Harry Graham (49)

Da aktuell die beiden Reizthemen Lyrik und Kolonialismus dank Boris Johnson und Rudyard Kipling in aller Munde sind: Hier ein satirisches Gedicht aus »Familiar Faces« (1907), in dem Harry Graham über die Kongogräuel schreibt, für die der damalige belgische König Leopold II. maßgeblich verantwortlich war. Editorischer Hinweis: Ich habe mir erlaubt, das n-word in S4V1 unkenntlich zu machen.
Harry Graham: King Leopold

(»In dealing with a race that has been composed of cannibals for thousands of years, it is necessary to use methods that best can shake their idleness and make them realise the sanctity of labour.«—King Leopold of Belgium on the Congo scandal.)

People call him »knave« and »ogre« and a lot of kindred names,  
   Or they label him as »tyrant« and »oppressor«;  
The majority must wilfully misunderstand his aims
   To regard him in the light of a transgressor.  
For, to tell the honest truth, he's a benevolent old man
   Who attempts to do his »duty to his neighbour«
By endeavouring to formulate a philanthropic plan  
   Which shall demonstrate the »sanctity of labour.«

There were natives on the Congo not a score of years ago,  
   Whose existence was a constant round of pleasure;  
Whose imperfect education had not ever let them know 
   The pernicious immorality of leisure.
They were merry little people, in their simple savage way,  
   Not a thought to moral obligations giving;  
Quite unconscious of their duties, wholly ignorant were they  
   Of the blessedness of working for a living.
But a fond paternal Government (in Belgium, need I add?)  
   Heard their story, and, with admirable kindness,  
Deemed it utterly improper, not to say a trifle sad,  
   That the heathen should continue in his blindness.  
»Let us civilise the children of this most productive soil,«
   Said their agents, who proceeded to invade them; 
»Let us show these foolish savages the dignity of toil—  
   If we have to use a hatchet to persuade them!«
So they taught these happy ners how unwise it was to shirk; 
   They implored them not to idle or malinger;  
And they showed them there was nothing that encouraged honest work 
   Like the loss of sev'ral toes or half a finger.  
When they fancied that their womenfolk were lonely or depress'd,  
   They would chain them nice and close to one another,  
And they thoughtfully abducted ev'ry baby at the breast,  
   To facilitate the labours of its mother.
So they made a point of parting ev'ry husband from his wife  
   And dividing ev'ry maiden from her lover; 
If a workman drooped or sickened they would jab him with a knife, 
   And then leave him by the roadside to recover. 
If he grumbled or grew restive they would amputate a hand,  
   Just to show him how unsafe it was to blubber,  
Till with infinite solicitude they made him understand  
   The necessity of cultivating »rubber.«
Thus the merry work progresses, as it must progress forsooth, 
   While these pioneers are sharp and firm and wary,—  
And the Congo is reluctantly compelled to own the truth  
   Of that motto »Laborare est orare.«
Though the Belgians sometimes wonder, on their tenderhearted days, 
   (When the little children scream as they abduct them), 
If the natives CAN supply sufficient rubber to erase 
   The effect of such endeavours to instruct them.
Tho' within the royal bosom a suspicion there may lurk  
   That these practices offend the sister-nations,  
That one cannot safely advocate »the sanctity of work,«
   By a policy of theft and mutilations,—  
Yet wherever on the Congo Belgium's banner is unfurled,  
   Where the atmosphere is redolent and sunny, 
I am sure the Monarch's methods must be giving to the world 
   Some ideas upon the »sanctity of money!«
And, if so, I am not boasting when I mention once again  
That the Ruler of the Congo has not surely ruled in vain!

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