A German Folk Song (Ein deutsches Volkslied)

tucholsky

The people are dumb, but sly.

A song is popular in Germany at the moment which is the most perfect expression imaginable of the popular psyche. Beyond that, it illustrates the time in which we are living, its characteristics, and the attitude which we need to take to it. While the frivolous  Latin sings his song thoughtlessly to himself, it befits us to critically examine the lyrics of this new folk song with diligent German thoroughness, to get to the bottom of it. The words which we need to illuminate, are:

We’re going to piss up Granny’s little house,
her little house, her little house,
and her first and second mortgage!

Before we undertake our examination, let us first clarify that the childish word Granny is an abbreviation of Grandma, which in turn means grandmother, so the song means, “We, the singers, have resolved to realize the value of our treasured grandmother’s property, in particular her dwelling, and invest the sum raised in alcoholic beverage.” Why, we ask ourselves? The little song describes the current macroeconomic situation precisely and concisely: we are consuming our capital. It is the same thing as the fact that pensioners are forced to make inroads into their capital, because they can no longer live from the interest on their savings. Note the subtlety with which the generations are contrasted: the older generation of the grandmothers who still have a house, which they bought from their hard-earned savings, and the generations of their children and grandchildren, who audaciously set about the family  assets and flush the sweat and blood of their grandparents down their throats! With what meticulous care the little idyll is sketched out. This one example suffices, and we see the comfortable, petit bourgeois life of the grandma before us: the good old lady sits happily on her little bench in front of her little house in the evening sun, and remembers when all her little grandchildren played happily around her knees…

But that is a long time ago, grandma has been laid in her grave, and the roaring ring of grandchildren pays her back with this song, “We’re going to piss up Granny’s little house…“ Is this a folk song? It is its purest form. One must not think about how it used to be. The wanderer probably sang happy songs about the green linden tree and the blue-eyed maiden because that is what was dear to his heart. This song is also about what is dear to our hearts: mortgages. Whereas Walther von der Vogelweide[1] used to sing his Tandaradei[2] in the air, and leave trade to the money bags, these days the businessmen sing Tandaradei!, and the songwriters write about mortgages, if with a certain naivety, because they didn’t notice that the mortgage itself is a debt, and as such cannot be drunk. They probably mean to make careless use of the funds raised by mortgaging the house.

That’s how the people sing. This is the soul of your people speaking. This is it in its entirety. We shouldn’t be surprised if a simple folk song soon contains the word ‘cost of living allowance’ or ‘Christmas bonus’, because this is the only true, honest poetry these days.

Poets link hands around the globe in brotherly love, they see God in every blade of grass, but the honest folk express their feelings plainly. They are still living from the goods of their elders. They are slowly taking over summer clothes, sofas, beliefs and religions, and at the moment, they aren’t creating any new ones. The song doesn’t say what will happen when they have used them all up. There are still some left, and as long as there are, the people will keep living from the capital.

And piss up grandma’s little house.


[2] Onomatopoeic word for the song on a nightingales, in Walther von der Vogelweide’s song Unter den Linden

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

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