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With Stopwatch In Hand

Karl Kraus 1874 (Jičín) – 1936 (Vienna)



Berlin, 22 September 1916.
On 17 September one of our
submarines sank a fully
loaded enemy troop transport
in the Mediterranean. The
ship went down in 43 seconds.

This is how Death confronts Technology.
Can bravery contribute still to might?
The clock has stopped. The days have turned to night.
0 spare us, god of war, this agony!

That was a sacrifice to the machine
and not to you who hurtled from its hole.
Here stood an instrument without a soul –
your proud accomplice - with victorious mien.

There stands a mortar. He who built that gun
seeks shelter in a trench, a wretched coward.
While giants fall, by midgets overpowered,
the clockwork fights with time to stop its run.

Take heed, and lake it easy. Otherwise
you'll see a cripple sit behind a desk
and push a button with a grin grotesque
and London disappears. Surprise, surprise!

The storm clouds gather with destructive power.
What was the time when all this came to pass?
The eye sees dimly in the poison gas -
but hark the striking of the zero hour.

With pranks like that to blow our world apart,
keep God that god from picking up the pieces
as Progress stalks with warhead and prosthesis,
stopwatch in hand, and glory in its heart.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Karl Kraus

Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. more…

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