blacktitle.jpg (12329 bytes)

Olsen's "There is a Lesson"

Olsen's "There is a Lesson" is another incendiary poem. First appearing in the Daily Worker (5 March 1934) and reprinted in The Partisan (April 1934), the poem concerns the murdering of Austrian socialists by the fascist Dollfuss government:

Keep the children off the streets,


there is an alphabet written in blood

for them to learn,

there is a lesson thundered by collapsed

books of bodies.


They might be riddled bv the bullets

of knowledge,

The deadly gas of revolution might

enter their lungs,

in the streets, the hazardous streets.


In a week, in a month, let them out

of their corners

it will be safe then ... (safe Dollfuss?

safe Bauer and Seitz?

there is a volume written with three

thousand bodies that can never

be hidden,

there is a sentence spelled by the

grim faces of bereaved women,

there is a message, inescapable, that

vibrates the air with voices of

heroes who shouted it to the last:

"Down with Fascism!

Down with Social Democracy!

Long live our Soviets")


Keep them off the streets, Dollfuss,

It will quiver your fat heart with terror

The alphabet written in blood out there

that children are learning.

Return to Tillie Olsen