The poem’s primary level of meaning concerns the difficulties of growing older—the physical difficulties (failing senses), the mental difficulties (failing concentration and difficulties in making decisions), and the fact that one remembers one’s youth, when one was healthier and happier. Beyond these meanings, however, if one looks at Brecht’s life, one can also theorize that he may be brooding over particular memories, regrets, and dissatisfactions. As most people do, Brecht probably had regrets about the life he had led, goals he had not reached, and people he had hurt.
It is conceivable, for example, that Brecht suffered some remorse over his use of “collaborators” to compose the plays which brought him acclaim. Bruce Cook, in Brecht in Exile (1982), explains that Brecht rationalized this practice by stating that “the work profits if many take part in it.” (Brecht did credit those who worked with him, although credit was given in very small type on the reverse side of the title page, tucked into the copyright material.) John Fuegi, in Brecht & Company (1994), argues that great as he had been as a theatrical innovator and director, Brecht had not in fact been the playwright he had pretended to be. Those who had actually created the works never received the money nor the acclaim they deserved.
Perhaps more than personal concerns, political and social concerns could also have made Brecht’s last years “Difficult Times.” In...
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