The Seven Deadly Sins (Kurt Weill) – English translation

Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot…

Libretto
Kurt Weill (1900–1950)
The Seven Deadly Sins
BALLET WITH SONGS
TEXT BY BERTOLT BRECHT

English translation by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman

PROLOGUE

Anna I

So my sister and I left Louisiana where the moon on the Mississippi is a shining ever like you always hear in the songs of Dixie. We look forward to our homecoming and the sooner the better.

Anna II

And the sooner the better.

Anna I

It’s a month already since we started for the great big cities where you go to make money. In seven years our fortune will be made, and then we can go back.

Anna II

In six would be nicer.

Anna I

Our Mom and Dad and both our brothers wait in old Louisiana, and we’ll send them all our money as we make it. For all the money’s got to go to build a little home, down by the Mississippi in Louisiana. Right Anna?

Anna II

Right Anna.

Anna I

She’s the one with the looks. I’m realistic. She’s just a little mad, my head is on straight. But we’re really one divided being, even though you see two of us. And both of us are Anna. Together we’ve but a single past, a single future, one heart and one savings account, and we only do what suits each other best. Right Anna?

Anna II

Right Anna.

i. SLOTH

Family

Will she now? Will our Anna pull herself together? Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. For she was always quite a one for the armchair. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. Unless you came and hauled her off the mattress. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. The lazy slut would lie abed all morning. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. Otherwise, Anna was, we must admit, a most respectful child. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. Did what she was told and showed affection for her parents. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. This is what we told her when she left home. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot. Think of us and mind you keep your nose down to the grindstone. Lazy bones are for the Devil’s stockpot.

O Lord, look down upon our daughter. Show her the way that leads the good to Thy reward. In all her doings preserve her and comfort her. Incline her heart to serve all Thy commandments that her works on earth may prosper.

ii. PRIDE

Anna I

So we saved up, bought ourselves an outfit, nighties, nylons, beautiful dresses. Soon we found a job that was going. A job as Dancer in a Cabaret. A job in Memphis, the second big town we came to. Oh, how hard it was for Anna. Beautiful clothes can make a good girl particularly when the drinking tigress meets herself in the pool; she’s apt to become a menace. She began talking about Art (of all things). About the Art (if you please) of Cabaret. In Memphis, the second big town we came to it wasn’t Art that sort of people came for. That sort of people came for something else. And when a man has paid for his evening, he expects a good show in return. So if you cover up your bosom and thighs like you had a rash, don’t be surprised to see them yawning.

So I told my Art loving sister Anna, “Leave your pride to those who can well afford it. Do what you are asked to do and not what you want, for that isn’t what is wanted.”

Anna I (simultaneously with Family)

Oh, but I had trouble, I can tell you with her fancy, pigheaded notions. Many night I sat by her bedside, holding her hand and saying this: Think of your home in Louisiana.

Family (simultaneously with Anna I)

O Lord, look down upon our daughter, show her the way that leads the good to Thy reward. Who fights the good fight and all self subdues, wins the Palm, gains the Crown.

iii. ANGER

Family

We’re at a standstill. What she’s been sending it’s not any money a man can build a home with. She’s as giddy as a cyclone. All the profits go for her pleasure. And we’re at a standstill, for what she’s been sending, is not any money a man can build a home with. Won’t she settle down to business, won’t she ever learn to save something? For what the featherbrain is sending is not any kind of money a man can build a little home with.

Anna I

We’re making progress. We have come to Los Angeles. And every door is open here to welcome extras. We only need a bit of practice avoiding possible faux pas, and what can stop us going straight to the top then!

Family

O Lord, look down upon our daughter, show her the way that leads the good to Thy reward.

Anna I

If you take offence at injustice, Mister Big will show he’s offended. If a curse or a blow can enrage you so, your usefulness here is ended. Then mind what the Good Book tells us when it says “Resist not evil!” Unforgiving anger is from the Devil. It took time to teach my sister that wrath would not do in Los Angeles, the third big town we came to, where her open disapproval of injustice was so widely disapproved. I forever told her “Practice self control, Anna, for you know how much it costs you if you don’t!” And she understood and answered.

Anna II

Yes, I know, Anna.

iv. GLUTTONY

Family

We’ve gotten word from Philadelphia, Anna’s doing well making lots of money. Her contract has been signed to do a solo turn. It forbids her ever eating when or what she likes to eat. Those are hard terms for little Anna who has always been very greedy. Oh, if only she does not break her contract. There’s no market for hippos in Philadelphia. Every single day they weigh her. Gaining half an ounce means trouble. They have principles to stand by. “It’s a hundred and eighteen that you were signed for.” Gaining half an ounce means trouble. More than that would mean disaster. More than that would surely mean disaster. But our Anna is not all that stupid. And she knows a contract is a contract. So she’ll reason: After all, you still can eat like little Anna in Louisiana. Crab meat, pork chops, sweet corn, chicken. And those golden biscuits spread with honey.

Think of our house in Louisiana! Look! It’s growing! More and more it needs you! Therefore curb your craving. Gluttons will be punished. Curb your craving. Stop it Anna! Stop it at once! Gluttons never go to heaven.

v. LUST

Anna I

Then we met a wealthy man in Boston. And he paid her a lot because he loved her. But I had to keep a watch on Anna who was too loving but she loved another. And she paid him a lot. Because she loved him. So I said: “Cheat the man who protects you and you’ve lost half your value then. He may pay once although he suspects you. But he won’t pay time and time again. You can have your fun with money when you’ve no provider you must face. But for girls like us, it’s not funny, if we ever even once forget our place.” “Don’t try to sit between two stools,” I told her. Then I went to see her young friend and said: “If you’re kind you won’t hold her, for this love will be your sweetheart’s bitter end. Girls can have their fun with money when the money is their own to give. But for girls like us it’s not funny, if we even once forget the way we live.”

But alas, I then saw him quite often. There was nothing going on (naturally). Until Anna found out and worse luck, blamed the whole affair on me.

Family

O Lord, look down upon our daughter, show her the way that leads the good to Thy reward. Incline her heart to observe all Thy commandments, that her works on earth may prosper.

Anna I

Now she shows off her little round white fanny, worth twice a little Texas motel. And for nothing the pool room can stare at Annie, as though she’d nothing to sell. That’s why most girls don’t get rich for they go wrong when they forget their place. You’re not free to buy what you itch for when you’ve got a good provider you must face.

Family

Who fights the good fight and all self subdues, wins the Palm, gains the Crown.

Anna I

It wasn’t easy putting that in order saying goodbye to young Fernando. Then back to Edward to apologize. Then the endless nights I heard my sister sobbing bitterly and repeating:

Anna II

It’s right like this, Anna, but so hard!

vi. GREED

Family

Anna, so the papers say, now set up in Baltimore. Lots of folk seem to be shooting themselves for her. She must be near to the top, and raking it in to get in the news like that. Well, so far, so good: to be talked about helps a young girl up the ladder. But isn’t she overdoing it? Let her beware of overdoing it. Some people might think she was mean. Folk shy away from a girl who’s said to be mean. Folk give a wide berth to those who grab all they can get. Point unfriendly fingers at those whose greed goes beyond all bounds. In the measure you give, you will surely be given. And as you do, so will you be done by. Fair is fair.

We sincerely hope our smart little Anna also has common sense. And will let them keep a shirt or two when she lets them go for good. Shameless hoarders earn themselves a bad name. Shameless hoarders earn themselves a bad name.

vii. ENVY

Anna I

And the last big town we came to was San Francisco. Life there was fine, only Anna felt so tired and grew envious of others: of those who pass the time at their ease and in comfort; those too proud to be bought; of those whose wrath is kindled by injustice; those who act upon their impulses happily; lovers true to their loved ones; and those who take what they need without shame.

Whereupon I told my poor tired sister when I saw how much she envied them: “Sister, from birth we may write our own story and anything we choose we are permitted to do. But the proud and insolent who strut in their glory, little they guess, little they guess, little they guess the fate they’re swaggering to. Sister is strong, you must learn to say ‘No’ to the joys of this world, for this world is a snare. Only the fools in this world will let go, who don’t care a damn, don’t care a damn, don’t care a damn, will be made to care. Don’t let the flesh and its longings get you. Remember the price that a lover must pay and say to yourself when temptations beset you, what is the use, what is the use, beauty will perish and youth pass away. Sister, you know when our life here is over: Those who were good, go to bliss unalloyed. Those who were bad are rejected forever, gnashing their teeth, gnashing their teeth, gnashing their teeth in a gibbering void.”

Family

Who fights the good fight and all self subdues, wins the Palm, gains the Crown.

EPILOGUE

Anna I

Now we’re coming back to you in Louisiana, where the moon on the Mississippi is a shining ever. Seven years we’ve been away in the big towns where you go to make money; and now our fortune’s made and now you’re there, little home in old Louisiana. We’re coming back to you, to our little home beside the Mississippi in Louisiana. Right, Anna?

Anna II

Right, Anna!

The upcoming CSO performance is given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Schott Music Ltd of Mainz

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