THE LAST DAYS OF MANKIND ACT II SCENE 18
Schottenring. Enter Frau Pollatschek and Frau Rosenberg.
FRAU ROSENBERG: We must keep up appearances. The housewives of Austria will persevere, with the same discipline we have always displayed. We will continue to purchase pork exclusively on Thursdays and Saturdays. District groups will ensure the good work is kept up. The same with felt!
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: Pork on Thursdays and Saturdays!
FRAU ROSENBERG: It is the duty of Austrian housewives to make their voices heard. The Women’s Institute cannot stand idly by and see market prices being manipulated, certainly not where shoulder ham is concerned.
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: Unity means purity! Especially for boiled beef!
FRAU ROSENBERG: We won’t be deterred by any form of terrorism. Per aspera ad astra,  especially when it comes to veal. We WI members -
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: Look, Frau Bachstelz and Frau Funk-Feigl of the Townswomen’s Guild, who’d love to poison me in a spoonful of soup.
FRAU BACHSTELZ: We’re just on our way back from the Market Hall, and I do wish you could have seen what is going on there, my dears!
FRAU FUNK-FEIGL: We’d hastened there in the interests of the common good, because we know where battle must be joined – unlike certain people of whom we can only say: if they do these things in a green tree, well -
FRAU ROSENBERG: It’s regrettable you’ve allowed yourself to become so personal. Your letter to the New Free Press contains pointed remarks about the Women’s Institute – written when still a member! Maverick!
FRAU FUNK-FEIGL: That’s a lie. My husband will sue!
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: We have no truck with separatists! We are Women’s Institute women heart and soul. Times, let me tell you, are too great today, far too great, for us to think about anything other than solidarity!
FRAU FUNK-FEIGL: Don’t teach me about solidity! We’d still be with the WI if you hadn't intrigued behind our backs and put a gun to our heads,
FRAU BACHSTELZ: We’re the ones hoarding every morsel -
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: To buy egret feathers!
FRAU BACHSTELZ: Prove it!
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: Last Saturday you were seen with egret feathers at the Volkstheater première! The proof is sitting on top of your head!
FRAU BACHSTELZ: Last year's hat! I happen to be wearing a war blouse!
FRAU POLLATSCHEK: Who could tell with that figure, dear?
FRAU BACHSTELZ (screams): You cow! If these weren’t great times -
FRAU ROSENBERG: Ignore these propaganda-mongers. We know where all that anger comes from. Just because the food inspector spent more time with us last night in the communal kitchen, you needn't get so excited, dear -
FRAU BACHSTELZ (reaching paroxysm): You can take that monstrous insinuation back right now – right now - or my husband will have the whole Procurement Promotion Board down on you like a ton of bricks!
FRAU ROSENBERG: My husband has the entire Milk Marketing Board behind him! That’s before we even get to the Film Board and the Royal Automobile Association – my husband happens to an economic advisor!
FRAU BACHSTELZ: And mine’s a privy counsellor! He’ll bring the whole Munitions Acquisition Department down on you, not to mention the Film Propaganda Unit. We all know your husband got himself exempted!
(All shout at each other simultaneously, in the noisy abuse we distinguish just the words ‘Women’s Institute’ and ‘Townswomen’s Guild’, as they move off, gesticulating wildly. A crippled soldier on crutches hobbles past. A beggar woman appears, holding a boy by the hand, a toddler on her arm.)
BEGGAR WOMAN: Extra edition – New Free Press!
BOY: It don’t half scratch your arse -
TODDLER: Fee – fi – fo – farce -
(A pregnant woman walks past.)
A heart-warming promotion in this time of death!
No, better this intermezzo’s dropped.
It shows nature still clings to a faltering breath
That mankind, unhumanned, hasn’t quite stopped.
It says: though we chose death life isn’t dead yet.
Why look? Why agonise? There can be no connection
Between shreds of humanity we should forget
And a generation set on a different direction.
Pregnant with hope she is one with God’s earth,
Knowing blessing and pain from her sacred commission,
But no matter, quite shortly she will give birth
To a purveyor of mortars and ammunition.
August Motherhood, anciently adored,
Contemptuous of prurient modesty,
Once honour concealed from the unbidden horde
Your vision of creation’s harmony.
Now misshapen mankind rejects your fruition;
Now honour is prurience, honour is shame.
You’re weak, mother, please, cover up your condition.
You mean well, but surely you’re late with your claim?
There are millions of mothers who already know
The whole business of suffering, grief and heartache.
You’ve got that to come. Run on home, off you go.
Don’t show us your burden. Don’t make the mistake
Of thinking you’ve something to offer the earth
That’s better than all the earth’s already lost.
You can bring no salvation now, nothing of worth,
If you gave us a Socrates he’d just be tossed
Into the swamp of our coming damnation.
We’ve all had bad luck. Shut up. Don’t assume
We’ve got any interest at all in gestation.
Keep shtum about what’s going on in your womb.
At the point of delivery we’ll give you a smile,
But for now, just go home, we’ll come, by and by.
And don’t think the birth pangs will be your last trial;
The new life you hold, as he cries that first cry
Is a blood-sacrifice from the moment he’s born,
A conscript for death. (You will cheer not lament.)
Make him fit, make him strong, he’s war’s new seedcorn!
Let him volunteer young, why delay till he’s sent?
So stay home, mother. Go! You know everyone dies.
One day’s like the next. We’ll await your surprise.
 Both probably Jewish names here; Pollatschek was of Czech origin; Rosenberg was one of the many names forcibly given when Jews were obliged to assume family names; they seem to suggest no qualities.
 Kraus refers to two associations: ROHÖ, Reichsorganisation der Hausfrauen Österreich (National Austrian Housewives’ Association); GEKAWE Grosseinkaufsgenossenschaft der Kaufleute in Wien (something like Viennese Wholesale Purchasing Cooperative). English equivalents are approximate here; GEKAWE was specifically aimed at the central purchasing and distribution of food. The Irish Countrywoman’s Association (ICA) equates to ROHÖ, though at this time it was the Society of United Irishwomen (UI) and largely rural; interestingly UI took its inspiration from the Cooperative Movement.
 Latin: through adversity to the stars.
 Funk and Feigl exist as separate names and are often Jewish; in combination they could suggest a quality of flamboyant display (an archaic meaning of Funk) and cowardliness (feig): Mrs Craven-Swank; it may be better simply to double up with the English sense of ‘funk’: Mrs Faintheart. Bachstelz doesn’t seem to be a surname at all; Bachstelze means ‘wagtail’, and presumably refers to her interest in feathered hats; the display of tail-feathers is an obvious characteristic of wagtails, so Mrs Wagtail will do the job.
 Various organisations; the English has either translations or equivalents in the same areas.