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Lesmian

Przerwa-Tetmajer
Wyspianski
Kasprowicz
Lesmian

The lip is the lip's friend, the hand the hand's 
Lying next each other each one understands 
To whom he belongs - each one of the buried dead. 
Unwillingly the night goes overhead; 
The earth asserts itself, but hesitantly ; 
And leaflessly the leaves move on a tree. 
God stirs the wind and space: but He is high 
Above the forest's distant forest sigh. 
The wind says this to space: 
"I'll not be back
Across this forest while the night shines black." 
Still darkness thickens, pierced by small starlight. 
The seagulls flying over the sea are white. 
One says : "I've heard the fate of stars foretold." 
The next: "I've watched the heavens themselves unfold." 
The third is silent, but because it knew 
Two bodies, glowing in the darkness, who 
Wove darkness into their embrace: it found 
Them made of the caress in which they wound.

 

Brother

You would not take my hand. The dawn glow
Made the world alter.
At that moment your brother called to you.
For a second you faltered.

You ran to him and came back. He was dead.
Fate, for the clouds, shone golden.
"Now I belong only to you," you said.
Your voice broke and rolled on.

Without a glance at you, I asked: "Did he know?"
"Yes," you replied.
Outside, giving thoughts distance, aslant, aflow,
The bird, as always, glided.

 

The Cemetery

He reached the graveyard, - grass, death, oblivion,-
He who had noticed how the world goes on.
It must have been a graveyard for dead ships.
He heard shrouds snarl under the wind's whips
Yet quietness unravelled from the grass.
He let his silence into that silence pass.
And shaped from air a cross among the birds
While the first tombstone let him read these words

"I did not die by chance but through the will 
Of winds that found in me an easy kill. 
They promised me safe anchor in my death, 
Death in that anchorage : now they break faith. 
The winds persist, and shipwreck underground. 
New fears, not those I lost with life, resound. 
Though slack with nothingness my buried forms 
Are still judged worth their steerage through those storms. 
Who blows the wind that makes my mainsails pout? 
Why is a ship, once started, always out ? 
I can say only that, without life, this hull 
Plods sleeplessly, and misery bakes the skull. 
For more than plain endurance none can pray, 
But pray for me to Mary, traveller, pray."

He plucked some leaves and gave them to the air, 
Then knelt, and three times prayed that formal prayer.

 

Memories

Those paths I brushed 
With the feet of a child - where have they gone ? 
They roll down as tears do, hushed, 
Out of the eyes, down, down.

The freshness of morning would wake me up. 
The sun would be painting a masterpiece. 
A golden coast - a golden pup, 
A golden guitar - a golden precipice.

Stare. Stare sufficiently into the light 
From the midst of a great silence, and in a while 
You are bound to see a camel shining bright, 
A bright-eyed robber with a glistening smile.

At breakfast the table became a desert. I stared 
Till I rode the camel and I saw the gleaming thief. 
Father, assured of his safety, never despaired 
But read his paper calmly, rustling a leaf.

A triple rainbow embroidered the carafe, 
The tablecloth, the cupboard, father's moustache. 
A wasp, entangled in the lace curtains, would laugh 
And the curtains laughed too, their threads in the sun, a bright patch.

And the rich floor, dreamily glittering, mirrored it all 
The leaves of the palm shone brighter at the back 
But melted shallowly, and a thin glaze would fall 
As if someone had spilled greenery by mistake.

The arm-chair sipping its own velvet peace 
Would grow heavier, comfortably, I think. 
The sugar would plot for a blue spark's release 
And the loaf of bread would turn pink.

The clock shakes free of its long compressed coils and booms
A prolonged note through the hall to the sky. 
In that furnished day-dreaming among the sunny rooms
Everybody endures and does not die.

But something happened: something went wrong. 
The same clock struck, but shyly, in another town.
The soul stumbled over the body that had grown too strong,
And they began to die, one by one.

 

Translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer
 

 


©2000 Jan Rybicki
This page was last updated on 02/12/01 .