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Nikola Vaptsarov

(7 December 1909 - 23 July 1942 / Bulgaria)

A Song Of Man


We argued,
a lady and I
on the topic:
'The man of our time'.
The lady,
a peevish, excitable lady
impatiently stamped,
answered back.
Overwhelmed me with torrents
of muddled complaint
and a hailstorm of verbal
attack.

'Just a moment, - I said. - Just a moment!
Look here...'
But she cut me short, taking offence:
'I beg you, stop talking.
I tell you - I hate man!
He doesn't deserve your defence.'

'I read of a fellow
who took up a chopper
against his own brother
and killed him.
Then washed
and attended a service at church,
and afterwards said he felt better.'

I shuddered in horror, and felt none too bright.
But I'm not
very strong
in my theory,
so I quietly said,
as an honest man might:
'Let's make a test case of a story.

The case took place in a village, Mogila.
The father had hidden
some money.
The son got to know of it,
took it by force
and then did away with his father.

But after a month, or
was it a week,
the authorities made an arrest.
But the court
doesn't function to give men a treat,
and sentenced the culprit to death.

They duly conducted the villain
to prison,
they gave him a number and can,
but there in the prison he met honest people,
became
a real man.

I don't know
the leaven that stirred him,
I don't know
the way it was made.
But a song
much more clearly than talking
opened his eyes to his face.
And then he would say:
'O my God, how I floundered!
And here am I waiting
to swing.
When you're hungry
and dizzy
from hardship,
you've only to make a false step and you sink.

'You wait like a bull for the slaughter,
turn about, in your eyes there's
the knife!
How unjust,
how unjust
is world order!
But perhaps we could better our life...'

He struck up his song, sang it quietly
and slowly,
in front of him
life
floated forth like a wonderful vision...
He sang,
fell asleep
with smile...

Outside in the passage
they talk in a whisper.
There follows a moment of calm.
Then somebody cautiously opens the door.
A few people. Behind them a guard.

One of them
spoke
in a fearsome flat voice:
'Get up on your feet, man!' he bawled.
The others looked on,
with vacant expression
examined the dripping grey walls.
The man in the bed
understood that right now
life had finished with him,
and at once
he leapt up and brushed off the sweat from his brow.
Stared back
like a wild staring ox.

But little by little
the man understood
that his fear was no use,
he would die.
And a curious radiance
lit up his soul.
'Shall we go now?' he asked them.
'All right.'

He started
and they followed after him,
feeling
a curious
ominous chill.
The soldier thought:
'Let's get it over and done with!
You're a tight corner now, pal.'

Outside in the passage
they talked in a whisper.
The corners were hidden in shade.
At last they came down to the courtyard.
Above it
the sky shone with brightening sky
where a star in its brilliance bathed.
And fell to considering deeply his
grievous,
ferocious,
and blind
human
fate.
'My fate is decided,
I'll hang from rope.
But that's far from the end,
I would say.
For a life will arrive that is fairer
than song,
and more beautiful than a spring day...'

He remembered the song,
a thought flashed through his mind,
(In his eyes a small fire was kindling).
He smiled a broad smile full of brightness
and warmth,
braced his shoulders and then started singing.

What's you view of it? Maybe
you think we've discovered
a case of a complex, hysterical?
You can think just whatever you like of the matter -
today, my dear friend,
you're in error.

The man calmly,
sentence by sentence
so firmly recited the song,
that they stared at him
uncomprehending,
and watched him in fear and alarm.

And even the prison
was quaking in terror,
the darkness too panicked and ran.
The stars, smiling happily, shouted for joy,
cried out to him:
'Bravo, young man!'

From here on the story is clear. The rope
skillfully
dropped on the shoulders, then
death.
But still his contorted
and bloodless blue lips
to the words of the song were compressed.

And now we have come to the final denouement.
Well, what's your opinion, reader?
The lady,
had started to sob,
the poor woman
as if in a trance began shrieking:

'How horrid, how horrid! You tell the whole story
as if you'd been there on the spot!...'
What's horrid about it?
The man sang a song -
and that's very fine, is it not?

Submitted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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