Nikola Vaptsarov

(7 December 1909 - 23 July 1942 / Bulgaria)

History


History, will you mention us
In your faded scroll?
We worked in factories, offices -
Our names were not well known.

We worked in fields, smelled strongly
Of onions and sour bread.
Through thick moustaches angrily
We coursed the life we led.

Will you at least be grateful
We fattened you with news,
And slaked your thirst so richly
With the blood of slaughtered crowds?

You'll lose the human focus
To view the panorama,
And no one will remember
The simple human drama.

The poets will be distracted
With pamphlets, progress rates;
Our unrecorded suffering
Will roam alone in space.

Was it a life worth nothing
A life worth digging up?
Unearthed, it reeks of poison,
Tastes bitter in the cup.

We were born along the hedgerows,
In the shelter of the stray thorns
Our mothers lay perspiring
Their dry lips tightly drawn.

We died like flies in autumn.
The women mourned the dead,
Turned their lament to singing -
But only the wild grass heard.

We who survived our brothers,
Sweated from every pore,
Took any job that offered,
Toiled as the oxen do.

At home our fathers taught us:
'So shall it always be.'
But we scowled back and spat on
Their fool's philosophy.

We kicked the table over,
Ran out of doors, and there
In the open felt the stirring
Of something bright and fair.

How anxiously we waited
In little-known cafes,
And turned in late at night
Of something bright and fair.

How we were soothed in hoping!·
But leaden skies pressed lower,
The scorching wind hissed viciously ·
Till we could stand no more!

Yet in your endless volumes
Beneath each letter and line
Our pain will leer forbiddingly
And rise a bitter cry.

For life, showing no mercy,
With heavy brutish paw
Battered our hungry faces.
That's why our tongue is raw.

That's why the poem I'm writing
In hours I steal from sleep,
Have not the grace of perfume,
But brief and scowling beat.

For the hardship and affliction
We do not seek rewards,
Nor do we want our pictures
In the calendar of years.

Just tell our story simply
To those we shall not see,
Tell those who will replace us -
We fought courageously.


Translated from Bulgarian by Peter Tempest

Submitted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Edited: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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