Work Poems - Poems For Work
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Summer Toils - Poem by Kristijonas Donelaitis
Hail everchanging world, with May days come and gone.
Hail men, with the advent of sunny summertime.
Hail ye, who've seen new buds and smelled of their perfume.
All hail, and God grant that you see many a spring,
And that each spring may find you in the best of health!
God bless each one who loves our dear Lithuania old -
And who Lithuanian speaks while feudal tasks performs -
God grant that he may see many a happy spring,
And after each gay spring, a summer full of joy.'
So spake ere Whitsuntide old Prickus to the boors,
As he was charging them with sundry feudal tasks.
'In sooth,' he said, 'a body full of energy
Is God's most precious gift to any mortal man.
For he who toils and sweats each day from dawn to dusk,
Subsists from day to day on plain and simple meals,
And after ev'ry meal gives humble thanks to God,
Each night turns to his bed in peace and sleeps at ease.
He needs not envy him who wears expensive clothes,
But ill at ease each day picks up his spoon in hand.
What if some Mykolas possesses a large paunch
And proudly bears it like an overblown balloon,
Yet like a stinking brute, harrassed by his misdeeds,
Has no peace, and like Cain, each day fears Heaven's wrath?
And what if Diksas kneels beside his treasure chest
And gloats as through his hands he pours his hoarded gold,
Yet dares not use a coin for his most urgent need,
But like a madman gulps unseasoned, uncooked food,
And wearing filthy rags creeps down the village street?
'We meek Lithuanians, we bast-shod submissive souls,
With lords and their valets may never well compare;
But neither do we suffer their strange maladies.
Lo, in their urban halls they moan and groan so much,
That oft they come to us in search of health and rest.
There, in the city, one is laid up with his gout;
Another's aches and pains require a doctor's aid.
Why do these countless ills torment the luckless rich?
Why does untimely death so often strike them down?
It is because they scorn the fruitful work of boors,
Lead sinful lives, loaf, sleep too long and eat too much.
But here we simple boors, held by the lords as knaves,
Fed on unwinnowed bread and pallid buttermilk,
Work on the quick each day, as simple folk must do;
And if at times we taste a little bit of meat,
Or have a piece of ham, or a dish of warm soup,
Then all the better we perform our daily work.'
'I say,' spake Lauras leaning on his crooked club,
'Thank God that we have passed the spring in all good health,
And that the summertime still finds us all alive.
Look yon, the beaming sun has ceased to climb the skies
And having blazed its course up to the summit clear,
Just sits high up in space and smiles upon us all.
Observe how heaven's eye, like a great torch ablaze,
Each day dries up the wreaths and garlands of this earth,
And turns all the sweet blooms into mere provender.
Many a lily white, many a flamming rose,
Has lost its maiden look, and has become a hag.
Many a bud and bloom's been plucked by human hands -
Adored a while for its great beauty and sweet scent -
Then, withered, carelessly upon some trash-heap thrown.
'And even our gay birds have suffered selfsame fate.
The cuckoo's sad refrain, the nightingale's glad song,
The warbling of the lark beneath the sailing clouds -
Now we but seldom hear, or never hear at all.
Many a small bird, born in a protected nest,
Now seeks for daily food without parental care -
Repeating its tribe's sounds, chirps a sad melody.
Yea, in such a brief time this world has greatly changed.
'Observing such events at my enfeebled age,
At times I sigh with pain and cry in a sad voice:
'Alack a day! How vain and brief is human life!'
Indeed, as David wrote, we are but fragile things;
Like flowers of the field, we bud and bloom and die.
Each mortal at his birth is like a little bud,
From which ere long evolves a blossom sweet and fair,
Which blows a fleeting while, then casts away its hues,
Produces its new seed, and ends its little life.
Thus like ephemeral blossoms, we come and go.
'Here we both, rich and poor alike, shed childhood tears,
And show but feeble bud of our unfolding age.
Then, when the time arrives to offer a full bloom -
One, like a fondling vain, brought up in luxury,
Another, like a rogue, uncultured and untrained -
Waste priceless energy on rash and stupid things.
But when the thin mustache begins to shade the lip,
And when the time's at hand for serious, useful work,
Then all the childhood pranks and antics steal away.
Besides, so often as the children dance and kick,
Death mixes in and chokes young lives with his smallpox
Or with his typhus germs twirls down the helpless tots.
And for the boys and girls he sharpens his old scythe,
Without the slightest care for their attractive looks;
He blindly strikes them down, and their sweet smiles and curls
Lose all the grace and charm, and turn again to naught.
Alas! This human life is piteous and brief,
Like that of the bright buds that scent the meadows fair.'
As this discourse went on, a frenzied watchman came,
And jumping up and down, began to curse so loud,
That e'en the solid ground and ev'ry object shook:
'I hope the thunder strikes… the devil takes you all…'
Ah, man O man, have you become bereft of mind?
Why do you swear and curse? Is Satan haunting you?
You rogue, why do you shout? What happened to you now?
But he swore all the more and acted like a fiend,
That e'ven the flocks of birds up in the skies were shocked.
And even the sly fox, with bushy tale let down,
And the elusive hare, with his long ears cocked up,
All out of breath, ran for the nearest shrubs to hide.
The toads and frogs, likewise were greatly terrified,
And with their young at once dived down into the pond.
And e'en the rats with mice and owls, in their dark holes,
Because of this man's hellish rage, grew faint and swooned,
And many unnerved sparrows tumbled off the roof.
So shocking were the words the angry watchman screamed.
'Woe,' Selmas cried, 'There are too many godless men,
On whose infernal tongues debauching devils dance.
Too oft many a fool, when the glad dawn appears,
Not knowing how to pray, and too remiss to read,
With curses on his lips crawls out of his foul bed;
Then, having cursed and damned his children and his home,
Sends out his family to do the daily work.
And at the table, too, when it is time to eat,
With his satanic words beatifies the food,
Then cuts the loaf of bread and gulps the steaming soup.
With curses on his lips he starts his daily work,
With Satan in his heart he turns to bed at night.
'When a fat lordling swears, that's nothing new at all;
He, having sold himself to servitude of hell,
Is too ashamed to pray, treats heaven as a joke,
And like an animal, when it is time to die,
He dies a swinish death, wallowing in refuse.
But when a wreched boor, subsisting on pale whey,
Half-dead and half-alive from brutish feudal work,
With curses on his lips begins his daily work,
That's something really new and most pitiable!
And yet such acts and deeds occur every day.'
As Selmas spoke, the door swung open with a squeek.
A summons in his hand, old Prickus walked inside.
'Now, men,' the chief commune began to charge the boors,
'Our lord bids in a day to start the feudal tasks,
And orders us to fetch the muck out of his stalls.
So have your horses fed and wagon axles greased;
Bring pitchforks of your own, and take along your hooks.
You know what tools you need for pitching of manure,
And, too, you know how much of it each acre will take.
I also, if God grants, will go along with you,
And see that all the work that you must do gets done,
And that you clean and scrape each stall and ev'ry nook.'
Thus having spoke, he turned and swaggered through the door -
Alighted on his steed, a stallion four years old,
And galloped to announce the hest to other boors.
Now when the set day came, and the pale dawn appeared,
The serfs from all around streamed to the manor stalls.
Some with their well worn hooks, others with new pitchforks,
All in their earnest haste were speeding on the run.
Here Albas in a new, just lately finished cart,
Merciukas, with a set of brand new thills and wheels,
With other men and boys sped down the winding road.
Some youngsters in high boots and others in bast shoes,
With their long legs wrapped up in snowy linen clouts,
Were hurrying on foot along the lanes and paths.
And it was strange, for serfs so seldom rush that way;
For it is said of boors that they just creep along,
And that at times they must be moved by angry words,
So that they'd feel the urge to do what's to be done.
But what's the use in talking? 'Twas not strange at all.
The squire who was in charge of that district's serfdom
Was such a gentle man, that all recalling him
Still shed sad tears, although he died a year before.
Yes, he deserves full well to be recalled each day,
That even the sons' sons should shed sad tears for him.
He was a gentleman! Such men are hard to find.
He loved and cherished plain and simple folk, my friends;
In turn they revered him and held him in esteem.
Many a lordling, when approaching a poor boor,
Contemptuously spits on him like on a dog,
As if such a man was abject even to see.
Our late lamented squire would never scorn a boor,
But like a father, he would speak up for the wretch.
Thus, we have never heard a foul word from his lips;
And if at times the boors would use vile words or swear,
Then he paternally told them to hold their tongues.
He never would say Tu but always he said Jus;
And e'en when scolding he always used plural Jus'.
He seldom swore, and then in none but German words;
He never failed to praise where praise was due, and then
He always used the sweet and pure Lithuanian tongue.
But listen now my brother and I will tell you more.
Yea; you and I know well serfdom's regretful lot,
How everyday boors must bend their breaking backs,
And drag like burden beasts a load of cares and woes.
No mortal can tell all the heartaches of the serfs!
You know that each year when the summer reappears
Every fool begins to push the boors around:
Kasparas, with raised crest upon his shallow head,
Like a cock chasing hens, intimidates his men.
But his stooge, Diksas, oft outdoes his brutish boss;
He drags his rusty sword like an exalted knight,
And shouts with loud contempt at the hard working serfs,
For he wants to appear much wiser than his lord,
And wishes to sit on a higher chair than his.
Is that a proper way to treat the manor lord?
When such a fool has no regard for his own liege,
Is it a wonder that he works the serfs to death?
You know, my friend, 'tis tough to labor in the sun,
When streaming beads of sweat roll down the aching back,
And a sore stomach growls for an appeasing lunch.
Of course it too, each day must be well pacified,
But then with what could a boor satisfy his paunch,
When he has but a crust of bread and crumbs of cheese?
Then having roughly crunched his miserable mite,
He's racked by choking thirst for a reviving gulp,
But no one offers him a quaff of homemade brew.
So then, of need, he hastens to a stagnant pool,
Face downward, breathlessly falls on the muddy bank,
And stretched out in full length, laps water full of bugs,
As Diksas with his club chastises the poor wretch.
O kindly squire, why did you die a year ago?
With your demise, our joys and comforts passed away!
O father, ev'ry day the boors, recalling you
And sighing constantly, shed tears so bitterly
That some of them turn blind because of endless tears,
And some of them from grief became bereft of mind,
And are not fit to do the feudal servitude.
You too, when with their tasks the feudal serfs you charged,
Forewarned them not to loaf, but to work hard each day;
To heed the royal laws and sundry feudal rules,
As all serfs must know well their duties and their tasks;
But inhumanely you did not insult the boors.
Misfortunes of the poor you viewed with tearful eyes;
Whenever Diksas tried to drive the boors too much,
You, like a father, oft for the poor victims spoke.
Especially when 'twas the time to reap the crops
And harvest tasks called us together in the fields,
Your care for us awakened all of us in time;
Many a night, because of us, you stayed awake,
And when you fell asleep, you dreamt about our woes.
Thus, striving to help us, you ordered to have made
A generous supply of nearbeer and homebrew,
So when we weakened or began to moan at work,
Your servant hastily for us brought bracing drinks.
O well beloved squire, why did you die last year?
'Stop,' cautioned Prickus, 'cease your aggravating talk.
For such behavior all of you should blush in shame.
You will not gain a thing by crying all the while,
But turn to be purblind and feeble-minded wrecks,
Unfit to do hard work and raise your families.
Of course it is the truth that our lamented squire,
While in the prime of life, has met a tragic death,
And caused us much of grief and many bitter tears.
I too, because of his demise, passed sleepless nights,
And drenched my pillow with an endless stream of tears.
It got so bad that I would jump at night and scream,
When horned hags would draw around my haunted bed
And slowly creep at me to snatch away my soul.
Then, worn and terrified, I bought myself a gun,
Filled it with deadly lead, and kept it in my bed.
Since then no hag or spook has ever troubled me,
And since then I have ceased to jump and scream at night.
'Now, let us fetch the stuff that irks the ugly frogs,
Confounds the stealthy mice and scares the hooting owls;
This precious substance lies in all stalls and hog pens,
And on the beams, whereon the cackling chickens drowse.
So let's clean out all stables and all sheds and sties,
And since there often is some of this priceless stuff
On walls and parapets, we have to scrape them too.
Why do you laugh, you fool? This is not vulgar talk!
You know a boor, if he expects to have good crops,
Must fertilize the soil with proper excrement.
Your own pot, when you cook your daily stew or broth,
Calls not for salt alone, but for a soup bone, too.
Why don't you sup your soup without all condiments?
And yet you chide the boors for spreading good manure
That rich nutrition gives to the exhausted soil.
So you, too, come along and take your fork in hand,
And start to dig with us this aromatic wealth.
For from the small acorns the giant oaks grow up,
And from the low manure uncounted blessings come.
'A certain wretched lord keeps smirking at the boors,
And as he smirks, the dupe, derides their fetid work -
As if without the boors he could parade around,
And without strong manure could eat his bread and cake.
What would become of lords if there were no meek serfs,
And if the serfs did not help them out with manure?
So never mind, men, dig and fetch the precious muck,
Though its unpleasant smell may make you sneeze and choke,
And though you have to wade in slimy feculence.
The tender nostrils of the idle noblemen
Disdain your messy work, and your mephitic garb;
But mark how soon those fops would bend low before you,
If they had to fill up their stomachs, as we do,
With meatless soups and groats and with unwinnowed bread,
And then along with you would do the feudal tasks.'
But listen Prickus! Will you tell that to the lords?
You know that ev'ry time a feudal lord goes by,
The boor must bare his head and bow down to the ground
And you're the very first to bow before the rich.
Of lords you spoke the truth. But are you not afraid
That they might lash your flanks, or hang you by the neck?
Of course, in ev'ry walk of life you'll find a fool:
He peeps not only from under an old drab frock -
From under a silk cloak he often snickers, too.
So do not wonder if you hear a pompous gawk
Ablabbing stupid words. He would talk sensibly,
If only he'd been taught to do the work we do.
Well, that will be enough to jest about the dung.
About the meads and fields we'll have to prattle, too.
So hurry, boys, the day is drawing to a close;
Tomorrow we must put a new edge on the scythes.
Hark, yon, the whippoorwill calls us to mow the hay
And to store up high stacks for the ensuing year.
And 'tis a timely call; Saint John's great holiday,
After tomorrow, as you know, we will observe,
And then ere long the harvest will be in full swing.
'Ah,' spoke up Krizas, 'now we'll have to move quite fast,
If we are to complete our many boorish tasks.
O Lord, how can a poor boor end his woes and cares,
When his own family heeds not his words and will?
Mark me, my friend, I am of old and hoary age;
And in my day I've roamed far corners of this land,
So I can tell you strange events and monstrous things.
My father, Krizas, died when I was a small boy,
And my poor mother had oft times to beg for alms.
Because of poverty, it fell to wretched me
To herd the nasty pigs of old man Bleberis
Then having herded his mixed herd for a good while,
And having troubled much with dirty, stubborn pigs,
Soon I felt a desire to harrow and to plow.
For I e'en as a silly lad had lots of brains,
And as a youngster got ahead of older men.
As soon as I had seen utensils made of wood,
Just think of it, I too could make such things as well;
So one old bachelor woodcarver envied me,
And even ran from me ashamed to show his face.
'Of course, it is not nice for a gray-headed man,
To be shamed by the work of a young nincompoop,
When he intends to get more dollars for his pay,
And e'en is not ashamed to pry out more seed grain.
O what became of the bewhiskered Prussian days,
When hired help was so cheep and so obedient?
'When I was but a lad, employed by Bleberis,
I used to be surprised, when farmers of good means,
Each year while hiring help would add a dollar more -
And how the help would brag that the kindhearted boss
Had thrown in as a tip a sixpense for a drink;
And if a pair of pants was promised as a gift,
The joyful help would praise the farmer evermore.
But since the employees have learned the latest ways,
And since they mix and mill with Germans more and more,
Politeness and good grace are waning fast away;
Men now refuse to wear white linens and bast shoes,
And girls care not to don their multicolored skirts.
The rustic boys now wear high boots and shiny shoes,
And too, the farmerettes, like fashionable dames,
Dress up in stylish clothes and strut unblushingly.
And thus our people harm their ancient good repute.
'And now some of our men are e'en ashamed to eat
Their meals prepared in good olden Lithuanian style.
Our crafty ancestors, cooking thin oatmeal pap
And serving it to their beloved families,
Created pride and joy in their old happy homes.
And if at times they served some condimented hash,
Or now and then mixed in small bits of chitterlings,
The hired help then acclaimed aloud their kindly boss.
But these days all of them, agaping for the meat
And snatching it like dogs, torment the luckless boor.
'Just hear my kindly brother what befell poor me:
For almost fifty years I have maintained this house,
And handled all details of food and cookery;
I've pleased the noble lords and the hardworking boors;
But I could never please the everhungry help.
My thrift increases as I seethe the dinner pot,
But when I dish the meats, I pass it in large chunks.
And then, no wonder, when the tribute must be paid,
I cannot meet it; so my chief denounces me
And in a beastly rage, he boxes my poor ears.
And I'm not better off when the impost is due.
'But how can poor I pay what's needed to the lords,
When the rapacious help devours all meats and foods?
Alas! Ere long to begging I will be reduced.
So many herds of cows, sheep, oxen, calves and pigs
I had to slay and kill within these recent months,
That where to hang the hides and skins I hardly know.
Just yesterday I killed a bull to feed the help,
And I'm ashamed to say, the meat now is all gone,
And of that massive beast but bones and horns remain.
So now the gluttons vomit and demand for veal,
Keep their loud howling up and shamelessly insist
That I should kill for them the lone remaining calf.
'Then with the wages, too, there is much fuss each year.
A brat who hardly knows how to put on his pants,
Who shamefully - I hope you will not think me rude -
Like a demented slouch, while sleeping wets his bed,
And knows not even how to herd a few tame pigs;
And yet the lousy knave, e'en if you feign to hire him,
Has nerve to pry from you more dollars for his pay.
Among the grown farm hands at times there is a rogue,
Who knows not how to trail a harrow or a plow,
Is scared to catch a bullock by his blunted horns -
And when a restless bull begins to paw and moo,
The dolt gets so upset, that even his knees shake -
Yet such a brainless fool so oft sticks out his chest,
Boasts of his usefulness and of his might and skill,
And scowls when he is not rewarded with high pay.
Just try and offer him - with your old cap removed
And bending your head low - ten dollars pay a year,
And he will shout and ask from you a larger share
In rye and other crops as added recompense.
'When such hands start to work, you cannot help but fret.
The scoundrels, over-fed on fresh and seasoned meats,
And over-filled with brew and other bracing drinks,
Oft times are seen - one here, another there - streched out,
Face downward by a fence or pathway, fast asleep.
At times the rogues think of a secret hiding place,
Then you may search and search and never find their lair.
You may blow horns or shout, or call them by their names,
'Hey, Kubas, Hans, Enskys! Where are you loafing now?
The eve is nigh and you have not begun to work.
Good men like ants rush on to end unfinished tasks;
They work in earnest and in haste so all is done.
But you, you shirkers, all the day in hiding sleep.
What will become of you if you shall not reform?
Of course you would expect that they, on such a-call,
Would, as behoves them, jump and start right in to work;
But those vile parasites just grin and laugh at you,
And if you scold them then they curse and threaten you.
And even that's not all - they even beat you up.
Of course you well recall how Slunkius at the fair,
A year ago, when he had drank a quart of wine,
Enraged, assaulted me and almost cleaved my head;
Then next, he seized upon a heavy birchen rod,
And aided by his thugs, he cut my back so deep,
That for many a week I was confined to bed.
The very thought of it makes my gray hair stand up!'
As Krizas so complained, large crowds of men appeared,
Ashouting, 'Jump, mow, rake, make hay and store away!'
The fields, like anthills, now began to swarm and buzz;
The farmers and the help swung scythes and shook their feet.
Indeed, it seemed as if an army set for war,
With shining metal blades, attacked the verdant meads.
At once grim death began to strike each leaf and bloom;
The mortal blows fell on every lea and dale.
Bright buds and blossoms sweet, so young, so gay, so fair,
Were falling all around before the tempered steel.
New buds, like blooming youth - lighthearted, playful brave -
Old blooms, like hoary age - dejected, frail, infirm -
Were being mowed by death on each and ev'ry side.
Ere long each mead and dale became completely bare -
Except Plauciunas' tract, which still remained intact.
Plauciunas, that old sot, drank at the harvest feast
Of Kasparas last year too much mead, too much wine;
So by the time he left the feast he was so drunk,
That he lost his way and lost, too, his hone and scythe,
And e'en found not his house until the next mid-morn.
He fell into his bed and snored there all day long;
He never said a word about his hone and scythe
Until the whippoorwill announced the harvest time.
At last Plauciunas missed his long-lost property,
And now began to search for them in ev'ry place.
When he failed to find them, he seized a birchen rod,
And the stinkard almost lashed to death his wife and babes.
Enraged beyond all bounds, he bridled his last nag,
And rode, in harvest time, straight to Karaliaucius.
Intending there to buy a new hone and new scythe.
But in the city, when he saw so much of wealth,
He just strolled aimlessly and mumbled foolishly,
And thus forgot to buy a new hone and new scythe.
He drank away by Mikas his exhausted nag,
And in a fortnight reached his home on foot, quite broke;
Then in his teamless field - it is a shame to say -
Morose, alone, the dry rye with a sickle chopped,
When all his neighbors had already stored their crops,
And some of them had baked and tasted new wheat cakes.
And as I stood and mused, a serf of Kasparas
Was chasing pigs out of Plauciunas' pallid rye.
'Whose porkers are these?' I questioned the breathless serf.
He said, 'Keep still! The pigs belong to Kasparas,
The rye - to Plauciunas, who yon pounds his sickle.'
You know how he each year is late to do his work,
Like a foul tumblebug amessing in the dung.
Now when a farmer is so tardy with his work,
And like a louse filled up with blood but creeps along,
What will a farm hand do when he is told to speed?
Said Paikzentis, the hand of learned Bleberis,
'My friend, think not that just our elegant young men
At banquets with young girls skip foolishly around
And drink to such excess, that e'en the rustics blush;
Of late the rugged boors engage in these things too.
Some folks think all is grace that the rich men admire,
And that all things are wise that they ablabbing say.
Many vain lordlings strut around with chests thrust out,
Gorge costly caviar and glup imported frogs,
And then, much overfed and overfilled with wine,
At cards in turn relieve each other of their cash.
The boors now having learned from them the gambling tricks
But grin when Krizas swindles Krizas in the game.'
'Do not complain so much,' I said to Paikzentis,
As inwardly I praised his words, but looked askance.
They say that the townsfolk regard the boors as knaves,
And scorn their rustic ways and their provincial homes
As nasty to look at and foul to talk about.
But those who so opine know not our peasantry.
Believe you me, at times a bast-shod simpleton
With his unwitting brain outwits a nobleman,
But the poor thing dares not to speak up when he should.
And as I sat and mused, a distant noise arose.
I thought a herd of oxen on the rampage blared;
'Twas the Plauciunas' boys bringing the rye tuft home.
You know how boisterously our Lithuanians act,
When after Saint Jacob's rye harvesting is done;
They dance and shout, 'We bring the Harvest Sheaf !'
Thus the Plauciunas' boys, to make their father glad,
Fetched home a sheaf of rye and hollered lustily.
But now the pallid ears were grainless and dried up -
Just bent and twisted straw, and fit for naught but dross.
But then these harvesters began to play rude games.
Mercius and Lauras dragged the girls into a pond,
And Pakuliene with Lauriene, tit for tat,
With milking buckets watered raging men and boys.
And as they played crude games and wallowed piggishly,
Loud quarrels and mad shouts arose amidst the crowd.
Laurynas, soaking wet, seized the bedampened sheaf;
Then Pakuliene grabbed a spade to strike him with.
But as the turmoil rose, Plauciunas came outside,
Passed to the harvesters large chunks of salted pork,
And therewith their uproar and feud he pacified.
But as he wined and dined the tardy harvesters
And roundly entertained his neighbors and his friends,
He, too, kept drinking on and on so pigishly,
And was the very first to fall beneath the bench.
'Alas,' good Selmas cried, 'Such be the present times,
Since many Swiss and French have settled in our land.
Now some Lithuanians, too, behave and act like pigs.
They vilefy the Swiss in their own native tongue,
While they themselves behave no better than the Swiss.
In olden days, when the Lithuanians were pagans,
From stakes and logs of wood they fashioned their idols,
Placed them in giant oak trees and worshiped their strange gods,
For then they did not know the true God, as we do.
And they did many strange and superstitious things.
But now we, too, although we are Christian Prussians,
Yea, we Lithuanians, we surfeit ourselves too much,
And cause the arrogant Germans to sneer at us.'
As Selmas so complained, the overseer yelled out:
'Why do you dawdle, boys? The downpour's coming on,
And columns of the sun are looming o'er the clouds.
Plauciunas worries you? Leave him alone to rot!
Let's gather while we may the products of the soil.
The fields have ripened now; the summer soon will end.
The last remaining crops we must get in at once.
Yon lima beans are pale; the peas are wrinkled up;
From the beweathered pods the grain is falling out.
Is not it a grave sin to spurn God's blessed gifts,
For which each one of you have worked so fervently?
Say, is not it a sin to waste the precious grain?
How will we get along without the beans and peas,
When in the winter time we'll want to cook hot soup?
The birds have gobbled up our spring crops on the straw,
And what is left, the pigs are claiming as their share.
Thus, having loafed away our hash and oatmeal pap,
Of barley groats we'll hardly have enough to taste.
Have I not oft told you to reap the crops in time?
But you like deaf have failed to heed my sound advice,
So now our oatmeal pap and our mixed mass is gone.
Alas! How shall we do the summer feudal tasks,
And how will we cut chaff when the cold winter comes?
With enmpty mouths we will perform our daily work,
And to our cattle, starved because of lack of feed,
All we will have to offer will be hayless straw.
'And you good women folk, have you too gone astray?
Why don't you run along and gather your dried flax?
Aren't you ashamed when the industrious German wives,
Having threshed all their flax and laid it in the meads,
So sneeringly deride your wanton laziness?
O ye Lithuanian wives, do you not feel ashamed -
Do you not blush or flush - when zealous German wives,
With their superior work abash you constantly?
Yea; when the time has come to spin, what will you spin,
When your flax still remains bescattered in the fields?
O, what became of those bewhiskered times of old,
When our sweet women did not dress in German clothes,
And e'en could not pronounce the awkward German words!
But now 'tis not enough that they don German styles:
What's worse, they now attempt to speak in lisping French
And, babbling all the while, they fail to do their work.
'Oh men, why don't you stop your well-beloved wives
And daughters young and sweet from leading useless lives?
Do you want to walk nude before the German folk
And be ashamed at feasts and public gatherings?
You miserable fools, do you not realize
What stinging shame you'll bring upon yourselves and us,
When in patched pants you'll go to do the feudal tasks,
And for a holy mess you'll gather in old rags?
Have pity and cause not such a degrading shame;
Drive out at once your wives to harvest the ripe flax.
For some of it still stands unsnouted by the pigs,
And might as yet suffice for sundry rags and clouts,
But will be not enough for petticoats and pants.
And mushrooms, too! Good Lord, there'll be none e'en to taste.
They say the German wives pick mushrooms by the peck,
And dry them in their stoves for home and marketing.
Within the woods and groves they have picked such a lot
Of bolets, chanterells, russulas, and verdetts,
And other mushrooms, that each day now they convey
To Karaliaucius and dispose of them for cash,
Wherewith they buy all kinds of useful wears and goods;
Left-over mushrooms they conserve for household needs.
For us now there is none, save some nasty toadstools.
Alack, how shall we cook the stew and barley groats,
With not one mushroom saved for tasteful flavoring?
You know a mushroom picked and dried in summer time,
Improves so much our soups in frigid winter days.
'The same thing happened with the tasty hazel nuts.
The active German wives have gathered barrels full,
And some of them filled up large sacks for marketing.
But our lax women have not picked a single nut -
Not e'en the tiny one, a little baby nut -
To crack and taste in the oncoming winter days.
Of course, most men care not for such tidbits as nuts;
To them tobacco is - although it fouls the house -
So much to be preferred to any kind of nuts.
Our toothless grannies, too, have no sweet tooth for them;
To offer nuts to them is a crude mockery.
As some one aptly said, 'An old crone's rattling teeth
Are much too weak to crack a honey-flavored nut.'
'But e'en a measly nut should not be meanly scorned,
For many girls and boys such goodies oftentimes
Chew with delight and praise with many happy words.
In winter, when Katre is spinning drowsily,
A cracking of a nut awakens her at once;
Or when Jeke keeps on ababbling with Pime,
A few sweet hazel nuts stuck in their flapping mouths
At once would stop their loud and tireless chattering.
But what will happen now, when older women folk
And youthful maids sit down to spin by the cold stove
And there is not a nut to still their talking tongues?
Indeed, the spinning wheels of ladies sweet and fair,
Aspinning flax and tow, will cease to turn around.
And with the winter gone we all will walk thread-bare.'
'There now,' spoke up Jeke, defending women folk,
'Say, ladies, shall we now let men shame us like that?
What noise! Whence does it come? Men, you belittle us.
Do you wish to squeeze out our very breath and soul?
Prate not about the flax, blab not about the tow.
Attend to your own work and wintertime supplies!
Ere long the Michaelmas great holiday will come
And usher in the rains and drizzles of the fall;
And yet the summer crops still languish in the fields;
The weather beaten hemp still sways against the wind.'
As this debate went on, the watchman showed up, too,
With Slapjurgis, and Pakuluns, the overseer.
The boors now at the sight of these stern-visaged men
Became so much afraid, that all at once were still.
The haughty watchman grabbed a goodly birchen rod,
Then shouting angrily, he threw at them these words:
'Ye, feudal serfs, mark well what we will tell you now -
Old women and young girls, keep your wide mouths shut tight! -
We, your superiors, at this opportune time,
Now that the summer days and summer duties end,
We came here to give you our fatherly advice.
Almighty God, who has created this wide world
And given us good hearts and understanding minds -
He, our good Father and our Benefactor kind,
Who always cares for us - once more has blest us well;
He's given us much bread and fodder for our kine.
You all recall how lean was our supply of food,
When in the spring the sun began to climb the skies,
And in our boorish way we went to work the fields.
Our sausages and pork, as well as ham and cheese,
Were gone. We had to get along on meatless meals;
In vain we wished and searched for bits of condiments.
And e'en the oatmeal pap, our daily boorish food,
From ev'ry table had completely disappeared.
But as the winter fled, the smiling springtime came,
Again the Lord gave us the sunlit summer days.
Now once again fresh food and fruit was plentiful,
And we again had things to eat of many kinds.
Still later all our nooks and corners were filled up,
With all kinds of good things, and we ate healthful meals.
And now that summer is again about to end,
We all, who have lived through so many hungry days,
Bang our old pots and pans, preparing wholesome meals,
To still our appetites and to revive our souls.
'But man O man, fail not to glorify His name,
Because He with His hosts assisted you each day
To work and cultivate your wealth-producing fields.
For now all that the orchards promised in the spring,
And, too, all that the fields raised through the summer days,
That precious wealth you have brought in and stored away,
And therewith the good Lord will keep you till the spring.
Should not you lift your eyes toward the firmament
Each morning, noon and night, and give your solemn thanks
To Him who once again gave you such ample wealth?
Yes neighbors, this above all else you have to do.
Then you must faithfully obey your feudal lords,
And render to the school and church their proper share -
Then pay to me what's due, when riding on horse back
To tax and to collect, I shall call upon you.
You know it is tough when the angry watchmen come
And scold the stupid boors with rash and ugly words.
Well then beware, and stuff your pocketbooks in time,
So that each one of you, when I call for the tax,
Is able to pay it in fistfuls of cold cash.
'Your master and my liege, our most benignant squire -
God bless his tender heart - bade me to greet you thus,
And to beseech each one of you to be prepared,
And save me seizures and the beating of your hides;
Because his clement heart takes pity on poor boors.
Well, I have told you all that I was told to tell.
To all of you, when you again will celebrate
The autumn's fruitfulness, I wish you joyful times.
But pray, invite me too, and all my family,
When you will entertain your relatives and friends.
That's that. Now as we spend the summer's last sweet days,
Ere fall sets in, let's not forget what's yet not done.'
Comments about Summer Toils by Kristijonas Donelaitis
Poems About Work
- 1. Summer Toils , Kristijonas Donelaitis
- 2. Our Dirty Little Secret , paul bamberger
- 3. I Say Unto Ewes , AppleOfOurFathersEye Hephzibaz
- 4. What Is The Sanctity And Greatness Of Pr.. , Varanasi Ramabrahmam
- 5. Happy , Ally Greenfield
- 6. Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book Vii , Capel Lofft
- 7. The Hose , Mr. Bean
- 8. Love Is............ , Matt Matherne
- 9. Work , Jakob March
- 10. One Way , Matthew Campbell
- 11. Today Is May Day , OLAYEMI AYO
- 12. Blues For Barack - Work Song , peter bormuth
- 13. Ode To The Modern Work-Man , TMA
- 14. The Work Song , Buddy Bee Anthony
- 15. The City-At Work , Mitzie Holstein
- 16. 3: 05 A.M. , Scott Campbell
- 17. Stereotype Life , Dakota Ellerton
- 18. Lullaby , Boyan Deam
- 19. A Perfect Day , Albert Matthew
- 20. Told Again , Lanny Zanders
- 21. Arbeit Macht Frei , Josiah Decker
- 22. Burlington Mall , mary hartley
- 23. Recovery; It’s A Matter Of Time , David McCannon
- 24. How Poem Became To Be , Bullion Grey
- 25. Physical Education , alice kingsley
- 26. Good Life , John Mamhungaire
- 27. Stop , Royston Allen
- 28. Tragedy , Riekz Marshall
- 29. Life Bounces , timothy langley jr.
- 30. When I Was Twenty Four Years Old , Susie Sunshine
- 31. Unfair , camila espitia
- 32. Sight - Sound - Smell , Jeff Rushton
- 33. How Do You Work? , Alfredo Alave
- 34. My Question To Suicide , Amber Vasquez
- 35. Para Sa Mga Nawarang Obra / To The Lost .. , Jaime Jesus Borlagdan
- 36. Who I Am , lyndsie Kirkland
- 37. One Last Time , Marla Smith
- 38. Work Hard On Labours, , Abdul Karim
- 39. Rest , Michael Tunduli
- 40. Beat Down , A Guy Named Sabastian
- 41. Life-Work , Martin Farquhar Tupper
- 42. Watch It 3 , Classy Boomdata
- 43. Hands , Chelsey M. Smith
- 44. Work(Biline Poem) , venkatesh ram
- 45. Chapter 1 From The Jaw. Days Like These. , Katherine Shaw
- 46. Long-Qing Gorge , Denis Mair
- 47. Like Clock Work , Merlin Mwaura
- 48. Israel In Egypt. Book Sixth. , Edwin Atherstone
- 49. What Would Santa Give Me Now? , Nathan Thompson
- 50. Come What May , Mae AC.
New Work Poems
- At Any Work, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- Great Horned Cattle Of Africa, Terry Dawson
- Providence And Wantoness, Terry Dawson
- A Work, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- The International Labor Day, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- Our Dirty Little Secret, paul bamberger
- I Go To Work, jimmie Saltmarshall
- The Farmworker, Terry Dawson
- Work, Work, Work!, Elizabeth Padillo Olesen
- At Work, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- carpe diem