Poem Hunter
Autumn Wealth
KD (1714-1780 / )

Autumn Wealth

Look yon, the sun again is rolling down the sky:
Each day shows less and less of its majestic rays,
Stretches out more and more the shadows of all things,
And in a greater haste descends beyond the hills.
The winds, with wings bespread, show nasty arrogance,
And hum as they dispel the last of summer's warmth.
The weather, too, is now inclement, harsh and cold;
It drives the young and strong to their warm sheepskin coats,
Compels the old and weak to hug the blazing stove,
Goads one and all to stay within the windtight home,
And there to cook and eat lukewarm or steaming soups.
The sodden ground along the road sheds streams of tears,
As rolling wheels renew the ruts in its slashed back.
Where two old dobbins once could drag a heavy load,
Now even four of them can scarcely do the task.
The cracking wheels around the axle barely turn,
Yet splash all round about the carts the squashy mud.
Few strips of soil remain above the flooded land,
As the relentless rains pour on the peasants' backs.
Old bast shoes and worn boots imbibe the squashy mud
And kneed the ugly mire as a fermenting dough.

O what became of those delightful springtime days,
When we flung all our doors and windows open wide,
And felt the warming rays of the ascending sun?
Just as a dream, so real and lovely in our sleep,
Upon our wakening abides with us no more,
So the gay summer days stay briefly and then fade.
And now the sluicy mud, prest down by a bast shoe,
Bubbles like oatmeal pap within a boiling pot.
All things that danced and sang beneath the glowing sun -
All things that roamed the woods and scurried in the fields,
All things that soared and dived beneath the silv'ry clouds,
And having sung their joy, then fed on grain and bugs -
All, all are gone, alas ! and are with us no more.
Only the melancholy fields remain with us,
But all their beauty now smells like a rotting grave.

Death strikes the pliant bush and the majestic grove;
Irate winds crush the charm of buds and blossoms fair,
And break the bough on which a family was born,
And on which the new brood chirped out their first complaints -
'Neath which bough they began to hop about and laugh -
And learned to find a worm without their mother's aid.
Now each bough and each twig is thoroughly swept bare;
Like withered rods, they creak and sigh before the wind.
There, where the sly bear stole the honey from the bees,
And his mate muttered as she suckled her frail cubs -
There, where the elks were chased by the repacious wolves,
And where the wolf cubs learned to growl and hunt for game;
There, where the black hawk fed his young on chicken meat,
And where the raven brought a gosling to his nest,
Lo, there, all summer joy and merriment is gone!
The crows alone sing praise to the ungainly fall.
The rest of the gay flocks are never seen or heard;
They hide in cold retreats and dream uncheerful dreams.

Alas, the gardens too, with all their loveliness -
Fresh buds and blossoms sweet, the beauty of the spring,
And its divine perfumes - all, all has passed away!
The wealth that the green meads displayed in merry May,
The gifts that the lush fields gave forth in joyous June,
We now have gathered and stored up beneath the roof;
These riches now we cook and eat each blessed day.
You there, you gaggling geese, and you too, quacking ducks,
Run - run and swim before the streaming rivers freeze.
You roosters and you hens, leave your dirt-pile a while;
Run once again and play before the snowdrifts come;
And think not that we keep and feed you in our barns
Because your clucks are sweet or your cackles are grand.
Ah no! It is because we like your tender meat.

'Tis strange to see how sharp the women grind their knives
And frightening to hear how loud they bang their pots.
Pime and Gryta search for the fire-giving flint,
And Salomeja scalds her linen shirts and clouts;
Katryne and Berge scour rusty pots and pans,
And at the same time blow with their thick, pursed-up lips
Into the stove to start the fire around the pot.
Maguze and Jeke work on the firewood pile;
Enskys is fetching home an armful of dry twigs.
But lusk Docys is dozing by the flaming stove
And smacking his foul lips, awaiting for the meal,
Because Aste has in the oven a large fowl,
Is cooking barley groats, and baking bread and cake.

And while Docys worked up his healthy appetite,
A fat matchmaker came and asked all to attend
Good Krizas' daughter's gay and lavish wedding ball.
All members of the house politely bent their heads
Before the groomsman proud, and told him that they would
Go with sincere delight to the gay nuptial feast.
And surely, after that, when the eighth day appeared,
The neighborhood began to dress for the event.
Mercius and Stepas having bought new leather boots,
Jonas and Lauras having made brand new bast shoes,
Dressed for the wedding ball and bridled their old nags.
Especially Enskys, with care washed his gray horse
And put a saddle with new stirrups shining bright;
Then having washed and groomed his horse full well, he strapped
His own strong, manly loins with a new leather belt,
And pulled waxed wedding boots onto his lanky legs.
Like the men, women, too, were on the way by scores;
They also had been asked to grace the wedding ball,
And each of them was drest in rainbow-colored clothes.
But no Germanic styles they wore, as some oft do.
No; each one donned the garb of her own fashioning.
Of course you know how our Lithuanian women dress
For weddings, visiting ,and various gatherings.
The matrons all wear hoods, and kerchiefs, and headcloths,
And maidens all adorn their hair with wreaths of rues.
A married woman does not wear a wreath of rues,
A maiden does not don a wedded woman's hood.

Ere long a goodly crowd, attired in choisest clothes,
Conversing brazenly, filled Krizas' modest home.
Good Krizas smiled and bowed as he met ev'ry guest.
Then, having welcomed them to his delightful house,
Brought in a goodly jug of whiskey of rare kind,
And urged each guest to drink his fill - and drink again.
The mother of the bride passed cakes and sweets around,
And soon the guests became hilariously gay;
They e'en began to play their silly games and tricks -
And one of them while eating even mentioned dung.

As the guests gorged themselves with food and potent drinks,
Loud laughter, tactless tales, and squeaky songs arose,
And e'en the nags outside began to jump and neigh.
The fat matchmaker now was riding in great haste,
Ashouting in harsh tones and lashing his poor horse.
You rascal, why do you mistreat your animal?
Has not he long endured the feudal cruelties?
Why do you mutilate poor dobbin's flanks with spurs?
Ride slowly, you gaper, and do not harm your horse!
Tomorrow you will have to truck the manor wood,
And the next day you might decide to take a ride.
As he lashed his old horse and mumbled boorishly,
Into the crowded yard rode then the newly-weds,
Who by the bishop's hand at the communion rail
Had been divinely blest and joined forevermore.

The relatives and friends and neighbors drew around
The beaming pair, wished them a happy married life,
And ushered them inside for the gay bridal feast.
Both Krizas and his wife, folks well advanced in age,
Were happy that they lived to see their daughter wed.
And pretty Ilzbute, their very youngest child,
Had wed the chief commune of Taukiai bailiwick.
That's why her father gave such a grand wedding ball
And spared no means to make the party a success.
The butcher slew two oxen, three fat barren cows,
And did not even count the pigs and sheep he killed.
One chicken and one goose escaped his deadly knife.

Hams, loins, and other cuts, sliced up in different ways,
Krizas' resourceful chef steamed, fried and broiled so much,
The bubbling of the pots and pans was long and loud,
And caused Pauluks, next door, to fear a village fire.
As he was pouring soups and gravies into bowls
And pulling out with hooks the roasts from the hot stove,
Chef Petras glowed with pride in his supreme success,
And urged the waiters to feed well the hungry guests.
Tuse rushed in with thin homewoven tablecloths
And set a lengthy table in a wedding style.
Then the inviters hasened in with steaming food:
Rich pork and sizzling steaks, and chicken, goose and duck;
Large hams, thick sausages, and many kinds of meats.

After the wedding guests said 'Our Father' piously,
As faithful Christians do, and settled for the feast,
Kind Krizas urged each one not to conserve the food
And to enjoy the bracing drinks to please their souls.
Enskys at once pulled out his well-worn hunting knife
And started to carve out large cuts of luscious meats.
Unskilled in carving art, as people often are,
With awkward fingers he seized oozing chunks of meats
And dumped them in the plates of the astounded guests;
His manners were no boon to the gay wedding feast.
And many others, too, well filled with mead and wine,
Could scarcely see what they had on their high-heaped plates;
Still others boorishly used not their knives and forks,
But took chunks in their hands and gobbled breathlessly,
While the hot juices trickled down their bobbing chins.
The guests thought that the host did not expect that they
Should bow, eat and behave as lords and ladies do.

As the gay feast went on, and the boors ate and drank,
Krizas gave out a shout; his servants right away
Brought in on a litter a keg of potent beer;
The groomsmen all at once with pitchers, jugs and mugs
Began to draw and pour the effervescent brew;
Of course, fermented beer bemoistens dry palate
And soon fills up the stomach with thick foam of malt.

Alas, the wedding guests, well stuffed with heavy food
And amply filled with drinks, forgot to thank the Lord,
As pious Christians do after each daily meal;
But - 'tis a shame to tell it - they, like loutish swine,
Began their brazen tales and their indecent songs.
Stepas told many lies about the lusty steeds,
Enskys praised to the skies elegant oxen teams,
And then the twain played tricks and laughed all by themselves.
Lauras began to blow and tingle his jew's-harp,
And Kubas tuned and scraped his squeaky violin.
Just then Docys, much overfilled with food and drinks,
Like an old Polish bag, rolled off the wooden bench -
The guests became upset and terrified; but then
He, on a stretcher, half-alive, was fetched outside.

Some of the women their sly cunning then displayed,
And rather smartly, too, for woman's wit is quick,
It oftentimes ensnares e'en the most brilliant man.
Lauriene, Pakuliene, Berge and Pime,
While at the table, looked askance at mead and wine,
And even downed Kriziene as she served the drinks
And offered the degrading liquids to the girls.
But hark, my friend, what later these deceivers did.
The sly intriguers soon slipped out to a quiet nook,
Where they had hid a flask of whiskey beforehand;
There round by rapid round they drained the bottle dry,
And then they used rash words, tattled offensive tales,
And deeply shamed the decent girls and women there.
Pime and Barbe sang a song about the hurds,
While Pakuliene and Lauriene praised their hens.
Dake sang of her geese, Jeke - about her ducks,
And each one strived hard to outsing the rest of them.
The quieter women sat aside in their own group
And chatted all about their homes and families.
You know the women's way: they always talk and talk,
Wherever they may meet, but seldom say a thing.

As the guests spoke and sang, the orchestra convened,
Took out their instruments and struck a boorish tune.
Plyckius twanged cymbal; Kubas scraped his violin;
Znairiuks, with face puffed out, played his old wooden fife.
Enskys now called upon the smiling country girls
To come forward and dance with the proud rustic men.
Klisis, with ugly boots, rushed up and seized Pime;
Kairiuks, with wooden shoes, dragged Tuse to the floor,
Where they twirled, jumped and kicked in good Lithuanian style.
Some jesters purposely wore their outworn bast shoes;
Some shoeless and some coatless made amusing pranks.
You know how the slow boors, when filled with food and drinks
At weddings improvise all kinds of clowning jests.

But listen now and hear what else ere long occured:
Among the guests appeared two uninvited men,
The twain were Slunkius and Peleda, whom you know.
Krizas confronted them with harsh and angry words;
His wife, because of that, fell ill with belly-ache,
And moaned unceasingly. But Krizas still went on:
' Tis shame, 'tis brazen shame for you men to sneak in,
Where but invited guests are being entertained!
How dare you enter here where you are wanted not?
Be gone, and do not come again into this house,
Until you are informed that you are welcome here!'
Because of this tumult the guests were so upset
That they grew silent, did not move, and did not smoke;
Some men feared trouble so that e'en their pipes they dropped.
And the musicians, too, became so terrified
That with their instruments they crawled beneath the beds.
The twirling dancing ceased; the raucous songs died down;
There was no word, no sound, no motion in the house.
The songs about the roosters, chickens, ducks and geese,
The tales about the horses, oxen, bears and wolves,
Because of this encounter, ended all at once.
The frightened guests just stood and held their very breath,
Not knowing what to do in the exigency -
Until enraged Enskys picked up a birchen rod
And beat both Slunkius and Peleda black and blue -
Then grabbed each by the hair and threw them both outside.

Now do not take alarm at such an uncouth scene.
Lords, in their own proud way, often are drunken too,
And then they, just like we, play boorish tricks and laugh.
It's true, many a boor is rude and rough and crude,
And oft at gatherings his talk is coarse and vile,
And shames the wedding ball or the baptismal feast;
But do not think that lords and ladies of high rank
Speak but in accents sweet and of but holy things.
A drunkard even among them, when temulent,
Is not ashamed to blab the boorish brazen tales.

Said Prickus, 'Well, since I became the chief commune,
I've seen a lot of our high lordlings and their deeds;
Oh, I've watched them much - how they eat, and drink and dance..
Of late it fell to me to take a document
Prom a high lord to a most high official,
And at the latter's house I saw and heard strange things.
I, as a servant should, walked in without a cap,
Bowed low, and in my hand I held the lordly scroll;
Relieved of it soon, I crept into the cuisine,
To see what kind of bites were being baked and steamed.
Long being used to mix among them as a friend,
I had no fear of rich or of high-ranking men.
Here three befattened cooks appeared before my eyes:
One sluggard was eviscerating a black hawk;
Another, tearing with his nails an outstreched hare,
Was clearing nests of curling worms from the entrails;
The third, with two ungainly ladles in his hands,
Into a steaming pot was packing ugly frogs -
The delicacies that the rich enjoy so much.

'As I looked on, so queasy did my stomach grow,
That I rushed through the door and there I vomited.
Then after throwing up, I tiptoed in again,
And uttered not a word about my nausea.
You know how the rich fools would have derided me,
Or even pulled my hair and boxed my boorish ears.
So I just hid myself behind a massive door,
All eyes and ears to learn how nobles talk and dine.
Ere long the chefs had cooked these newest kinds of food,
That filled the manor house with an offensive stench.
The lordly servants soon appeared in an array,
Placed on the table many things that dight the feast,
And brought in all kinds of boiled, broiled and sodden foods.
Poor I with hands beclasped, as pious peasants do,
Was waiting for a deep and solemn lordly prayer.
But lo! The sorry lot just flopped down in the chairs;
Without the thought of Heav'n they took the spoons in hand,
And, yapping all the while, stuck food into their mouths.

'Having not seen such nastiness in all my life,
I was so shocked that I almost cried out aloud.
But realizing that I had no right to shout,
I stood and uttered imprecations silently,
And yet so fervently, the dogs began to growl.
Said I, 'You useless sots, you godless epicures!
Are you ashamed to lift your sinful eyes to God
And say a humble prayer before you gorge fat chunks?
We, soiled and worn out boors; we, bast-shod simpletons -
Though we are overburdened, scolded and abused -
Though oftentimes we eat but watered crusts of bread,
Though we refresh our hearts with weak and tasteless brew,
Yet e'en for such scant gifts we daily thank the Lord.
But you vile parasites, who daily eat rich food,
And strain into your bellies costly Rhenish wine,
Neglect to thank the Lord for wealth and luxury.
Have you no fear that you might choke on caviar,
Or that the lightning might reduce your homes to dust?'
All that I whispered low, then given a dispatch
To carry back with me, provoked and terrified
I rushed out through the door and rode back to my home.'

Said Selmas, 'Yes, indeed, these are indecent times,
Full of all kinds of wrongs and base roguery.
Yea; lord and servant, both are headed straight for hell.
The lord, puffed-up with pride of his great influence,
Is too ashamed to speak of Him who rules all things; ,
The serf, bent low to please his liege, speaks ill of God.
Blind lords, who dumbly play into the devil's hands,
Lead their own servants, too, along infernal ways.
The Lord and Holy Writ, the churches and the faith -
High hymns and pious psalms, fasts, offerings and prayers -
To these apostates smell like rotting barn manure.
Blinded by cards and comedies the errant lords
Leave their dissolute servants to transgress and laugh.
O what's become of decency these sorry days!'

And as the tales died down - the guests were set to leave -
A bas-shod servitor of Bleberis rushed in,
Asqualling: 'Men, rejoice! New feasts are coming soon!
Hear how Bendikas kills a gander in a shed,
And Paikzentis slaughters a fattened full-grown ram.
And Vauskus, yonder, slays his single horned bull,
While Mikols in the garden singes butchered shoat
With flaming straw - the smoke for miles beclouds the skies
And dims the sun, the stars, and e'en the frigid moon.
There'll be a rich supply of sausages and meats!
Many a seasoned ham and side of bacon sweet
Beneath the roofs of thrifty boors are being smoked,
And yet still more of meats are being drest and cured.
Again we'll eat and drink in good Lithuanian style -
Forgetting woes and cares, we will repair our health!'

But pray, do not assume on hearing these strange tales
That they are told as just droll stories on ourselves.
Nay, nay; too much in our green fields we bend our backs;
Too fast we rush and run while doing our mean tasks.
We fetch and spread manure, we plow and sow the soil;
We mow and make the hay and store it 'neath the roof.
We gather Earth's new wealth into each barn and shed.
Our work is arduous, our life ir sorrowful.
Too oft the drenching rains pour on our ill-clad backs;
Too oft the blazing sun beats down on our poor heads.
Many a day we eat insipid, tasteless meals,
Many a day we have naught but dry crusts of bread;
Many a time we sip but weak, ill-tasting soup,
Many a time we drink stale water from a pool.
Many a day we sweat, many a night we grieve;
And all the while sad tears furrow our care-worn cheeks.
We are the indigent and overburdened souls!

And now that we are through with our hard summer tasks,
Let's get together now and hold a merry feast.
For such a purpose God gave us abundant wealth,
And we, who are worn out by never-ending tasks,
Must now regain our strength by crunching tasty cuts.
As work we must, since God told all of us to eat,
So eat we must that we may stay in proper health.
Then let's not hesitate to kill and slay our food.
Man, slaughter right away that young befattened ox;
Slay few sheep and, too, spare not that hornless ram;
Put chickens, ducks and geese into that big clay pot;
Then butcher those gray shoats, and that corpulant sow;
Eat to your precious health homemade groats blood pudding,
Take chitterlings and fat and make fresh condiments.
If that does not suffice, then take a goodly tripe
And stuff it with chopped lungs until it almost bursts.
Too, make a lot of that so useful liverwurst:
For such conserves will prove to be a handy thing.
Remember, many springs are very long and lean.
Is not it nice to taste some crispy bacon strips
While pitching the manure or harvesting the crops,
Or to munch seethed ham while doing work indoors?

'Yea,' Lauras said, 'meats should be handled frugally.
Good sense is needed in the fall when meats are cured,
And reason should be followed when the meats are used.
Is it a proper thing for folk of meager means
To eat but ham and pork as soon as the fall comes,
And in the taverns drink away their little wealth?
Now, you have heard of late how indiscreet Docys,
By spending lavishly and drinking senselessly,
Lost all his earthly wealth and turned into a tramp.
Boy, as you eat and drink, fail not to be discreet.
The year has many days; each day is slow and long,
And each requires its share of needed nutriment.
Each day the breakfast, lunch and supper rolls around
And calls for food to pacify the stomach's groans.
And then the rest breaks, too, many an afternoon,
When farm tasks multiply, gape for some tasty snacks.

'Then feast not constantly, as if each day you'd hold
A wedding ball or a baptismal gathering.
Nay; do not entertain your stomach ev'ry day,
And waste not foolishly your scanty food supplies;
Be sure your meats and fats will last the whole year through.
Now, parsnips, carrots, squash, dill pickles, radishes,
Beets, rutabagas, cole, beet tops, peas, sauerkraut,
And lima beans, when cooked with proper seasoning -
Well-balanced buckwheat hash and tasty barley groats,
As well as oatmeal pap, when boiled in a clean pot;
Potatoes, too, when cooked in many different styles,
With mushrooms, fish, and spice, as added flavoring -
Indeed, make tempting food, as well as healthful meals.
But these, too, must be saved and eaten sparingly,
Remembering that there will be more hungry days.

'And be not irked, my friend, if I still add a word.
Among Lithuanians oft a stinker comes along,
And by his bawdy words or by his rowdy acts,
Shames us as much as any German snob could do.
Many a time our men drink much more than they should,
Sing smutty German songs, use vulgar German words,
And hasten to the inns as fast as Germans do.
Such gawks spend all their means on whiskey, wine, and beer,
Then, ragged, tramp around and cause us all to blush.
You useless wastrels, do you think that God gives us
His precious gifts and His abundant earthly wealth
So that we may devour them like unsated hogs?
Of course, the belly must be kept in cheerful mood
But also it must be discreetly covered up.'

Quoth lisping Buzas, 'Yes, indeed, that is the truth.
We know that all of us were born without a thread:
Most wealthy feudal lord, as we, the bast-shod boors,
Exhalted emperor, as his betattered thralls,
Barefooted mendicant, as crafty nobleman,
Each babbled stupidly and sucked his mother's breast.
The rich in silks, the poor in rags, shed bitter tears,
And painfully each learns to reason properly.
Yes; babes both rich and poor all mess themselves alike,
And in the selfsame way are wiped off with a clout -
And in the same brook are washed out their swaddling clothes.
I hope I do not shock you with my homely words,
As I speak but the truth in plain and simple terms.

'Each human being painfully begins to gape,
When from the darkness he rolls out into the light
And dreaming in the crib calls for his mother's help:
One like the other child is powerless when born.
Whether born to the rich and tucked in feather beds,
Or born a lowly boor and stuck in some dark nook,
Or swaddled in old rags and laid on the hard straw,
How little any babe may claim that is his own!
As yet no lord was born with a sword at his side,
Nor any newborn boor dragged out with him a plow -
Or harrow parts, or e'en a lone tooth of a rake.
And yet the lordlings vain parade before the boors,
Like bacon fat atop the boiling water floats;
While the exhausted boor, with his worn cap removed,
As if by lightning lashed, by the cold oven quakes,
Or bows down to the ground before an idle lord.
But God distinctly marked to ev'ry man his place,
And so one like a prince displays his peacock crest;
Another wades in feculence and digs manure.

'Many unthinking gawks of malevolent heart
Regard the weary boors as sensless simpletons,
And yet oft times themselves behave and talk as such.
Who for the idlers would produce the sapid foods
And drinks, and would take care of all their daily needs -
And who would till the soil and gather in the crops,
Or thresh the golden grain and cart it to be sold,
Without such men as Lauras, Krizas and Enskys?
Many a foolish lord in the first autumn days
Eats up and wastes his ample food supplies, and then,
Distressed, he shoves a coin into some kinds boor's hand
And humbly pleads for food, his hunger to relieve;
Then with his belly full struts like a potentate,
Inhumanly torments the tenderhearted wretch,
Or sneeringly derides the peasant's modest home.'

Said Prickus, 'Yes, indeed, I meet such rascals, too,
When I, as chief commune, patrol my bailiwick.
The chief damns me so much that e'en my hair stands up.
Boors, too, deride my name and curse me thoroughly.
My boss scolds me each day and tells me I'm too lax;
And if I fail to do his hest, he beats my head
So hard that the snot squirts from out my pallid nose.
This causes me great pain, and e'en a greater shame -
Especially when a serf sees; for then he laughs
And disobeys me, his kind-hearted chief commune -
And even spits on me and scorns me like a horse.
If privately my boss would even skin my hide,
But publicly he would defend and honor me,
Then though my flesh would ache, my soul would be content.
But now I am the butt of ridicule by all -
Now e'en the children jeer and laugh right in my face.

'The other day, as chief commune, I rode around
On my patrol, and I lashed lazy Slunkius' back.
He screamed - and jumped to beat me and to pull my hair -
'Leave me alone, you snot! I'll flatten out your ears!
Have you forgotten how the boss lashed out your hide?'
His words humiliated me so terribly,
I wished there was a place to hide my reddened face -
And all the more, because the serfs sang jeering songs.
When this ordeal was over, I was much undone.
Just as the springtime snow, despoiled by wind and rain,
Though present here and there, is useless to the sledge,
So I thenceforth was an abased and abject man.

'But, ah, when I was young - where are those happy days? -
When I was young and strong, all people honored me.
Whether a lord, a boor, a servant, or a maid -
A pantsless child, a babe still suckling at the breast -
By one and all I was admired and honored well.
But now, when I am old, all hail me as a fool;
Both rich and poor alike defame the chief commune.
Each morning as I groom and saddle my old nag,
I see there on his neck his worn and tattered mane,
I sigh heart-stricken at the thought of my old age;
Then when I ride upon his back in lashing rain,
And he plods faithfully down the wet, winding road,
I pity him so much that tears come to my eyes -
And all the more if I have just been beaten up.
Just think: I care that much for my old senseless beast,
On whose back for twelve years I've ridden far and wide,
And made uncounted trips throughout the bailiwick.
But I - Lord pity me, the hoary chief commune -
Know no sincere respect and hear no word of praise!'

'Look here,' spoke up Enskys, unsheathing a large knife,
'My tender-hearted friend, why do you prate and frown?
To you, just like to me, oft falls such a remorse.
This elk-horn-handled knife, forged on an anvil cold,
You see it bears the shape of a pale waning moon,
Or even of the harsh, old eagle's crooked beak.
Each time I hold this knife, I see the ruthless Death -
Just as the artist's hand so vividly portrays -
With the slaughterous scythe, that chills the hearts of men.
My friend, for this old knife, this worn and blunted knife,
I feel so sorry that I oft can't hold my tears.
Because for thirteen years with it I have sliced pork
And sausages at parties, feasts and wedding balls;
It slipped through goodly chunks of meats with graceful ease,
And even split the ribs and bones like a sharp ax,
As Mikas and Docys will readily attest.

'But that is not the end; I'll tell you even more.
Well, I - just listen brother, what befell to me,
And what quite oft befalls to many boors each year,
When they proceed to make the new bast shoes they need,
Or when they feel an urge to hunt for tasty game.
Oh I, a stupid knave, acting uncautiously,
Into the forest slipped to steel bast, logs, and wood.
Of course, many a time the forester caught me,
And, having thrashed me well like any wretched thief,
Each time he, like a rogue, deprived me of my ax;
But luckily he never took my horse - not yet.
And, too, I did not steal as some low rascals do,
Who in the winter sneak into the forests wide,
Chop down but mighty oaks and sturdy maple trees,
Then lug the stolen logs down to the nearest town,
Then sell them and drink up all their ill-gotten gains.
Whenever I stole wood, or any other thing,
Nay, I was not ashamed to stretch my hand for it,
Because I stole not for myself, but for the lords.
You know how sweet it is to pay the yearly scot
To the cheftains when due; else, the mean watchmen call
And squeeze us, until they squeeze out the cash from us.

'Ah, my dear brother, please be not surprised at me,
Nor tell the forester that Obrys, my hired hand,
Each autumn makes many a trip for stealing wood.
I beam with pleasure when he does these tasks for me.
Each time he takes my team to the forbidden woods,
Delightfully I give him two large sausages;
And each time he returns uncaught by the woodsman,
Then gladly I present the third sausage to him -
Or, if the sausages are gone, I give a cheese.
And then, when we've built up a goodly pile of wood,
We take it load by load to town and sell it there,
And save the hard-earned pennies for such yearly needs
As contributions, sundry dues and excise tax.
And so you see, the theft of wood requires good sense.
It is but clumsy fools who, by their stealing wood,
Or smuggling bundles of tobacco banned by law,
Bring on themselves great shame and painful punishment.
Besides, among the boors there are some renegades,
Who, having eaten up their pork and sausages
For a mere sip of rye or a quaff of stale brew,
Yea, sink so low, they lie and falsify like Jews.

'Now in the thorp where I each day cook my old pot,
Two scoundrels live in their dilapidated shacks.
One of the twain is called Peleda by the serfs;
The other bears the name Slunkius - a nickname.
We all know boors at times invent fantastic tales,
And all the more when drunk at feasts and wedding balls,
When in a swinish way they start their loutish jests.
I built my new house here only a year ago,
And therefore I as yet know not my neighbors well,
And know not all about their virtues and their faults;
But of Peleda and of Slunkius I have heard -
And what I heard of them made my knees shake in fear.
Just listen, brother, and you will hear such strange things
That will make your gray hair stand up on your old head.

'Those stinkers have such huts, that when you look at them
They seem to be but ugly piles of wood and straw.
When you look up you see the disarrayed thatch roofs,
Torn up by storm and gale and twisted by harsh winds,
With many loosened patches falling to the ground.
Beneath the roof the rotted beams and gables sway,
And hanging strips of boards, tied with old rags and bast
To the decaying rafters, dangle here and there.
And when you cast your eyes down inside these foul huts,
You see but weather-beaten, tumble-down pig pens:
In ev'ry nook and corner garbage and manure.
Those two are not ashamed to keep pigs in their homes,
And if you criticize, they'll curse you long and loud.

'The other day I met Peleda on the road,
Whereat I spoke to him about his swinishness
And as a neighbor, gave him sensible advice.
Said I, 'You filthy pig, have you no shame at all?
You, like a tumblebug, wade in the filthy muck,
So now you even smell like a foul tumblebug.
Some days ago I passed by your unsightly shack,
And so I stopped by it to take a closer look.
As there I stood and watched, my horse gave out a neigh;
A rafter tumbled down from your ramshackle house,
And window panes began to rattle, crack, and fall.
Inside the house - mind you what I am telling now -
Three lean, blackspotted sows with their blackspotted young,
As in a slaghterhouse, began to squeak and squeal,
Then through the windows they jumped outside one by one.

' 'I, never having seen such things in all my life,
Was so surprised the hair stood right up on my head!
Peleda, you foul thing, with Slunkius, your vile friend,
You both should be ashamed to mix with decent men.
Neither of you is fit even to herd the pigs,
And yet you always strut around like noblemen,
And take the foremost seats at ev'ry gathering -
And always grab more food and drinks than is your share.
If the authorities did their duties to us,
They'd banish both of you from here forevermore!
Because of you we, too, begin to smell like you.'
This much to him I said. Then he picked up a club;
With murder in his eyes, he hastened toward me,
And if good Selmas had not been there at my side,
Indeed, he would have clubbed my head right then and there.
You see, my friends, how easily a brawl can start,
When you attempt to teach a rascal how to live,
And in your teaching dare to scold and upbraid him.'

As these tales and the wedding ball were at an end,
The ground and ev'rything began to shake and sway;
The worn and drowsy guests became so terrified,
That they at once rushed for the door and tumbled out -
And in the push and squeeze, some of them lost their eyes,
While others suffered fractures of their arms and legs.
The cause of this mad rush was but a trifling thing:
Dodys and his six men, while threshing in the barn,
Were striking with their flails the pea vines with such force,
That e'en the mice beneath the straw dared not to budge,
And many of the guests unto themselves caused harm.

Oh, do not be surprised on hearing such strange tales,
Because Docys each year, when the fall season comes,
While threshing his crops, scares the villagers to death.
Alas! Last year, enraged, he ruined many a home,
And laid to utter waste many a timberland.
'Tis sad when Lauras, the uncle of Bleberis,
Recounts the grave misdeeds done to him by Docys.
For just a pigsty and a storehouse still remain;
But of his modest home only the charred ruins stare.

Such foul activities of the uncouth Docys
Many a brawl and fight brought among peaceful men.
Many a decent man forsook his happy home
And in the cold fall days sought refuge in the fields,
Or made himself a sack and went to beg for alms.
About Docys' affrays many a villager
Complained to the Karaliaucius officials,
But none ever received a suitable redress.
Good God! How well we know how this sardonic age
Walks past our bitter tears with a contemptuous smile!

But still we know not why Docys behaves like that,
Nor yet why with his flail he beats the crops so hard.
Many a man, who ate the mixed mass of Docys,
Has said that Docys bangs so much his sagging barn
That it should yield something for drinks and revelry.
Right after Michaelmas he starts to thresh his crops,
Keeps licking his lips and looks at the tavern door.
And then when he has threshed a liffle precious grain,
At once he winnows it, fills up a sack or two,
And runs to a pothouse to drink and to carouse.
And often his wife, too, takes fascicles of flax,
Then sells them secretly and sips the bracing drinks.
And that is not enough. She takes the children, too;
Puts them in her man's lap, and drinks along with him.

Last year when Kasparas, the hand of Bleberis,
Went along with Docys to visit Plauciunas,
Krizas and Lauras, too, arrived at the same time.
For then Plauciunas had invited all his friends
And neighbors to his child's baptismal gathering.
At first invited guests assembled in the house;
Then uninvited men sneaked in and milled around.
As soon as Krizas came, Kasparas greeted him;
But Docys walked right by like some important lord,
And then paced up and down mumbling obscenities.
He'd brought a great thirst and a mighty appetite,
And smacked his lips at sight and smell of food and drinks.
Plauciunas' servants soon brought in all kinds of foods
And homemade barley cakes for the baptismal guests,
And the guests seated in variegated lines
Plauciunas' soups and pork heartily ate and praised.

All the guests quietly dined and chatted merrily,
But Lauras and Docys were mumbling constantly
About the fallen down and sagging piggeries,
And soon began to curse and argue angrily.
Keep still, you reprobates! Is it a proper thing
To spoil the feast with talk about the piggeries?
But hear what else took place at that baptismal feast,
As good old Krizas has told us a year ago:

'Plauciunas bought three kegs of rare and costly beer,
And told his men to tap them in the dining room.
Enskys, his knave, brought in tall pitchers and large mugs,
And many, many stoups of colorful design.
Ere long the guests drained out a large barrel of beer,
And started to converse in brazen boorish way.
You know how a dumb boor, befilled with alcohol,
Is not ashamed to tell all kinds of stupid things.
By now the others, too, about the piggeries,
And e'en about the slaughtered pigs, began to prate.
Because of ugly words, pronounced in piggish ways,
A hellish turbulence and violence arose.

'They say that a drunk boor becomes bereft of mind,
But also he forgets all bounds of decency.
So now Plauciunas, too, the host of this affair,
Was host to so much beer that he became blear-eyed,
And, looking at the lamp, he could not see the light.
Is it a wonder that his friends, well fed and wined,
Did not appreciate the sponsor's decent talk?
And that's not all the tale; hark to what happened next:

'Lauras, the son-in-law of gentle Kasparas,
Kubas, and Mykolas - the district overseer -
With other rowdy friends, made battle on Docys.
Like vicious dogs they fought, and in their blood and gore
Rolled on the slushy floor and bashed each other so,
That some had noses smashed and others ears torn off.
Docys was far the worst; he was so badly mauled,
That his boys brought him home in a trough nearly dead.

'His faithful wife, Pime, was shocked and horrified;
She took him in her arms and, shedding bitter tears,
She washed his battered skull and cleansed and dried his wounds.
The village women soon came running to her aid,
And brought along all kinds of charms and medicines.
Gryta came with a cut of helicompany;
Selmyke and Berge brought many kinds of salves.
All of them aghast ran to give aid to Docys.
Jeke, while grating all those potent herbs and roots,
Admixed Dutch myrtle leaves and Polish axle tar;
This balm befilled the house with a mephitic smell,
That caused Docys to gasp and show a sign of life.

'His tearful wife, Pime, with other female friends,
Rubbed and massaged Docys with their strong remedies,
And were about to dress his deep and painful wounds -
As Pakuliene rose to break with charms the spell
That lay now on Docys. He smelled the witchcraft fumes
And sensed the sorcery they were performing there.
Upsetting his bed, he leaped like a thunderbolt
Clear out of it, raging, seized a long birchen club
And chased the female quacks out of the fulsome house.
With all their magic herbs and exorcising drugs,
Then having smashed so many household utensils,
And having thrown out pots with loathsome liniments,
Still raging mad, he almost killed his children, too,
Who had washed his mauled body of unseemly gore.'

'Indeed now,' Selmas spoke, 'of stories that's enough!
Enough of those old tales! Our ears begin to ache.
Oh, what became of those good, old Lithuanian days,
When Prussians did not speak the strident German tongue,
And did not wear high boots and shiny leather shoes,
But daily donned bast shoes and wore them pridefully?
In those days no one downed his neighbors or his friends,
Nor was ashamed of them, nor of them falsely spake.
But now, Lord pity us, it is a shame to see
How our Lithuanian folk, like Germans, wear high boots
And shoes when they appear at feasts and gatherings.

'And e'en the wooden shoes that Germans make and wear
Meseems, are not the things for our Lithuanian folk:
Our fathers and forefathers did not care for them;
And when it comes to boots, invented by the French,
And shoes, our sires were e'en ashamed to speak of them,
Until the Frenchmen came to our beloved shore
And taught us to accept their customs and their styles.

'In olden days our folk had no books and no schools;
They were not taught their ABC's nor Cathechism.
They learned the Holy Script and Rule Divine by heart,
Yet they obeyed and praised God oft and more than we,
And went to church more faihfully on holy days.
But nowadys, good God, it is a shame to see,
How our Lithuanian folk, drest up in French attire,
Just now and then drop in the church to show themselves,
Then hasten to an inn to drink, carouse, and dance.
Ere long many of them, well-filled with alcohol,
Begin their boorish jokes and rough, indecent tales,
Yea, with expressions never heard inside the church,
Twist words into grossness and gossip wantonly.
Some of them get into most asinine disputes;
Blind drunk, they seize each other by the head or neck;
Like dogs, they vomit on the floor and roll therein,
Till the foul vomit spreys across the smelly room.
The tale of such a sight makes one's hair stand on end!

'That's not the worst of it. Hard-drinking parents oft
Drag their own brainless children to the filthy inns,
And teach their youngsters drinking at their tender age;
Then, as the tots look on, the parents stage a fight -
Scratch one another's face and pull each other's hair.
O ye barbarians! Ye godless imbeciles!
Have you no fear that soon the hell will swallow you,
For flaunting the Lord's day at the debasing inns?
Aren't you ashamed to walk among good Christians?

'When priests urge that the children should be sent to schools,
And ask for contributions for the teachers' pay,
Well, then all kinds of silly arguments arise;
But when the chieftains levy the annual tax,
And send the ruthless watchmen to collect the same,
Then these same insolent, bewhiskered lunatics,
As if the sky might fall, just give, and give, and give.
But for the teachers, who are good and faithful men,
In need of daily bread, the knaves no penny give,
And then to justify themselves tell many lies.

'Paikius, who does not know e'en the Lord's prayer too well,
And his pal, Vauskus, who has never learned to read,
Attempt to criticize our teachers and our schools.
It is astonishing how loud these two can yell.
The former rears his young in filth and ignorance;
He damns them ev'ryday and leaves them to run wild;
He vilifies the schools and downs the teachers, too,
Because his imps at times are spanked on their behinds.
The latter, hopelessly indined to deviltry,
Prevents his children from attending the church school,
And rears them for the greater pride and joy of hell.
'Now, Paikius blames the rain, while Vauskus damns the drought.
One says it is too bright, another - 'tis too dark;
Paikius condemns the school, Vauskus - the principal.
One says the teacher is too stupid and too young;
Another claims that he is too lax and too old.
One says the teacher speaks too harshly and too loud;
Another complains he does not scream loud enough.
One holds him much too bold; another - much too shy.
As they weigh teachers, so they measure clergymen.
On Sundays, when the loose-tongued gossipers convene,
Their first rite is to fill themselves with alcohol;
Then they condemn the priests and execrate their deeds.'

Of course, there is no lack of faithful Christians ,too.
Most of Lithuanians are men of good character;
They love their families, obey the will of God.
Each day live saintly lives, steer clear of all misdeeds,
And rule their modest homes with kind parental care.

Take men like Selmas, he is worthy of good praise.
A boor nay, not a lord - but a fair-minded boor.
His house is simple, just like any other boor's;
His food each day is plain, of meager seasoning;
He only drinks root beer or water from a brook;
He wears but homespun, three heald woven, linen garb,
Or, in the winter time, a worn-out sheepskin coat.
It's not through penury he live so modestly,
But to pay up the taxes to the government,
And then to render to the school and church what's due.
Of course, you know full well the hardships of these times,
How we are forced to live on beet soup and dry crusts.
Therefore is it not good that Selmas, a plain boor,
Discreetly manages to save a little bit?
Besides, one does not have to tell how much he saves,
Nor to disclose the place where he his savings keeps.

In case you plan to visit Selmas' modest home,
Well, you will find it clean, and restful as a church.
His table's like the holy altar, neatly set,
And on it rest many selected sacred books,
So that, when all the daily doings have been done,
Himself, or even his enlightened family,
May read the Word of God, or sing the holy hymns,
And ease the miseries of this oppressive life.

'Tis true that in this world, as the Scripture reveals,
The true believers were always less numerous
Than the irreverent and the ungodly men.
And so 'twill always be, as long as blind mankind,
Bereft of mind, will rush for the black gates of hell.
So warned the patriarchs and holy men of old,
And so said Christ, our Lord, and his disciples all:
That ere doomsday the world will be in great tumult -
That malevolent deeds will flourish ev'rywhere -
And that among the lords and the downtrodden boors
Base lies will triumph and depravity prevail.
We witness ev'ryday how, reigning ev'rywhere,
The devil fouls the hair of the malicious men.
Awake ye, brethren, and see what is going on:
How the infernal tide engulfs us from all sides,
And how Lucifer, with his maleficent hordes,
Is seizing listless hearts, seducing idle minds.
To steal and deceive, to rob and to defraud,
To drink and prostitute, to lie and abjure God -
To propagate new schemes for perpetrating sin -
That is the faith and creed of this unholy age!
Alas! Whereto is bound this blind and greedy world?

We plain Lithuanians, ere we learned new ways of life,
Were oft inclined to think that only Swiss and French
Entangle human souls with their outlandish arts,
And that only Germans are not ashamed to lie.
But now, lo and behold, among Lithuanians, too,
Of late, Lithuanian rogues and infidels appear,
And cause disgrace and shame to our dear fatherland.
O ye, Lithuanians, my beloved coutrymen,
Prays do not fraternize with wanton heretics,
And heed them not when those wrong-minded infidels
Disparage you and play on you their wicked tricks.

So here, as a true boor, I've ventured to teach you,
Without the smooth Germanic and French flattery;
But in a rustic way, as your trustworthy friend,
I've told you straight forward what I had on my mind.
Yea, now Saint Martin's feast is but a memory,
The Advent is at hand, and Christmas soon will come.
Look! From the glowing west, forceful and angry winds
Are eastward moving with ferocious, headlong haste,
And bringing biting frosts to our Lithuania dear.
My friends, let's to the house and build a glowing blaze.
Let's make the hovels, stalls, and stables weather-tight,
So that no animal may freeze, nor shake with cold.
For each domestic beast, when bitter winter comes,
Submits itself to our solicitude and care,
And looks with longing eyes to us for sustenance.
So we must feed our stock, but feed it sensibly;
For we know not how long the winter will abide,
Nor what amount of feed we must reserve in store.
Indeed, is it not well when winter fades away,
And still there is a bit of provender left o'er?

And now, let's take our leave and end this chattering!
God grant that we full well enjoy the holy days,
That in the best of health we hail the bright New Year,
And meet and greet again as neighbors and good friends.

User Rating: 5 / 5 ( 0 votes )

Other poems of DONELAITIS (3)

Comments (0)

There is no comment submitted by members.