The Castle Ruins At Balaklava
These castles, whose remains are strewn in heaps for miles,
by Adam Mickiewicz
Once graced and guarded you, Crimea the ungrateful!
Today they sit upon the hills, each like a great skull
In which reptiles reside or men worse than reptiles.
Let’s climb a tower, search for crests upon worn tiles,
For an inscription or a hero’s name, the fateful
Bane of armies now forgotten by the faithful,
A wizened beetle wrapped in vines below the aisles.
Here Greeks wrought Attic ornaments upon the walls,
From which Italians would cast Mongols into chains,
And where the Mecca-bound once stopped to pray and beg.
Today above the tombs the shadow of night falls,
The black-winged buzzards fly like pennants over plains,
As if towards a city ever touched by plague.
— translated from the Polish by Leo Yankevich
first appeared in the Sarmatian Review