LITUANUS
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
 
Volume 27, No. 1 - Spring 1981
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1981 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lituanus

A POEM BY VINCAS MYKOLAITIS-PUTINAS

VIVOS PLANGO / I BEMOAN THE LIVING*

You march as if giants 
Through abysses and mountains, 
You explore the ocean depths, 
And soar to heaven's edge. 
You spit flames 
And vomit sulphur, 
There is no God on earth for you, 
The living!

And some are masters, 
Others slaves, 
All offspring of an angered fate, 
Souls surfeited with vengeance, 
The mark of Cain on every head, 
All with identically horrible intent  
To suffer the deceit and lies, 
And perish cursing brilliant skies. 
Vivos plango.

You vengeful sons of evil days,
You heroes of misfortune,
Along all paths, in all directions
Minds darkened by a sinister compulsion
You march in anger without pity,
Damned by fear of destiny.
Wherever your shadows light,
All flowers turn to blight.
Your leaden foot will cause
The patient stone to moan.
The noxious stench that is your breath
Raises the phantoms from the dead.
Among the horror of this earthly hell
You sow a seed undying
That blossoms as deceitful buds
To ripen with odiferous poison
That reeks of these entanglements and lies.
Vivos plango.

You usurp thrones
And debase altars.
Your laws have levelled
Both sins and virtues:
The crowns all now belong to scum
And kings lie prostrate in the dust.
In the tribunals, pompous,
Murderers will try the just.
The sons no longer cry
If mothers are condemned to die:
How purposeless and empty
The anguish that is man defiled.
The vanishing sun escaped in the west
A legacy of lies and dark deceit.
The embers flickered at mountain's base,
The rider flew by on his steed,
In the eventide a scythe resounded.
Vivos plango.

Parade grounds sparkle,
Intensely the fires blaze,
Grey masses have gathered
To render you homage
Masters
Having piled the ceremonial fires,
Oracles sing praise to you
And cowering in dusty streets,
A hurried prayer they mutter,
In slavish ecstasy they vow
To kiss your feet.
Tyrants now rejoice,
Along with hangmen's gangs,
And the earth waxes red
With fire and blood,
A horde of slaves and whores
Will celebrate the harvest of the dead
In midnight's nocturnal tango.
Vivos plango.

 And what of us, of us who suffer, 
The grey millions, 
In cities and in towns 
Frightened and distressed: 
Some in slavery oppressed, 
The others, hunched, anticipating 
The unknown.

 But from the mouldy cellars
(And we, and we will be there)
Through the black and frightful night
Someone damns his plight,
Someone meets his death.
In our soul's abyss of pain
Life vanished like a drop of rain
Beyond the iron window.
Vivos plango.

Translated by Algis Lapys

 

* Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas wrote the poem with the title "Vivos plango, mortuos voco" ('I lament the living, I call the dead'). The second part of the poem was published in LITUANUS, vol. 15 (1969), No. 1, pp. 5-8. Here, we give the first part of the poem.