Joys Of Spring


The climbing sun again was wakening the world
And laughing at the wreck of frigid winter’s trade.
The icy season’s grip was thouroughly undone,
And heaps of high-piled snow had dwindled down to naught.
Each day a soft south breeze caressed the barren fields
And coaxed each blade and leaf to rise again and live.
Each hill and dale had cast away the snowy furs;
The bush and heath were glad to heed the springtime’s call.
All things that died away in tearful autumn’s mire,
All things that lay in sleep beneath the winter’s ice,
Or huddled shivering under a stunted bush,
Crept out in joyous throngs to hail the smiling spring.
The rats and skunks came forth from secret holes and nooks
Crows, ravens, magpies, owls sailed on from bough to bough.
Mice, moldwarps and their young, acclaimed the glowing warmth
The countless flies and bugs, mosquitos, gnats and fleas.
In ever growing swarms were rallying each day
And gaping all around to sting the rich and poor.
The queen bee, too, called forth her subjects to the task,
Commanding them to start again upon their work.
Soon endless swarms of them began to buzz and zoom,
Afifing merry tunes and flying far and wide;
Secluded in the nooks, lean spiders spun their threads,
Or, scaling up and down, stretched long entrapping nets.
Even the wolves and bears at the green forest’s edge
Hunted in joyous mood for some unwary game.

It was a wondrous thing, that in the endless flock
Of warblers that came here, there was no bird that wept.
No, not to weep, but to rejoice they all came here.
For now the winter’s chills and frosts were at an end,
And the enchanting spring wrought wonders ev’rywhere.
Ah, now in ev’ry place new life was all athrob;
The air was filled with tunes of songsters on the wing.
Some sang in lower key, some soared to heights of tone;
Some flew far, far above, up to the silv’ry clouds;
Some on a low bough perched – and all of them praised God.
As yet the food was scarce, but none of them complained.
Some had returned in worn and shabby feathered garb,
Some carried back a maimed or broken wing or crest;
Though in the fields they found but little sustenance,
They did not grieve and no heart-breaking tears were shed;
They all joyfully sang their merry melodies.

Along with them the stork came back to our fair land,
And, husbandlike, atop the roof displayed his voice.
While he gazed and rejoiced, his sweet and loving spouse
Appeared upon the sill in gay and joyful mood
And met her gentle mate with glad and gleaming beak.
They found the old thatch roof much damaged and despoiled;
And even their abode, built but a year ago,
Was weather-beaten, bent, and sagging on each side.
The very walls and beams and sturdy parapets
Were torn and blown away by the relentless gales.
Doors wrecked, sills fallen off, and ev’ry window gone:
The northern wrath had wrought its havoc on their home.
And so they both at once, as good homemakers should,
With courage and in faith began to build again.
The husband fetched great loads of branches, rods, and twigs
With which his spouse patched up their home to suit her taste.
And when their long and hard repairs were fully done
The two of them flew off to a green marsh nearby;
Then having caught and gorged some fatter frogs and toads
Together gratefully they gave their thanks to God!

You too, o futile man, be thankful and content:
Since you far better fare, fail not to thank your God!

Bush, forest, grove and hurst resounded with sweet song;
Green fields and meadows rang with mingling melodies.
The cuckoo and the thrush sang their most joyous songs
That gave glad, grateful praise to the Eternal Lord.
Light-winged swallows rose beyond the distant clouds,
Like speedy bullets shot up through the stilly air.
Then having eaten their ungarnished victuals,
Took once again to wing and caroled their glad tale.
The crane kept circling high amidst the milky clouds
And filling all the skies with melancholy song;
But yet he neither cried nor clamored in the heights.
No, he just told the world that God’s majestic will
Is wondrous even in the gleeful voice of birds.
The sparrows and their young chirped with the feathered throng:
‘Our generation, too, sings praise to the Lord God.’

The nightingale alone was hiding cleverly,
Waiting till all the flocks had sung their daily song.
Each year the last to start her mellow melodies,
Each night she starts to chirp when we are wrapped in sleep,
And then all by herself sings eulogies to God.
Oft at the very dawn, even before we rise,
Her song enlivens us and gladdens our sad hearts.
O kind and loving God, how wondrous is Thy care!
When we in frigid days seek shelter from harsh winds
Atop a blazing stove and dream vain dreams, and snore,
Then even you, dear bird, do not abide with us,
But hide all by yourself in some remote retreat
Perhaps adreaming that you catch your foolish flies.
But now when we salute the happy days of spring,
When we are all well set to cultivate our fields,
You, too, resort to your high-toned nocturnal song,
And with your ever sweet and merry scales and trills
Make all our burdens light and urge us to rejoice.

But say, O queen of song, why do you always hide,
And only late at night resort to your sweet tunes?
Pray, why do you secrete yourself with your refrain?
All souls, the bending poor and the parading rich –
The youngsters of light heart and the dejected old –
Each one and all admire your soul-entrancing song
When you sing your sweet airs, O happy nightingale.
You put to scorn the sound of organ, lute and lyre,
You still in shame the notes of violin and harp,
When you in glory raise your charming voice and cry,
‘Jurgut, be good! Wake up, hitch up your steed and speed!

As at the twilight you in hiding start to laugh,
While we, all bent and worn, fall fast into our beds,
Then you among the birds reign like a lovely queen,
And your melodic strains grow evermore superb;
But when at times we catch a glimpse of your attire,
Then you appear to be a homely sparrow’s mate.
You scorn the regal robes, despise resplendent gowns;
You shun the silken dress and all the gaudy styles.
Clad in a boorish garb, you sing your song divine.
And so it often is in this, the life of men,
When we stop to observe this everchanging world.

Take Diksas, that sluggard, displaying city airs;
Attired in foppish clothes, he treads the village streets,
And struts among the boors like some rare demigod.
But when at times we chance to hear him speak his mind,
Then e’en a simple boor must spit to hide a blush;
And all the more when he proceeds to scorn the Lord –
And with each utterance displays his ignorance.
But now take Krizas, that bast-shod submissive soul,
Clad in an awkward garb of homespun fashioning:
In his small cottage, he sings like a nightingale,
When he wholeheartedly gives praise to the Lord God.

You, O beloved bird, never eat fancy foods.
You care not for our pork and spicy sausages.
You have no taste for cooked and seasoned soups and broths;
You care not for sweet cakes and fancy rolls and buns,
Nor care for bracing mead or stupifying wine.
Fed on the simple meals, you drink from a cool brook.
But as you sing, dear bird, do not neglect your meals.
Be brave and never skimp; eat any noisy thing.
Eat, if you will, to your good health, that piebald bug.
Eat lady beetles, vain grasshoppers and mean flies;
Eat ever crawling ants and all their unborn breed.
And when you reach our grove, pray, then remember us,
As you keep singing through the happy summer nights
And call, ‘Jurgut, be good! Hitch up your steed and speed!’

Here you, O futile man, must learn to be content.
Although you oftentimes subsist on scanty meals,
Mark how the songsters fare: one gnaws a slimy worm,
Another, lacking grain, chews a beweathered weed.
Arriving here each year to visit us, they too
Find bleak and barren fields, with naught on which to live;
And yet they never make the slightest of complaints.
To you, O man, the Lord has given more than much,
And yet you grumble if at times your meals are lean,
Or solid food is scarce, or if your soup is thin.

As the birds sang and laughed, a hum of wings arose,
And a large eagle soon appeared above the trees.
‘Hush, hush, you flocks,’ quoth he, ‘keep still and cease your talk!
Pay strict attention to what we will tell you now.’
At once the feathered folk responded to the call,
Convening in one spot and shouting in one voice:
‘We’re here, your Majesty! Pray, how we may serve you?
The Eagle said: ‘We wish to hold an inquiry,
As to how ye, my flocks, fared this long winter past.
Had ye enough of food? Who died and who survived?
Was any one killed by a skunk or a marten?
Perhaps someone was snatched by an owl or a hawk?
Has that foe, man, shot down some poor liegeman of ours,
Or sneakingly captured one by a wing alive,
And then, to stuff himself, the glutton, fried the wretch?’

As thus the eagle spoke and questioned poignantly,
A husky stork arose, stretched out like a high lord,
Bowed low, then bowed again, and then went on to say:
‘When God created and arranged this restless world,
He sent forth endless scores of different living things,
And to each He assigned his own life, food, and task,
And made arrangements of astounding wonderment.
Some of the flocks He sent to swim in lakes and seas,
To others He gave wings to flutter in the air.
Some living things He placed within the endless woods,
And others He sent out to roam the fields and meads,
Or to pule, quack or moo within some man’s back yard.
And He provides and cares for ev’ry flock and herd.

‘At times befalls to us a harsh and hungry day,
When stormy gales sweep by, and drenching torrents fall –
When for the sins of men God punishes the world.
And man, that heartless foe, oft terrifies us all,
As he garrotes and kills our lean and luckless kin.
At times he steals the young from the parental nest,
And oft he climbs a tree and kills the family.
At times he to the flocks, like a benignant soul,
Throws by a fence some grain and urges them to eat;
But when someone of us finds courage to advance,
Then he ensnares the wretch in his entrapping net,
Or with his loaded gun just aims, and shoots, and kills.

‘But e’en among the birds there are some crafty cheats,
Who to have tasty food slay their own kind and kin.
That nasty thug, the hawk, and his mentor, the owl –
The ravens and the crows, and their pals, the magpies –
As we know, ev’ry year kill many wretched birds.
But among us we have no such a murderer
As that sly thing who gapes to gorge fresh meats: the man.’

As this discourse went on, a strange event took place.
As if someone were hurt or drowning in a lake,
‘Help, help! Oh, quickly help!’ a shrieking voice cried out.
Such urgent calls for aid upset the flock so much,
That e’en the eagle brave could not move, stir, or budge.
‘Twas but the bullhead bat and the intriguer owl
Who gathered needed strength to lift an active wing
And to investigate what trouble had occured.

A stocky gentleman, well drest – ’tis shame to say –
A nobleman, at that, much overstuffed with food
And oversoaked with wine imported from abroad,
Was rolling on his floor and cursing terribly.
By his unholy words he had called forth vast hordes
Of fiends and demons and the sight of them caused him
To scream so loudly that even the very hell
And its entire domain began to steam and quake.
We all know but to well how loud the rich can curse;
But now from them the boors have learned to shout and swear.

‘What ails you, you poor wretch?’ the bat inquired of him,
Eyeing the drunken lord and scorning him at once.
‘Have you a belly-ache from too much caviar?
Perhaps the roasts and steaks are ripping your insides?
As they your uncle’s did, two years ago, you know,
When he and his cousin ate till their bellies ached,
And their intestines burst, and they died in great pain.’

The bellied gentleman, hearing these truthful words,
Swelled like a maniac bereft of reasoning.
He pulled his rumpled hair from his unbalanced head,
Tore off a piece of beard from his protruding chin,
And with his fingernails he clawed his bloated face.
But that was not the end. While searching for his cash
And kicking, he upset the table and the food.
Soon dogs from all around rushed in in pairs and packs,
And gorged the fancy food and juncy steaks and roasts.
But he went further still: seized a sharp carving knife,
And put the gleaming blade against his fatty throat.
By now the bat’s strong heart was more than much undone,
So that his fibered wings lacked energy to stir.
The owl, too, was unnerved by this blood-curdling sight,
But managed to dart out from the infernal house;
And that bird ever since this sad and haunting tale,
Like some event of note, each night tells to the world,
And laments in the dark for that bedeviled soul.

‘Ah, listen,’ spoke up Lauras leaning on his club,
‘What of it if some fools, along with Bleberis,
Blab that the rich but drink each day and know no pain,
And that the townsfolk dance each night and know no grief?
Such blabbers at the sight of looming palaces
And rolling carriages, the downfall of the rich,
Think that each idler, dressed in trimmed and tailored clothes,
Each day lives happily like an angel in heav’n.
But friend, Lithuanians are crafty philosophers:
They speak not of such things as they cook their groats hash
And fashion new bast shoes for work and visiting.

‘Yea; it is silly, when young Milkus, the valet
Of Kasparas, each day stoops low before the rich,
And scorns the simple boors as good-for-nothing trash.
Say, Milkus, you dumb wretch, why do you raise your nose?
Have you forgotten that a year ago you were
Employed by Bleberis as a mere swineherd’s help,
And bast-shod, like a dolt, performed mean feudal tasks?
Don’t you recall the time when Prickus, properly,
For harrowing not done, lashed well your bare behind?
Recall how your father, shoe cobbler as he was,
So oft would beat your back with a shoemaker’s last,
And how your mother used to pull your loppy ears?
And now you, like a prince, hold high your brainless head
And grumble if at times a peasant passing by
Fails to see the bright sword protruding from your belt,
And does not lift his cap as soon as you expect,
Or bows not before you as you think he should do.

‘Go on, you snot; first learn how to warm up a stove
And how to scrub and shine your master’s dirty boots.
You know full well that he regards you as a fool,
And plys your lazy back with his thick walking cane.
As yet you have not learned to pour your master’s tea,
Go, put on your bast shoes; go back to Bleberis
And hear again how his lean pigs and hungry goats,
Agazing through the cracks, cry sadly for some food.
Why did you run away forsaking his young pigs?
Did not old Bleberis take care of all your needs?
While herding in his fields, were you not fed and clad?
He took you in without a stitch upon your back;
Each day a lot of lice he combed out of your hair,
Until you learned to count the five pigs that he had.
Indeed, you caused much grief and woe to Bleberis
Ere you could take beyond the gate his only shoat
And his four sows to join the herders in the field.
And now you even down the home of Bleberis
And slur his worthy name with insensate remarks?
Just wait, you brainless snort; your luck may change again,
And then once more you will be forced to beg for alms!’

Quote Prickus, ‘A young man, meseems, is but a fool
Who quakes like mercury within a hollow flask,
And by his restlessness brings harm unto himself.
We too, when we were but snotnosed, unruly brats,
Engaged in stupid things, and played our silly games.
We boys oft gathered in the yards and village streets
And there resorted to all kinds of tricks and pranks.
There some of us would ride on homemade brooms and sticks,
Headforemost galloping through the high-splashing mud,
While others, pantless ones, would crack their whizzing whips –
Roll, dance, play ‘hide and seek,’ and scurry to and fro;
Meanwhile the little girls, themselves but baby-dolls,
Would fashion baby-dolls of hurden rags and clouts,
And leaning on their elbows worship bastard babes.
Yes, thus the youngsters spend their happy summer days.
The children of the rich join with the village kids;
Fraternally they play together in the mud –
And over and again say selfsame silly things.
The children of the rich, too, get their bottoms spanked,
When they, like others, wet their silken featherbeds.

‘I fetched to Kasparas a letter days ago;
At his high gate with cap in hand I stood a while
Awaiting till someone would usher me inside.
A woman came out of the manor running fast.
‘Say, Gryta,’ I exclaimed, ‘What’s wrong? Why do you run?’
‘Oh,’ curtly she replied, ‘Our master, the dear boy…’
Having said this, she ran towards the river bank,
And there she washed and scrubbed the lad’s unclean new pants.
As there I stood and blushed, old Krizas came along.
‘Say, friend,’ I said to him, ‘What do you think of that?
Do not our silly tots do selfsame naughty things?’

‘The boorish women wrap their dolls in swaddling rags
And stick them in the crib, down in the corners dark.
Of course, you know full well how boors bring up their young.
The ladies of high birth have their dolls drest in silk
To lay to sleep in lace and satin featherbeds;
But even their nice dolls, when their pink tummies ache,
Blurt, blabber, belch and brawl, like our own boorish tots.
And so ’tis ev’rywhere, while babes grow in this world,
Sweet smiles and bitter tears remain their foremost trade.
No one as yet grew up just smiling all the while,
And no one left his crib without shedding a tear.’

‘And now just look around, by God’s eternal will
We sense the nearness of the balmy summer days.
The reawakened soil reveals its fruitfulness;
Each flower and each leaf sends forth a beaming smile.
Behold, the birds up in the skies in streaming flocks
Rejoice and intermingle, fly around and laugh,
While other flocks lay eggs and count them in their nests.
But wait you feathered folk until your gleaming eggs
Shall peep and prove to be a lot of toil and grief,
And then ungratefully will fly from you afar.
The same lot that befalls the birds, befalls mankind,
And no one can escape the troubles of this world.

‘We too, ere learning to blab out the A B C,
Have caused our parents much of worry and despair,
Till we began to run around and play outside.
Then just as soon as we began to gain some sense,
Our tasks and miseries began to multiply,
And all our toys and dolls appeared to us but trash.
Indeed, things swiftly change when one has to put on
A herder’s garments to pursue the herd afield,
When drenching rains each day lash weak and weary backs.
And too, when we must trail a harrow in a patch,
Or urge the oxen to step spryly with the plow,
Then we learn all too well the troubles of our soul;
And all the more so, when the living dolls appear,
And usher in many a painful day and night.
You know what happens when a bunch of dolls arrives.

‘O Adam, the first man of this wanton mankind,
Why did you, with your Eve, while hailing the first spring
And tasting stealthily of the forbidden fruit,
Unto yourself and unto us cause endless woes?
Because of your misdeed, the Lord God branded you,
Condemned the Earth, and drove you out of Paradise –
Caused you to gain your bread by daily toil and sweat.
And then you, wretched soul, with grieving Eve your spouse,
Wrapped up in hides, ran up and down the hills and dales,
Or in the darkness drew away to hide in woods.
We too know all too well what a transgression means,
When we, because of our misdeeds, must hide from shame.

‘To you, our worthy sire, the first of living dolls,
Caused never-ending grief and sorrowful dismay.
Since then each year arrive great multitudes of dolls,
And these dolls, just like yours, are but a source of pain.
Of course, your Eve and you had no experience,
And knew not how the dolls would grow and multiply,
And what a joy and pain they are as they grow up.
We wonder what your Eve was thinking at the time
Your first-born babe began to cry and search for food –
When for the first time she was wiping his behind,
Or when she laid to sleep her doll in a dark cave?
And, Lord be merciful, what joy you must have known,
When in an open field your well-beloved son
Rose up in hate and slew his brother with a rock?
Yes Adam, by your breach of God’s divine decree,
Unto yourself and us you’ve brought unending woe.
Like you, we too, upon arriving in this world,
Soon find ourselves involved in endless needs and cares,
Which from our cradles to our graves abide with us.
What can we mortals do? While we are in this world,
God willing, we must strive to do our very best.
And life is not all pain. There are some joyful days;
For after stress and strain we find repose and peace.

‘Well, now the winter frosts are far away from us;
The darkness of the night now is but brief and pale.
Look yon, how the bright sun keeps climbing up each day,
Demoists the soil and goads the grass blades to arise.
Soon in the meadows we will gather fresh spring blooms,
Enjoy their scents divine and hail the joyous spring.
Of course the heavy toils will lay upon us too,
For we will have to do the pressing feudal tasks.
Yes, it will take a lot of painful work and sweat
Ere we will reap the crops that are as yet unsown,
And a good stretch of time till we will cook new hash !

So meanwhile, while we gaze at God’s benignant hand,
Let’s move on and prepare ourselves for heavy work,
And let’s not be alarmed on hearing lashing rains,
Or when the gales and storms will try to harry us.
Let’s hurry, let’s move on, and master ev’ry task!
Good agriculture calls for strong and sturdy plows,
For harrows sharp and tight and horses brisk and fast.
For where an ox plows up the soil in heavy lumps,
A horse must harrow down and smooth the rugged ground.’

‘Indeed,’ sly Slunkius spake, ‘by God’s eternal will,
I have gained on sweet sleep and rested my old bones.
So many times without a word about my woes
Stretched out and covered up I snored by a warm stove.
I wish the winter had remained a longer while,
Or that we were sent here just to eat, drink, and sleep!
But now, Lord pity us, the summer time draws near
And summons us take up unwelcome loads of toil.
Ah, wellaway! Sad tears befill my weary eyes;
And that old wife of mine -you well know woman’s ways –
Wears anger on her face and often sighs and cries.
So I, lamenting and forseeing joyless days,
I say to her, ‘Dear Ma, for once try not to cry;
There is enough of time to do the work undone.
We know that an old wheel, which barely turns around,
Outlasts the new one, which keeps twirling round and round
And falls apart because of turning much too fast.
Even a stubborn horse, which hardly moves along,
Oft drags a heavy load to a more distant point
Than the brisk steed, which struts and jumps himself all out,
And oftentimes incurs a mishap needlessly.
And take the vender of the homemade axel grease;
He, on a squeaky wheel, just drags from town to thorp,
And yet he manages to earn a goodly coin.
So what of it, if some darn fool works on the run
And twists his aching brain, until his heart burns out!’

‘My father, Kubas, all his life would never rush,
And e’en his father, Stepas, never favored haste.
My father many times, while lying drunk in bed
Wrapped up in an old coat, would curse and shout at us:
‘You children must beware of modern ways and styles!
Keep living on the way your parents used to live.
Be wise; conserve your strength and never rush at work.
Be thrifty; learn to save while you are young and strong,
Then in your hoary age you will have good reserves.’
And so I took the wise advice of my old man,
And will repeat his words as long as I shall live.’

The boors who heard such loose and irrational talk
Were much ashamed of him, yet Prickus bravely spoke:
‘Go on you tumblebug, where tumblebugs prevail!
While messing in refuse, you have messed up your home,
And caused yourself and all Lithuanians stinging shame.
I, when the squire sent me with writ to seize your goods,
Myself, you know, have lashed your lazy back so much
That your old garments fell to ribbons on your loins.
Then too, the watchman almost skinned your hardened hide,
And you alimping crept to do the feudal tasks.
With drinking revelry, you good-for-nothing wretch,
You have devoured your land, your home, your fence and gate!
Are you not now ashamed to ruin your children’s lives?

‘But you, good neighbors, men of home and family –
You, stalwart breadwinners with sweet and gentle wives –
We need not be ashamed of irksome farming work:
The pitching of manure, the digging in the soil.
The First Folk, too, when they lost their solemnity,
Only through drudgery could seethe their dinner pot.
The Lord did not intend that the remiss should eat;
The loafers and truants are never welcome here.
Before a hungry mouth may taste a tempting meal,
The body must work hard to earn the privilege.

‘And therefore, each of us, let’s take our lazy ox
And teach him to be fast and willing to obey.
His winter idleness and his barn dreams must end;
He too must realize that now the summer nears.
Merciukas, you indolent fool, why do you laugh?
What’s funny that the boors must do the feudal tasks?
You know how bad it is when a wild bull rebells,
Or when a sullen ox declines to drag the plow.
You know how bad it is when an excited boss,
Baring his gnashing teeth, lets loose his serpent tongue.

‘And you, scapegrace Pukys, be mindful of the fact
That Lauras will send you to work for Kasparas.
Each year you, heartless rogue, torment the oxen team;
Each year you, cruel knave, wear out the faithful beasts.
It is a grim sight, when the herder takes afield
His herd, and your lean team of oxen barely moves:
One, poor thing, scarcely bears his sole remaining horn;
The other, who has lost his tail, just creeps along.
The watchman recently came here to sequestrate,
And questioned angrily whose oxen were so poor.
So Paikzentis replied, ‘Pukys owns the lean team.’
Now I ask you, Pukys, will ever you reform?
Are you bereft of mind that you neglect your beasts?
Just think how you would feel if some ferocious ox
Would put you to the yoke and make you drag the plow;
And then, when you were worn and aching head to foot,
Would feed you, like an ox, on but a sheaf of straw,
And finally would sell you to a butcher shop?
Just think how you would like to till the rugged soil,
Hitched to a plow and whipped by an ox behind you.
And so, my grumbling friend, be thankful to your God,
Because the oxen drag your plow across the field,
The horses pull your cart along the winding road.

‘Yes; take that red-haired ox and hitch him to a plow,
And beat the lazy thing whenever he rebells.
He must obey your will, since you supply his feed
And suffer him to drink cool water from your brook.
And yet you must beware, when goading him to move,
That you should not become yourself a raging beast.
You know how for a lean and hayless tuft of straw
The ox, at your command, digs in to drag your plow –
With nostrils, bellows-like, expelling clouds of steam,
And tongue protruding, he moves grimly on and on.

‘An ox must needs obtain his livelihood by toil;
Yet oft, when times are hard and vegetation lean,
He has to live on straw, and not too much of that.
And oft the selfsame fate befalls us too, my friends,
When we, much overtaxed by irksome tasks and toils,
Because of lengthy droughts, must gnaw a molded crust,
And out of selfsame pools with oxen get our drinks
Of water, full of bugs and mud and curdling slime.
But worry not my friends and shed no bitter tears;
The only reason why we must eat daily meals,
God willing, is to keep ourselves in proper health.
So let us gladly eat our lean and tasteless mite,
Until the autumn days shall bring us fuller meals.

‘Look yon, the happy calves skip in the sunlit fields;
Young lambs and suckling pigs enjoy the beaming spring.
The hens have cackled out so many shiny eggs,
And now they gently hum maternal lullabies:
Just wait, ere long new broods of chicks will come.
Bright goslings even now are rolling out of eggs;
The gander proudly hails his growing family
And, bowing low, presents his children to the flock.
Indeed, all kinds of meats of animals and fowl,
For pot and pan each day appear and multiply.

‘And now my neighbors, relatives and household heads,
Fail not to have your fields plowed up with proper care;
Then sow and plant them well with many summer crops.
It is not good to live on nothing else but fats;
Fresh bread and rolls go well with sausages and meats.
And so while we observe the springtime holidays,
We must not overlook the balance of the year;
For each day, biting off its bit of needed things,
Should save a proper share for hungry days to come.’

‘Indeed now,’ Blekius said, ‘That which we harvested
Last year and stored away for daily household use,
Has melted fast away like snow before the spring.
Our barns and sheds, once full of precious summer wealth,
Are now but empty halls for the fast whirling winds.
Our bins and barrels, filled in autumn to the brim
With life-sustaining rye, wheat, barley, peas and oats,
Now yield but little for our bread and oatmeal pap.
The corners where our turnips and potatoes were,
The barrels that contained our beets and sauerkraut,
Now are all empty, so we now just scratch our heads,
And hardly know how to appease our appetites.
O you sweet hams, O you rich sausages and pork,
We almost cry when we each day remember you.’

‘Tut,’ Prickus gave him sound Lithuanian advice thus:
‘You fool, each year you cry that you are short of food.
Whose fault is it that when the summer crops are in,
You so inhumanly scoop up your food reserves,
That by Saint Martin’s you have but a young pig left?
You dunce, if you but make your daily meals less rich,
Then surely you will have your summer meals less lean.

‘So go and do the work that gains your daily bread;
Earn your subsistence for the dreary autumn days.
Give to the soil its due, if you expect good crops;
The field is not obliged to yield great wealth for naught.
Tare, thistle, nettle, and many a useless weed
Will grow, as you well know, without hard human toil;
But useful grain will thrive only when it is sown.
Yes, you but gape to eat ham, sausage, veal and pork,
And down the good repute of beet and cabbage soups,
And that is why each year, having devoured your meats,
You drag along half-starved to do your feudal tasks.
Go, sow, you gaping fool, sow all that can be sown.
Sow barley, lima beans, buckwheat, with faith and zeal.
And fail not to sow, too, a goodly lot of oats;
For you like the oatmeal and horses like the chaff.
Sow, too, a goodly patch of ever-useful peas,
For peas do taste so good with freshly cooked mixed mass;
Besides, they save so well all other daily foods.
And set aside a plot for ever-needed hemp;
Skimp not on land or seed; hemp is a handy thing.
Is it not good when you make your own rope and net,
And save the money for many another use?
Sow flax to please your wife, and argue with her not;
You know the women’s way; they need a lot of flax
When they begin to spin and later on to weave.

‘And say not a harsh word about that women’s law.
Is it not nice to hear, when the gay women-folk
Keep turning spinning wheels, chat, gossip, laugh, and sigh?
Is it not sweet to see when Gryta makes the warps,
Then weaves the sturdy cloth, then bleaches the new goods,
Then makes the linen shirts for all her family,
And saves the odds and ends for the much needed clouts?
If all the women folk were as industrious,
Then no one would go bare or in the shame of rags.
For then our feudal boors, dressed up like gentlemen,
Would proudly sit among the German egotists,
And even the sleek French could not scorn our fine men.

‘Yes,’ Prickus continued, ‘that is the honest truth.
I, as the chief commune, have traveled far and wide;
Have well observed how our unthoughtful women act,
When in the wintertime they congregate to spin.
I found that some of them are not a bit ashamed
When their old spinning wheels will barely turn around.
Instead of spinning, they relate so many tales,
That their lax hands forget the fibre must be pulled,
And their feet neglect to turn the spinning wheel.
As thus they chatter, smirk and giggle senselessly,
The winter fades away, the smiling spring appears,
And finds neither the spinning nor the weaving done.
Jeke jumps to make warps, Pime proceeds to weave;
But what’s there to weave, when the spinning is not done?
And so the family must go without a thread;
The men must wear again the same old patched-up pants,
The children must play in the village streets threadbare.

‘Ye useless women, these words are inscribed for you.
But gentle womenfolk, industrious housewives,
You need not blush in shame at what has just been said;
Just those should blush who are neglectful of their work.
For you deserve high praise for spinning speedily,
Transforming hards and flax into an even thread.
You merit high regard when in the early spring
You strike your loom and shift the shuttle back and forth.
You reign supreme when your homewoven linen goods,
Like gleaming springtime snow, on the green meadows shine.

‘And you must not avoid the other homely tasks.
Yon, vegetable plots are waiting for your hands.
So lay aside the flax and rest the spinning wheel;
Ant take the loom apart until the next spring comes.
Pick up the rusty spade and dig the fertile soil.
Look how the moldwarps raise the molehills in the mead,
And urge you to get on with the spring gardening.
Indeed, the belly calls for many services.
It is not satisfied to be just duly drest,
But wishes to enjoy abundant meals each day.
Of course the bellies bare will thank you fervently
For having covered them with warm and descent clothes –
For weaving homespun goods and making pants and shirts;
But will thank you much more for your unending care,
When covered with new garb, at every meal time,
They’ll know the taste of pork and sausage cooked by you.

‘And so now plant and sow all kinds of useful seeds.
Plant rows of cabbage and sow carrots with full hand;
Plant parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, radishes,
Cucumbers, lettuce, onions and potatoes too.
See that your seedlings do not die of weeds and drought.
While doing all these things, enjoy the gay springtime,
Before the summer will call you to other tasks.’

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