Winter Cares


Look yon! What great, fierce fangs the beast of winter bares !
What sullen northern winds roll here to harry us !
On the grim lakes and ponds translucent windows form,
Like shining mirrors fashioned by a glazier’s hand.
The pools, where swam the fish and leaped and dived the frogs,
Because of winter’s threats, have put on armor plate,
So now in dark retreats drowse all the water folk.
See how the winter’s breath enthralls the barren fields,
How lowland, swamp, and marsh all hard-fixed frowns take on,
And how the mire has stubborn grown and ceased to splash.
The dreary autumn roads, struck by the north wind’s might,
Under the wagon wheels resound like kettle drums,
And pound the human ear many a league away.
So now the world salutes the winter on the march.
Yea, ’tis a proper time; the Yuletide feast is near,
And the Advent in a few days will be no more.
The autumn, like an elephant asplashing mire
And rolling in the mud, had all of us worn out.
While putting on bast shoes or pulling up high boots,
We cursed the autumn rains and never-ending slush.
Even the noble lords, racing by on horse back,
Wrapped tight in rain-proof coats and wearing new high-boots,
Splashed through the squashy mud and roundly cursed the fall.
And so the populace, with eyes upon the north,
Denounced the autumn’s mire and longed for winter’s haste.

As these complaints went on, the skies took on a glare;
The northern winds began to race at reckless speed,
And blew the rains to where the storks now idly drowse.
Then through the mass of clouds old Winter stuck his head,
And like a tyrant, doomed the autumn’s messy work;
His chilling blasts wiped out the sodden ugliness.
At once he frosted white and clean the fall’s manure,
Built solid icy roads across the marshy swamps,
And prompted all to change from tumbrel to a sledge.
So now, where we before adored the happy spring
And gladly gathered rainbow-colored buds and blooms,
And where we later ended hearty summer joys,
There now the drifting snow makes ranges of white hills,
And winter’s fingers weave pearl blossoms on the bough.

How grand it is to see the tall bewhiskered pines,
With their snow covered crests, remaining stoically,
Like powdered gentlemen in dignified parade.
But in their shade, like boors under a ledge of roof,
The naked saplings, pinched by the relentless frosts
And harried by the whistling winds, bow down and wail.
And e’en the fallen trees and stumps become disturbed,
As the north wind his mighty bellows puts to work
And sifts, as with the sieves, the pearly dust of snow.
Too, e’en the beasts of wood of late have disappeared.
So as the cold winds rage and the air changes clash,
Some animals are nestling in their wind-tight lairs,
While others cower high up in the trees and drowse.

Ye animals and birds, it falls on you and us;
The all-pervading cold torments us all alike.
The winter blasts chased you into your dreary dens,
And drove us from the fields into our cheerless homes
To seek welcome warmth at the blazing stove of clay.
You sleep and snore in your wide open winter homes,
Without protection from the rigors of the frosts.
We, when the northern winds assail us angrily,
At once cunningly crawl beneath the windtight roof.
There, in seclusion, we hide from the winter’s wrath,
And daily warm ourselves with savory hot soup.
But you, unlucky things, unceasing wanderers,
Be it most hot or cold, bright sunshine or grim rain,
Selfsame attire you wear through the entire long year.
We, when the sun begins to burn our weary backs,
Put on light linen garb, or other lightweight clothes;
And when the raging winds whiplash our loins too much,
We wear our woolen frocks or e’en our sheepskin coats,
Or, to be well warmed up, we climb into our beds.

As I mused all alone, a pack of wolves drew near;
Their howls broke savagely into the midnight’s hush.
Fie ye, rapacious beasts, do you miss your fresh meat?
Doubtless your empty bellies ache and growl at you.
Come, come ye lusty winds and lash out at these beasts!
Strike them with your sharp darts that paralyze and slay!
It is an awful thing how these bloodthirsty brutes,
Like gory butchers, kill scores of our sheep and kine.
When they attack a herd at a green forest’s edge,
They care not if a sow is corpulent or lean;
They never hesitate to take a young pig’s life,
And have no fear to tear a husky shoat apart.
Those slaughterers, e’en when filled up with luscious pork,
Are not content, but crave savory veal and beef;
They slay the bearing cows as well as barren ones.
And still they seek for more. With bloody fangs agape,
They kill a gallant bull and a tenacious ox.
In fact they slay a horde of oxen ev’ry year.
They slaughter oxen white, they slaughter oxen black,
They slaughter oxen red, and of every hue;
Fearless, unhesitant, they leap upon a herd,
And slaughter cows and calves to suit their appetites.
They even have no fear of herdsmen and their crews,
Who come at them with shouts and cries. These deadly beasts
Snatch ewes at the wood’s edge and there they lie and eat.
O mighty winter, pray, come forth and punish them!
Else all our kine and sheep and swine will be no more.
Then these rapacious beasts will maim and kill us, too,
And slaughter our sweet wives and our beloved babes.

O ye smart hunters and ye, O learned foresters,
Why don’t you shoot the beasts that you are told to shoot?
For surely you must know that no fairminded king
Forbids you to kill these bloodthirsty animals.
Why does the king equip you with a blunderbuss?
Why did he build for you those huts in the green woods,
And give you leagues of land and miles of pastures wide?
Besides, the boors, about to raid the royal wood,
Bring you many a ham and cheese, and then with drinks
Quench your tormenting thirst till you can see no more!
And then, when you are drunk – cannot a finger move,
Nor of your solemn oath a single word recall –
And as you sway and roll, the mean, conspiring thieves
Chop down forbidden linden trees and rare hard wood
Or, slaughter sinfully the fast-vanishing elk;
And then the scoundrels laugh as they divide the loot.

‘Of course, your better nature must well realize,’
Spoke Prickus as he passed his old tobacco pouch
Around the room and looked at Kubas squintingly,
‘That ’tis not fitting for the boors to cheat and steal.
As commune and the son-in-law of Bleberis,
While riding on my rounds, I’ve seen how you behave,
So now I wish to say a word about your faults.
Many of you report each morning late for work,
And then you hardly move after you’re on the job;
Some of you just stand there agaping all the while,
Tell tales and loiter with your slothful friends;
Others keep filling with tobacco your old pipes,
Or strike the flint with fire steel over and again.
Still others sneak away to loiter, loaf, and steal;
Then having ransacked the lunch baskets of your friends,
Munch slyly on the stolen food like guilty dogs,
And cause your honest fellow-serfs to feel ashamed.

‘Well, when a Polish or a Jewish chatterer
Maliciously attempts to steal or to defraud,
Or e’en a German, telling crafty German lies,
Dares to deceive the lords as well as the poor boors,
That’s nothing new; for such is their heredity.
But what do you think of a stinking simpleton
Who, speaking sweet Lithuanian tongue, learns to purloin,
And laughs when Krizas swindles Krizas in the game?

‘It is astonishing how the good foresters
Of late complain about the mischief of the boors.
‘Tis awful e’en to hear when at the gatherings
The ordinary boors, filled up with brandywine,
Loudly recount their tricks, misdeeds and rogueries,
And of their wrongs and sins make entertaining fun.
One rascal brags of how he fooled the forester,
Another boasts of how he tricked the forest guard.
This one, pot-valiant, raging and staggering,
And that one, lying drunk beneath a tavern bench,
Both laud the frauds and thefts of the dishonest boors.

‘O just and holy God, what fearful times have come!
What blindness has obsessed infirm humanity!
Another, to please him, loudly belittles God.
The lord and his valet are rushing straight for hell.
While one, despising God, laughs like an idiot,
Another, to please him, loudly belittles God.
Beneath a load of woes laments and sighs each day;
And such a lout, too, treats the Lord God as a joke!
But e’en this foe of God cries that the rich rob him,
And that they draw his blood to the last tiny drop;
But yet he hastens to an inn for a good fight,
And then, come Monday, he keeps picking his snout’s gore.’

‘Indeed,’ replied Enskys, sitting at Krizas’ side,
‘Now, Prickus, you condemn the boors more than you should.
Pray, why do you denounce our poor Lithuanian boors
And disparage them by recounting their misdeeds?
You must well realize that boors are all alike.
Swede, Russian, Pole and Jew – they all behave the same;
The German likewise, who says to the Frenchman ‘oui’,
He lies and cheats and steals just as the Frenchman does.
You too, my friend, ere you became the chief commune,
Drank merrily and deep and lived high with your friends.
Many a night you’ve sneaked with us into the woods,
And there chopped down and stole oaks, pines and linden trees.
Of course, you were a master of the stealing art;
That’s why the guards could never catch you in the act.
But us, poor fools – and ’tis a shame e’en to admit –
So oft the forester has caught and put in jail,
That ’tis high time for us to quit the sorry trade.’

Stern Selmas said, ‘We know no one should cheat or steal,
And we Lithuanians should not even think of thefts.
You all know that Lithuania is highly praised by all,
And how famed visitors from many distant shores
Come here to learn about our customs and our lore.
Not only Germans come to see and study us,
But we are honored with the visits of the French.
They learn to speak our tongue, as they enjoy our food,
And even wear our clothes as gladly as we do,
Though they are averse to wearing checkered garb.

‘I think we’d better change our faulty deeds and ways.
Yea, let us speak and act as all good people do,
So that the strangers may praise us without a blush.
We know that God Himself, as He proclaimed His law,
Decreed that we shall not be greedy, vile or false,
And He permits us not to lie or cheat or steal.
When Jonas or Docys steals Mykolas’ jackknife,
Or when Jeke by force, or any wrongful means,
Deprives Katryne of her broom or cooking pot,
Each of the three commits a grave and shameful sin.
But what a greater sin it is when evil men
Chop down a mighty oak, or a tall verdant pine,
Then split the heavy trunk into small kindling wood,
And shove it in the stove for heat or cookery!
Would not it be as well to use for such an end
A bundle of dry twigs, or an old, rotting stump?’

‘Look, neighbors, that will do!’ cried Prickus scornfully.
‘Around and round we’ve gone with this talk long enough;
Now let us say a word about the winter needs.
You all know well that fire, which we gain from a flint,
Does great good for us, but quite often does great harm.
When you make fire to cook the dumplings or mixed mass,
Or sitting by the stove you roast delicious meat,
Then from the rigid things you get your tender foods.
Indeed, it irks the soul, when weary, worn and wet
You creep on your way home; but it is sweet to pat
A blazing stove, and then to fall asleep and dream.
Pray, is not it a boon from God – this gift of fire?

‘Of course, the fire consumes a lot of kindling wood,
When we warm up the house or cook a boiling pot.
Just think what kind of food we’d have to eat each day,
If there were no wood to burn and no helpful fire.
We’d have naught but sodden, sour swill to eat, like swine.

‘And how would we fare in the frosty winter days,
If there were no hot stoves that we could stand beside?
Then we like savage beasts would have to roam the fields.
That’s why, my fellow-men, each time you cook your soup,
Or linger by the stove to gain some pleasant heat,
Thank Him for giving you this bright and warming fire.

‘And be not vexed if I, as a chief commune should,
Now dwell on vital things in just a few more words.
The blazing flame of fire that brightens up our homes,
When we cook hash or stew makes our old caldrons seethe,
And in the winter days keeps our large ovens warm;
That fire, hark now my friends, because of carelessness,
Most devastating damages can bring to us;
As its terrific glare lights up the gloomy heights,
It swallows not just our moss-covered boorish homes,
But also it consumes the lordly palaces.
Our Karaliaucius, too, was twice engulfed by fire;
It was because of vice, corruption, filth and sin.
And are you not aware how many wretched souls
Become mere beggers, when the flames consume their homes?
And then, one man by overheating his old stove,
Another, broiling chitterlings burn down their homes.
And very often, too, some feeble-minded scamp,
While smoking a lit pipe, crawls into the dry straw,
And, Lord be merciful, burns down the settlement,
Down to the very end of the remotest fence.
Then such a fool, afflicted by his conscience,
Like some tormented soul, unable to find peace,
Runs here and there and seeks a place to hide his face.
Then you and he are ruined, all you can do is sue.

‘My friends you well recall how foul Docys last year
Burned down good Krizas’ home and all his earthly wealth.
And Krizas is a fine and honorable man;
He cherishes his friends and does not harm his foes.
Forgetful of himself, he thinks first of his wife,
Then of his family, and then about his home.
He never drives too hard the men who work for him;
When they work faithfully he gives them wholesome food,
As well as proper hours for leisure and for sleep.
Ah, sweet it is to hear, when Lauras, his hired hand,
Lauds Krizas and his home and speaks well of his food.
Last year that scamp, Docys, while smoking at midnight
In his bed, set his house afire and the fire spread.
Before the roosters crowed, the fire lit up the skies,
And of good Krizas’ place but one fence pole was left.

‘Therefore I beg of you, my neighbors and my friends,
In the good Lord’s name, help poor Krizas all you can;
When he will bow his head abegging you for alms,
Pray, snicker not at him, nor scoff at his worn garb –
Nor when he the Lord’s Prayer says, scold or speak ill of him.
For the pathetic blow that fell on him that night
Might fall on some of us most any day at noon,
If we foresake our God, as some bad Germans do,
And refrain not from thefts, intrigues and rogueries.

‘And so, dear fellow-men, make haste to learn in time
How in the winter days you’ll have to get along.
For when the blizzards come, you’ll need a heated house –
And you’ll not like to sip a cold crumbled bread soup.
Many a time you’ll have to make a glowing fire
To place your dusky pots within the blazing hearth.
So, friends, be on the watch. When you light up your stove,
To cook your groats and stew, or bake a cake or bread,
Pray, do not harm yourselves or harm your fellow-men.
I’ve told you how Docys, that reckless jackanapes,
Ruined honest Krizas so that he must beg his bread.
So do not fail each day to look into your stove;
See that your chimney is devoid of clotted soot,
And keep no twigs or chips heaped up on your fireplace,
Nor pile on it dry wood or things that can ignite.
Henceforth you must observe these salutary rules,
Or else the government will hang each one of you
Who dares to scorn the word of the just chief commune.
Besides ’tis bad when you, having mislaid something,
At night with a lit torch you search in dusty nooks,
And do not mind your brats as a good father should.’

As Prickus, the commune, thus lectured to the boors,
Down in the village street such a loud shot rang out,
That e’en the solid ground and all things on it shook,
And newly put in window panes began to break.
All those who heard that bang were so much terrified,
A few faint-hearted souls fell off their wooden seats,
While some aggressive ones, posessing better sense,
Head over heels all rolled out from Plauciunas’ house,
And in the yard they found Durakas all banged up.
You see, Docys, being so hungry for crow’s meat,
To young Durakas gave a loaded blunderbuss,
And told him to shoot down at least a dozen crows.
Durakas, a dull boy, obeying his blunt boss,
Ran out to kill the needed number of dark birds.
Seeing a flabby crow perched high on the thatch roof,
He shot so foolishly, he set the barn afire,
And soon the village homes were levelled to the ground.
Durakas, too, was hurt by the exploding gun.

When this calamity – O Lord save us – took place,
At once the squire himself with all his staff appeared,
And held an inquiry about the dreadful fire.
Here all the witnesses, sighing and shedding tears,
Told all about Docys and his abhorrent crows.
The chief and all his men, on hearing this grim tale,
Roundly condemned Docys and spat disgustedly.
But that was not the end: the rogue had to be tried.
And so Docys was put in heavy iron chains,
Then thrown into a sleigh and hauled to be arraigned.

After five days elapsed the justices convened
And many witnesses arrived to testify.
Stern Prickus with Enskys and Milkus were on hand;
Jeke, Katre, Pime, old Lauras and his wife,
And many others, too, appeared against Docys.
And when all those concerned were found to be at hand,
The jurists ordered that Docys should be brought in,
And he made his appearance sighing heavily.
The judges questioned him according to the law
And fairly tried to fix his innocence or guilt;
Too, all the witnesses told nothing but the truth,
And their veracity was by the judges praised.
But – listen now – Docys just stood with folded arms
And angrily replied to questions asked of him.

‘What’s that to you,’ he cried, ‘ye kindly justices,
Even if I at times, craving for some crow meat,
Shoot down a couple of black crows for my own meal?
Does not our king permit the shooting of these pests?
Among the Lithuanians there are many spoiled boors
And many hired hands who strongly down that food;
To me ’tis all the same, as long as I eat meat.
So why begrudge poor me if I enjoy such grub?
Is it not fair enough that I bring you crows’ legs,
As ev’ry boor each year must do – e’en though I fail
In bringing in sufficient count of sparrows’ legs?
And so at least this once be merciful to me,
Even if wretched I, to strenghten my poor soul,
Each year shoot down for frying some few pesky crows.
For ye, O noble lords, exploit us boors so much,
That we ere long will have to eat e’en rats and owls.’

Prickus and other chiefs commune, and Bleberis,
Were startled hearing such strange charges of Docys.
Said one of them, ‘Indeed, our times are sad and grim;
So many wilful rogues oft disobey their lords,
And then they harm themselves and hurt their fellow men.
Did not our gentle squire, in his paternal way,
Give warning not to shoot within the village yards?
So many times the priests, during the services,
Have scolded us because we disobey our lords.
And now you see what ill luck fell to us!
Docys, Docys, yo’ve failed to heed our sound advice,
When we so many times roundly admonished you.

‘It seems, God pity us, that our most gracious lords,
Upset by greed for wealth, now skin the boors alive.
Too, that Docys shoots down for frying nasty crows,
And in a smudgy pipkin seethes their fulsome meat,
It is bad news that casts disgrace on a poor boor.
Yet how else can the poor their hunger satisfy?
Because of poverty, unheard-of things occur.
But ’tis, indeed, too bad, when oft a stupid man
Shoots rashly and burns down innocent people’s homes.’

Meanwhile the watchman came and bade the chiefs commune
To take to Karaliaucius Town the grain for sale.
Polite and fat Kurpiuns, the senior chief commune,
With cap in hand before the prudish watchman bowed,
And said that the command would be at once obeyed.
Kurpiuns then called forth all twelve of the chiefs commune
And bade them to appear in five days with their teams.
They notified the bailiwick of Vyzlaukis,
And soon long lines of carts were moving on the road,
Like a long stream of ants, increasing o’er and o’er.
And it was proper, too; the thralls must serve their liege,
And must perform all tasks that are assigned to them.

‘Alas,’ Lauras spoke up, using well-chosen words,
‘Into what evil times we’re striding day by day!
Now e’en the simpleton that skins the poor man’s back
Is not ashamed to boast about his gentleness.
Take Kasparas – you know the haughty Kasparas –
That dreadful miscreant parades with folded arms,
And like a prickly thorn harasses weary boors;
And his adviser, Daugkalba, a driveler,
Oft screeches like a cockerel and lifts his crest.
Alas, few men these days know how to govern men,
And while so governing to cherish man and God.’

‘You,’ Prickus cautioned him, ‘leave Kasparas alone,
And keep still when his forman boxes your lop ears.
For though the bellows is so useful at the hearth,
It never was found fit to blow against the wind,
Nor yet hold off the wrath of an impending storm.
Can a mere sparrow match the eagle’s majesty?
Or can a frog stand up against the lion’s strength?
Therefore beware of jests with haughty noblemen,
And hold your flippant tongue from slipping in discourse!’

Then, having said these words before those who were there,
Priekus slipped on his sheepskin jacket, inside out,
And sped away with other eager chiefs commune
To cart to Karaliaucius the squire’s grain for sale.
The stingy squire had warned the watchman that he should,
With Prickus, keep an eye upon the cash received.
You see, the greed of this old squire was so extreme,
That if at times he gave a coin to a poor wretch,
Because of that he could not sleep for three full nights,
And each succeeding morn shed such pathetic tears,
That all his maids and help were saddened and upset.
His knave, Slapjurgis, and his maid, Susukate,
Oft have told why he is afraid of mendicants –
It is because he hates to give alms to the poor.
Each penny that he gives appears to him as sin,
Tormenting him each day and haunting him each night.
And even his valet who daily makes his bed,
And nightly, when the world is slumbering in peace,
With five lit candles guards the squire’s old treasure chest,
Avows that oft his liege, before the roosters crow,
Jumps out of his soft bed, unnerved and terrified,
Because before the roosters crow, a spook appears
And drags his treasure chest into his neighbors house.
That is why ev’ry morn, when the sun’s rays appear,
He falls upon his knees by the uncovered chest,
And says ‘Our Father’ for the safety of his wealth.

Now while the chiefs commune with their long line of carts
Conveyed to Karaliaucius the grain to be sold,
The squire cried ev’ry day and could not rest at night.
At times he swore so much that e’en his children cried;
At times he prayed so loud that e’en his voice grew hoarse;
At times he just moaned low and stared far into space.
As thus he sighed and grieved and whimpered dismally,
One of his knaves returned from Karaliaucius Town,
Bowed low before him, as the servants have to bow,
And gave a note from the grain merchant Mikolas.
As the squire opened and then read the merchant’s note,
Even Prickus, having returned from Karaliaucius,
Sighing and worrying, appeared before the squire:
Prickus was turning gray and oftentimes fell ill.
On seeing three full sacks of gold and silver coins,
The squire became composed and ceased to moan and sigh.
But when his servants had counted the cash received,
What a misfortune! – it was one whole shilling short!
Because of this mishap the squire became so mad,
That all the long night through he could not fall asleep,
And in the morn lashed poor old Prickus’ hide so deep,
That after three grim days the wretched creature died.
The squire, too, so severely boxed the watchman’s ears,
That for five days the man was forced to stay in bed;
And each one of the boors that helped to cart the grain
Was summarily lashed, because they returned late,
And thereby made him suffer deep anxiety.
And so you see, dear friends, how grateful some men are!
That’s how we are repaid for faithful services.
Now almost anyone may harm the downtrod boor,
And push him here and there as an unworthy dog.

‘Hush,’ Selmas spoke, ‘let’s not despair because of this!
Nothing without God’s will can happen in this world.
The rich cannot be rich without His providence;
The poor cannot be poor without his sanctioning.
Therefore each must accept what God has willed for him.
He who mounts a high throne as soon as he is born,
Must keep in mind that God has given him that seat;
And he who at his birth was meant to be a boor
Must never be ashamed to wear his worn bast shoes,
As long as he performs the work that’s set for him,
And all the more – as long as he obeys his God.

‘But you, self-willed, gor-bellied, bristling dunderhead,
Who like a lightning bolt scare life out of a boor?
Were you, too, not begot just as the lowly boor?
Did not your mother, just like his, wipe your behind?
Who granted you the right to kick the work-worn serf,
And then to laugh at him as he succumbs in pain?
Though God permitted you to sit on a high throne,
And handed you a sword to punish the unjust,
He never meant that you should smite the just one, too.
Therefore, beware, as you lift up your sharp-edged sword,
That you should not cause harm to a submissive wretch.
But I observe that you on purpose close your eyes,
Because you fear that God knows well your wrongful acts,
And realize that soon He will review your sins.
Some day He will appear as the Eternal Judge,
And having summoned all, rich lords and lowly boors,
He will render to each one his own just reward!

‘Ye, too, O cheerless poor; ye bast-shod weary souls;
Ye faithful feudal serfs, and ye, O shepherds meek –
And ye, the other wronged and tortured of this world:
Choke back your bitter tears, withhold your moans and sighs!
We all recall full well the shock of yesteryear,
When, by the will of God, our late beloved squire,
By his untimely death, caused us a sea of grief.
O kindly squire, why did you have to die last year?
Indeed, because we grieved for you and cried so much,
O God, many of us became tubercular,
And, too, many of us became completely hoarse.
So if we now resume again that crying spell,
And keep on moaning low and grieving constantly,
Ere long we all will turn to be weak, hoarse and blind.
Then what would happen if we were unfit to live,
Unable to perform our duties to our king?
Then he will take our lands and leave us to beg alms.
So let’s not clown, e’en though the rulers stretch their crests,
And curse each day as they recount the devils’ names.
Some day God will judge all, as He has so declared,
And then He will reward each one as he deserves.

‘Well, that’s enough for us of worrying for now!
Let’s take our leave and hurry to our homes.
Hark how the womenfolk condemn us bitterly,
And how the children screech and scramble in the streets.
Our horses and our cows are begging to be fed;
Our herds of hungry sows and flocks of starving sheep,
And other animals, are crying for their food.
Ere long we will feed them; but they must wait awhile;
They will receive their share and get their fill today.
We know how our dear flocks and herds are to be fed,
And know how oft they should be watered ev’ry day.’

Said Lauras, ‘That’s the way the farmers should comport,
If they wish to be smart and to retain their farms.
E’en though the Germans hold the Lithuanians as fools,
And though the Frenchmen view us with a scornful eye,
Yet they enjoy full well our good Lithuanian bread,
And smoked sausages they eat, and ask for more.
Then having stuffed themselves with lush Lithuanian pork,
And having round by round drained out our homemade beer,
They’re not a bit ashamed to taunt our decent men.
Ye, arrogant Frenchmen, and ye flamboyant Swiss,
And all ye who come here to trouble our dear land,
What right have you to scorn our upright workingmen?
Could not you prosper there whereat you were hatched out,
And where you learned to eat your ugly frogs and toads?’

‘Now,’ Selmas cautioned him, ‘you’ll hurt the Frenchmen’s pride.
You know that ev’ry fool has his own argument.
Yes, we Lithuanians, borscht and savory mixed-mass,
Cooked tastily with pork, praise highly as we eat;
And sausages, prepared in good Lithuanian style,
Whenever we have them, we still enjoy full well;
Not only we enjoy, but always crave for more.
But when a Frenchman, filled with burly frogs and toads,
And a Lithuanian, stuffed with mealy peas and pork,
Forgets to thank the Lord, as all good Christians should,
Then both do not deserve even a crust of bread.

‘For even oxen, dun, motely, black, white and brown,
Moo pleadingly when they are shown a sheaf of straw;
And just as soon as they obtain a goodly wad,
Their nimble tongues draw tufts into their hungry mouths;
They munch the straw, and gaze at you with thankful eyes.
Ah, if these oxen could speak the Lithuanian tongue,
For that gift in the barn they would sincerely thank.
Of course, in summer time, when hills and dales are green,
Each being finds his food in sunlit fields and meads;
Each then is on his own; each eats and drinks in joy.
But when the autumn winds and winter frosts appear,
And ev’ry living thing, scared by the frightful blasts,
Draws into his dark hole and thrives on lean reserves,
Then there is nothing left to claim, share, or divide;
Then each small bit of food is a true gift of God.
Indeed, in our brief life we have observed full well
How ev’ry living thing in frosty winter days
Hides in his hole or nest and thrives on bits of food.
For now fish, frogs, and lobsters with their lobsterlings,
And ev’ry thing that sleeps beneath the solid ice,
And ev’rything that stalks within the forests wide,
E’en in the winter time still finds some sustenance;
For God is merciful and sees that all are fed,
Even though He does not feed them with a full hand.
So we, too, must not grieve that our reserves are low,
And that the barren fields can offer us no food.

‘For ’tis not the first year that we endure hard times,
And ’tis not the first time we cook pea and groats mush.
Many a stingy spring we have passed in our lives,
Many a hungry summer we’ve met on our way.
Just ask the hoary men, you beardless nincompoops,
And hear the tales of those who suffered oft and much.
You are but silly boys and know naught of this world,
Yet you, like suckling pigs, just kick and run around.
Ere long there will come, too, your sad and painful days
When, having thrown away your ponies and your dolls,
Of need to earn your bread, will take up gainful work.

‘We, aging dusty man, we bent and careworn souls;
We, too, once, just like you, skipped in the village streets,
And, just like you, enjoyed our happy summer days.
And did we expect then, that when the hump’d fall came,
We likewise soon would be so worn out and undone?
Alas! Too soon too soon the human days wear out.

‘Each man, be he a lord or a boor, when begot
And painfully delivered, is but a frail sprout;
Then having sucked the nutriment that the soul needs,
Serenely takes the shape of an evolving bud.
Yet not in one day’s time a bud becomes a bloom;
It takes some days until the bud casts off its shells
And gracefully unfolds its hidden loveliness.
But when the tender thing uncovers secret charms,
At once the miseries encircle and torment.
We all recall full well how we poor creatures fared,
When being tiny tots engaged in stupid games.
Ah, gone, gone evermore those happy childhood dayst
The falls and winters have despoiled their loveliness,
And crowned us, aged men, with wreaths of gray despair.
Well, brethren, we have passed another weary year,
And with it we have passed its miseries and woes.
What this incoming year and the ascending sun,
If God still keeps us here, will shower upon us,
We mortals do not know and thus cannot foretell.

‘And e’en the frozen fields, which we this summer plowed,
And where we on the run have strewn the golden grain,
Now are asleep beneath the blankets of white snow,
And do not yet reveal what the benignant God
Has prearranged for us long ere we all were born.
But we will see that wealth when, by the grace of God,
The summer will appear and we will feel its warmth.
But that takes time; so we must wait until that time –
Until the fields will give us something, let’s not fret.

‘Thou, O dear God, our Heavenly Protagonist,
Who countless eons ere we mortals learned to think,
Excogitated when and where we would be born,
And what our needs would be when we would see the light.
Thou giveth us our joints and limbs, desires and whims,
And prearranged for us all matters of our lives.
Thou hast ordained for us the days of grief and joy,
And meted to each one his ways and days of life.
And now, at last, the shades of the expiring year,
And all its miseries that made us ofttimes cry,
With Thy kind providence, now are with us no more.

‘O ye, frivolous joys of sunny summer days!
Ye, flowers of the fields withal alluring charms!
And ye, light-hearted birds singing sweet melodies!
And all you living things that stayed with us last year,
You’ll have no cause to worry when returning here
How you will get your food, or where you’ll find a home,
Nor will you have to plow the soil or reap the crops,
Nor to prepare yourselves for doing feudal tasks,
Because God did not mean that you should toil and sweat,
For He had promised you a joyful, carefree life.
We sinful orphans, we forlorn and wretched souls,
We never know the joy of your sweet liberty.
In childhood days we met but painful misery,
And it will trouble us until we breath no more.
As we know, in the year that recently expir’d,
Right after Easter we began to plow the fields,
And, working through the long and sultry summer days,
From our hot faces lots of sweat we wiped away,
Until we harvested and stored reserves of food.

‘Now since the autumn and the wedding days have passed
And we as friendly neighbors had a joyful time,
Let’s be more frugal with our lessening reserves;
Whenever we cook, bake, or stew some tasty food,
Let’s keep in mind the lean days that are bound to come.
Because the summertime is still a long way off,
When we again will cook fresh foods in our old pots.
And so now let us part, and with the help of God
Let’s hurry to repair our implements and tools;
Because the sun again is thawing the snowdrifts,
And once again the lark is chirping on the wing.
Yea, yea; the summer dear is nearing day by day,
And promises us much of new, good things to eat.

‘But without Thy aid, our Father who’rt in heav’n
We cannot reap the wealth the summer tenders us.
What good are all our tools and our persistent toils,
Our new seed baskets and our newly bought plowshares,
Our setting out to plow and e’en to seed the soil?
All that we undertake or do will come to naught,
Unless Thy hand divine doth bless our earnest work.
Thou, O God, sustained us in all the years gone by
And Thou wilt succur us in all the years to come.
What the next summer will give us, we can’t forsee,
But Thou already knowest how great our needs will be.
For we, with shallow minds, can’t comprehend Thy deeds,
And Thy eternal thoughts to us seem bottomless,
E’en when at times we dare to take a deeper look.
Therefore, O Father, take paternal care of us
And all our needs, and when the summertime doth come,
Aid us afield, when we again shad toil and sweat.’

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