"The Scarlet Plaque"
The poem of Jozef Szczepanski "Ziutek"
Jozef Szczepanski "Ziutek" (1922-1944)
The below translation of "The Scarlet Plaque" is published thanks to the courtesy of Professor Norman Davies.
The Scarlet Plaque
We await you
We're waiting for you, O scarlet plaque
To save us from the Black Death:
Waiting for a salvation
To be welcomed with disgust
By a country that's already hanged and quartered
We await you - sweating herd
Of brutalized cattle ruled by the knout.
We await you, so you may crush us underfoot
With the torrent and clamour of your slogans.
We await you, our immemorial enemy
And blood-stained mass murderer of our brothers.
We are waiting - not to pay you back
But to greet you with bread and salt at our ruined threshold.
If you only knew - O hated saviour
How we wish you'd perish
How we shake your hand from impotence,
Seeking aid from a criminal.
If only you knew how much it hurts,
For us, the children of a free and sacred country
To fix the shackles of your cursed mercy
That reeks of the yoke of ancient slavery.
If only you knew, O hangman of our forebears
And grim legend of Siberian jails
How everyone here will course your kindness -
And all of us Slavs, all your kin.
Your victorius scarlet army
Has stopped beneath Warsaw's fiery clouds
And like a vulture with a carcass sates itself
On a handful of madmen, who are dying on the ruins.
We await you, not for us soldiers
Or for our thousands of wounded.
Bur because there are children here, and nursing mothers
And disease is spreading through their cellars.
We are waiting whilst you delay and delay.
We know very well that you fear us.
That you'd prefer us to be killed.
So you are waiting, too - for our extermination.
Yet no illusions. From our graves
A new, triumphant Poland will be born.
And it won't be you, O scarlet tyrant
O depraved power, that rules the land
translated by Norman Davies;
Katarzyna Ostap-Tomann; Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz;
Copyright © 2004 SPPW1944. Wszelkie prawa zastrzeżone.