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Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/If, lordlings, ye could only know…

< Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse

3. IF, LORDLINGS, YE COULD ONLY KNOW . . .

 

If, lordlings, ye could only know
How living creatures weep for woe,
Ye would not pen idyllic lays,
Nor unto God give empty praise,
While mocking at the tears we shed.
Yon cottage with the forest nigh
We call a paradise: yet why?
There once my heart with torment bled,
And it was there my tears I shed,
Earliest tears! Can e'er befall
At God's decree, a cruel teen
Which in that cottage ne'er was seen?—
And that a paradise they call!

No paradise in sooth, for me
That cottage by the grove can be,
By the clear pond, the village near,
My mother swaddled me, and here
She sang to me those lullabies
That made her own despair arise
Within her babe; that grove, that cot,
That paradise,—it was the spot
Where I saw hell. 'Twas bondage there,
Most grievous slavery, and ne'er
Would they vouchsafe me e'en to pray.
Ere long my own good mother lay
In very youth beneath the ground:
Rest from her grief and toil she found.
My father with his children wept
(We little ones but scantly clad)
And bearing not the griefs he had,
He died in servitude; we crept
Away by strangers to be kept,
Like tiny beasts. At school oppressed,
I drew the water for the rest;
My brothers toiled as serfs, till they
With hair close-shorn were marched away.
But sisters! sisters! Hapless ye,
Young fledglings mine! What boots it you
Upon the earth your life to spend?
Hirelings in stranger's keep ye grew,—
Your hireling tresses shall grow white,
Hirelings, O sisters, ye will end. . . .
(1850.)