The End of the 19th Century

The End of the 19th Century  (1901) 
by Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, translated by Jarek Zawadzki

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A curse?… But only savages in pain
abuse their god that’s hiding in the air.
An irony?… but how can you compare
most dreadful scorns with every day’s disdain?

Contempt?… but only fools despise the weight
that is too heavy for their feeble arms.
Despair?… so hearing danger’s grim alarms
just like a scorpion we end our fate?

Struggle?… but how an ant succeed in strife
when thrust upon a rail before the train?
Resignation?… but can there be less pain
when we acquiesce to the butcher’s knife?

The future life?… The stars who can explore,
and who can guess the ending of the world?
Joy?… but at the bottom of our souls lie furled,
those thoughts that mid enjoyment cry for more.

So what is left? In all the faiths of yore
we find no comfort. Things for us are clear.
What is your shield against the evil’s spear,
man of the fin-de-siècle?… He spoke no more.

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