Nicolae Labiş, THE DEATH OF THE DEER [ English by Emil Ciolan ]

Nicolae Labiş
The Death of the Deer

[English Version by Emil Ciolan]

Dreadful drought has suppressed in the breeze its last breath,
Having molten the sun dripped to earth dire death,
There remained sole the sky all a void, burning flood,
Out of wells wooden pails drag not water, but mud.
O’er the woods, more than oft sparks of fires,
Set to dance wild, demoniac gyres.

I wend hind my father uphill through bare bushes,
My skin clawed by fir-trees, tormenting, sapless freaks,
Together we get going with the hunting of deer,
The hunting of starvation in the Carpathian peaks.
Thirst almost whelms me. The thin thread of water
When dripped from the fountain gets boiled on the stone.
My temple presses neck-ward. I feel I somehow forward
Like onto other planet, huge, heavy and unknown.

We wait by a spot thither with sources still sounding
Their water-strings waving in slow singing drips.
By dusk, when full the moonlight on high is to glitter,
The deer one by one will draw up hither,
And quench their burning thirst with wholesome sips.

I tell father I’m thirsty, he beckons me to hush,
O overwhelming water, how clear your waving awe!
I sense I am thirst-bound to the death-fated creature,
In strict times regulated by customs and by law.

Deep down, sough-withered, gasps the valley’s chasm.
What dismal, dusky shadows the Universe arrest!
Horizons bleed, in crimson my breast, all seeming clear
I wiped my hands, blood-tainted, on my chest.

Like offered on an altar, ferns flame in reddish-blue,
The stars winked at each other a terrifying mime.
Oh, how I wished you didn’t come, you didn’t …
You, beauty of my forest, and utter gift, sublime!

She friskily came downing, and then she stood by still,
Appearing somehow frightened, she cautiously gazed round.
And thin her nostrils made the water thrill,
In gliding copper circles, trembling, wound.

Her fluid eyes were glowing bewilderingly dim.
I knew that she would die, that she would suffer.
I had the feeling of a dream-like myth,
A maiden, deer-turned, the selfsame offer!
Aloft, the pallid moonlight softly sifting
O’er her warm fur drooped cherry-blossomed spray,
Oh, how I wished that were my dad’s first time
His rifle’s bullet missing hit astray!

Howbeit the vales peal echoed. Relentlessly knelt down,
Her head upraised she shook it to the sky,
She then keeled over, rousing on the waters
Ill-lighted swarms of beads flitting thereby.
A bird with azure feathers fast fleeted from the branches,
And thence, the deer’s breathing towards belated light
Flew feebly-cried like in the autumn flyers
When leaving nests in bare, ashen plight.

In utter consternation I went forth,
Her sadly horn-watched eyes I closed, discreet,
And startled speechless, livid, when my father,
Joyfully, shrieked: “Behold, we do have meat!”

I tell father I’m thirsty, he beckons me to drink,
O overwhelming water, how dark your waving awe!
I sense I am thirst-bound to the death-captured creature
In strict times regulated by customs and by law.
But law is useless, blindly operated,
When our lives can hardly be kept sated,
And customs and compassion vainly plying,
As long as my poor sister lies famished, ill and dying.

Smoke spits one nostril of my father’s gun,
Alas! No wind, and yet, the leafage wildly run!
My father makes the frightening fire rise,
Alas! How different looms the forest's guise!
Of herbs my hands unknowing catch by spell
A silver sounding tinkle little bell.
Out of the broach my dad’s nails set apart
The deer’s roasted kidneys and her heart.

What’s in a heart? I’m hungry. I yearn for life. And though ...
Do grant me your forgiveness, you maiden-deer, my doe!
I drowse. How high the fire! The forest, how replete!
I weep. What’s father’s mind? I eat and weep. I eat!

Bibliography

Nicolae Labiş, Moartea căprioarei/ The Death of the Deer, Translated into English by Emil Ciolan, Petroşani, 2014

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