Kocbek Edvard:
Slovenian Hymn

Small and meek, I grow into the cosmic order,

   my brothers speak the same words as I, lifted from

   idleness, we gaze at the sphere of the earth.

The earth has been neatly drawn, the ground is

   indomitable, we set up our white houses long ago and

   bordered them in blue.

Its furrowed surface is worked into a wistful sky, live

   dark belts encircle it, all measures have banded

   wisely together.

Streams purl over the earth and springs gurgle, forests

   saturate, fields sprawl in tacit persistence, flies swarm

   in the sunlight, gnats over twilight paths.

From village to village it is neither too far nor too near,

   enclosed gardens surround the homesteads, a dark

   green hedge looks out over a fence.

Fruit trees ripen around the houses, the wind prowls in

   their branches, a steep trail leads up to the vineyards,

   down to the cellar where mallet blows thud dully.

Huge wardrobes stand in the parlors, the wall clock’s

   pendulum chats with eternity, a cat kneads by the

   oven, and apricot trees blossom in the soft grass

   below the fields.

The sun illuminates the great altar at evening, mass and

   the people’s singing blends with incense, while now

   and then a schoolboy drops his hat.

Girls wear white kerchiefs to vespers, a flower pressed

   in the prayer book of each, and during the way of the

   cross they glance at the acolytes in black.

Pigeons cluck in the graveyard chapel, bats hang in the

   church tower, bees have their hive by the stream and

   mushrooms grow in places only old wives know.

Modest plum and apple trees flower in fertile ground,

   grain billows over gentle hillsides and flatlands,

   an occasional fish leaps out of the frothy water.

Fields of dry gold lie benumbed in the summer heat,

   shepherds light fires in high autumn meadows, a song

   about vineyards resounds amid strokes of mallets.

We dance at banquets and listen to a comical fiddler, and

   as we sort through seeds by the warm stove the wind

   and a creaky wagon strapped with chains go past


Experience dozes on the hay and in forests, love stirs in

   distracted young boys, candles burn at graves

   and bells chime at midnight mass.

The holidays range from All Souls to Corpus christi and

   Marymas, buckwheat follows wheat, turnips barley,

   we set out potatoes in the fallows, clover grows

   wild among the wheat.

People are like ants in the fields and on hillsides, at

   times a voice calls from the distance, which another

   one answers.

Asleep, there is a flicker of the thought of work, during

   work hope smolders, hope is tinged with sadness,

   then church bells ring again.

Lifted from out of idleness we gaze at the earth’s sphere,

   and lo, the more deeply  we stare, the heavier the

   deepness, stunned with pain we taste the bitterness of     roots.

And look, smoke sweeps the horizon, swallows look

   plaintively from their nests, a bronze bell has

   cracked down the middle.

In silence mothers rock their children, potter’s wheels

   stop, fabric rips on the loom, day laborers have bent

   their backs for years.

O land of our fathers, given to us like an enchanted

   princess, when will you be saved?

You are our night phantom, our morning burden,

   midday muddle and evening sadness, holy

   redemption wells up within us.

Disowned, you endure, great mother, quietly calling us,

   you have been ravaged, fertile body, and your

   children put to shame.

Our footsteps cry out to you, our kinship and comfort,

   we lift up our hands from your ancient soil and     


At night your eyes open like a passionflower, you take

   count of us, beside your hearth our souls beat as one.

You are the ark of our covenant, which we guard, we

   must be watchful each night and sing the songs we

   are pledged to.

O fearsome ripening of the ageless secret, unspeakably     

   strong wine, we sense you in our blood, we are drunk

   like young fathers.

Translated by Michael Biggins